- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 22, 2003

At least Dan Snyder showed some restraint. I mean, Joe Bugel didn’t arrive at Redskin Park by helicopter or anything like that. Still, how many owners would have turned a one-day visit by an offensive line consultant into the Sports Topic du Jour around here?

Lots of times it’s not what the Redskins owner does, it’s how he does it. And his latest grandstand play is a classic example of that. There was no reason for anyone outside the organization to know that Bugel was being brought in this week to critique the blocking — or lack thereof. Teams avail themselves of retired and between-jobs coaches all the time to give them feedback on how they’re doing, to make sure nothing is slipping through the cracks. You can always use an extra set of eyes. (Indeed, the Redskins are using former assistant Foge Fazio in that very capacity this season.)

But instead of keeping Bugel’s role under wraps — for the good of the ballclub, if nothing else — Snyder leaks it to the media and turns it into yet another Advertisement for Himself. See, folks, I’m doing everything humanly possible to make this team a winner. Am I, or am I not, the best?

We’ve seen this behavior before, of course. Dan the Man is nothing if not predictable. He pulled the same stunt during Bye Week ‘99, only that time he actually hired the consultant — Bill Arnsparger, who spent the rest of the season giving defensive coordinator Mike Nolan his two cents. The Redskins, 3-1 when the former Dolphins assistant joined them, went 5-5 in their next 10 games.

It’s one thing to seek out other opinions. That’s just common sense. But you don’t want to do it in such a way that it embarrasses a coach — in this case, Kim Helton — and makes his players doubt him. Stuff like that might work in the business world, but it doesn’t work in the sports world. The player-coach relationship is about trust as much as anything, and when the owner says, “I’m not sure the offensive line coach knows what he’s doing,” well, it just makes it harder for him to do his job. Players say to themselves, “The heck with this guy. I’m just going to worry about myself” — and then a bad situation gets even worse.

Actually, two coaches are looking bad here — Helton and Steve Spurrier. Spurrier’s looking bad because it wasn’t even his idea to send for Bugel; it was suggested to him by his bosses. Which makes you wonder: Was he just going to keep on like this, having his quarterback get roughed up every week, having his linemen false start two at a time? You’d prefer a head coach to be a little more proactive than that.

Back in 1987, you may recall, Joe Gibbs brought in a consultant. The Redskins special teams were in disarray, so Gibbs took action and called in an old friend, Paul Lanham. It put the existing special teams coach in a difficult position, sure, but at least Coach Joe came across as being on top of things — in charge. Spurrier, it seems, needs to be told what to do.

And that’s not good. Because the owner coming up with these brainstorms isn’t much wiser in the ways of the NFL than he is — and he’s infinitely less wise in the ways of football. You’d feel a lot better if Spurrier had an old friend like Lanham that he could have turned to, instead of having to rely on the recommendations of others.

The Ball Coach is playing the good soldier, insisting that “we’re always open to … a better way to do things.” Clearly, though, his relationship with the Snyder is beginning to show some wear. After all, this is the second time in two months the boss has intervened. The first time he told Spurrier he couldn’t keep Danny Wuerffel as his backup quarterback, and now he’s flying in Bugel to (hopefully) clean up the pass-blocking mess. Soon enough — if past history holds — Snyder will be pestering Spurrier to replace an assistant or two. And we all know what happens after that.

Fourteen months after Arnsparger was summoned from retirement, Norv Turner was fired as Redskins coach (and Nolan didn’t even last that long). Probably the only reason Turner wasn’t axed sooner is that the team managed to make the playoffs in ‘99, rallying to win its their last two games and the division title.

It’s hard to imagine the Redskins making the playoffs this year — with or without Bugel’s input. The remaining schedule is daunting, and there don’t figure to be any quick fixes for the offensive line. What does this mean for Steve Spurrier? It means: Don’t buy any green bananas.

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