- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 3, 2004

Is there a way to adopt the University of Maryland’s teams as Washington’s professional football and basketball franchises? Can fans at least pretend the Terps represent the D.C. area and the Redskins and the Wizards are, like, rec league teams?

If you are a Redskins or Wizards fan and have managed to hang on to your passion for football and basketball, it might be a good idea to start flying a Terps banner (if you haven’t already done so) or wear Terps colors or go as far as buying season tickets for Maryland football next season so coach Ralph Friedgen doesn’t go anywhere.

In a Washington sports scene devoid of joy, there is plenty to be had if you are willing to consider College Park the center of your sports universe. What Gary Williams did by bringing a basketball program from the depths of despair to a national championship two years ago is still worth celebrating and will remain so because he has the momentum and the desire to keep Maryland basketball among the elite programs in the country.

And the Fridge is creating a football legacy there, coming off the Terps’ remarkable 41-7 win over West Virginia in the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day.

He has led Maryland to three straight 10-win seasons and a 31-8 record in his first three years here. And, according to Friedgen, the best is yet to come.

“We’re a year away from having a very good football program,” he said after the Gator Bowl.

If the new Redskins coach, whomever that may be, stands up at the podium and says something like that, someone please throw a sack over his head and get him out of town for his own good and for the sanity of Washington football fans.

As fun as Maryland football is, Redskins football is just as painful. When you look at the Redskins’ roster, they appear to be close to being a competitive team. But they are not.

They have fundamental problems on the offensive line, the defensive line and in the running game, and, most importantly, they have fundamental problems in the way Dan Snyder chooses to run the front office. That is not going to change in a year. The organization needs to change the way it runs its football operations, to bolster the front office with a number of qualified NFL people and a general manager — not a racquetball partner — and then to start over with a coach, the scouts and the GM thinking the same way.

If the Redskins need an example, they just have to look 35 miles or so north to Baltimore. The Ravens, winners of the AFC North division, face the Tennessee Titans today in a playoff game at M&T; Bank Stadium and have created a blueprint for a successful franchise — which, of course, is galling for Washington football fans who have to suffer with the idea Baltimore has a better football organization than Washington. And even if Washington fans embrace Maryland football like they never have before, they still have to share the Terps with Baltimore because Maryland has a Baltimore identity as well — maybe even moreso.

The Ravens are an organization in which the coach, Brian Billick, feels comfortable walking into general manager Ozzie Newsome’s office and sits down with the scouts and other front office people to hash out how to field the best team possible with no fear how decisions will be judged by the owner. Dan Snyder, as difficult as this may be for him, could learn a lot from Art Modell and company.

For that matter, Snyder could just go up the road to College Park and see how Ralph Friedgen and Gary Williams run their programs with the discipline and respect so needed at Redskin Park. Until that happens, maybe Washington should wake up and become a Terps town and forget about those rec league teams that keep disappointing fans.


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