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When the local football team fired its head coach a few weeks back, I wrote about it under the headline, “Firing Jay Gruden Was the Right Move, But It Won’t Matter.” If this weekend’s rumors come to fruition and the team moves on from team president Bruce Allen this offseason, I regret to say that I will be writing pretty much the same column again.
I am, to reclaim a popular meme in all seriousness, old enough to remember when Allen was the one who was going to save Washington football fans from terrible mismanagement and a toxic culture. Vinny Cerrato was the bad guy in those days, the one who was viewed as owner Daniel Snyder’s sycophant and drinking buddy. Allen’s arrival, everyone assumed, would end those kinds of shenanigans and put a longtime football guy in charge of the football decisions.
(I really can’t emphasize enough how happy people were. Digging through the comment sections in then-current D.C. area sports blogs is sort of devastating in hindsight, knowing how long things will continue to be awful despite the optimistic posts from these random screennames. It’s like watching the old video to Weezer’s “The Sweater Song” and thinking about how all those dogs have been dead for decades.)
What’s most fascinating is how the specific things Allen is being criticized for now are pretty much the exact same things that Cerrato was criticized for back then: mismanaging the roster and/or salary cap; keeping his job because he’s a good drinking buddy for Snyder; not being transparent enough with the press and fans; presiding over a team that loses a lot of football games. Since being named as Cerrato’s replacement at the end of 2009, Allen has only seen two seasons with winning records.
It’s almost as if the problem isn’t with the person in this role. It’s almost, in fact, as if the role is ill-defined in its scope and responsibilities (hence the regular refrain of how all decisions are “team decisions”), and almost as if it directly reports to someone known for capricious, petulant, ill-advised decisionmaking.
Which is all a pointlessly glib way of saying that it doesn’t matter who they put in that position, because that person will still be reporting directly to Snyder. And that’s never a good place to be—just ask the board at Six Flags, who removed Snyder in 2010 as part of a settlement after his disastrous five-year stint as chairman ended in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Or the people at Johnny Rockets or dick clark productions, neither of which flourished under Snyder. Or the folks who worked for the many local radio stations under Snyder’s Red Zebra umbrella, before he liquidated that network of stations at what certainly appeared to be a catastrophic financial loss.
So the people running the #FireBruceAllen hashtag may want to hold off on the celebrations, even if their long-held dream comes to pass. Unless Snyder inexplicably decides to do something else with his time, their giddy post-firing tweets will probably look grimly ironic when he pulls the ripcord on the next failed GM in 2029 or so.