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“I hate the [bleeps] who said we didn’t have a plan,” Dan Snyder told the Washington Post a couple of weeks ago.
Only a [bleep] wouldn’t recognize Snyder’s plan after all these years. He makes a huge splash in the personnel area every preseasonSteve Spurrier was last year’s Marty Schottenheimer; Laveranues Coles is this year’s Deion, etc.and, just as surely, Snyder raises prices on concessions and parking and tickets every year. Team Marketing Report, an outfit that monitors the fiscal fitness of pro-sports franchises, says the Redskins had the highest-priced tickets in the league even before Snyder bought the team in 1999. And low-end club seats that went for $124 per game when he took over now cost $250.
Snyder’s plan also has him adding to the list of money-sucking schemes year after year. Alongside previous brainstorms such as charging parking and admission fees at training camp and selling obstructed-view “Dream Seats” at $3,000 a pop, Snyder now unveils the Washington Redskins TailGate Club. Beginning with the 2003 season, fans can get all the game-day barbecue and burgers they can eat under a tent at FedEx Field for just $450 per person per year. But wait! Before receiving the right to buy the prix-fixe pregame meal, members must fork over a “one-time initiation fee” of $499 apiece. Jack Kent Cooke didn’t die soon enough for Snyder to sell seat licenses for the grandstands inside what is now FedEx Field. So now Snyder’s selling licenses to seats at a picnic table.
Redskins spokesperson Karl Swanson says Snyder’s party plan is modeled after subscription pregame fests in Tampa Bay and Kansas City. He predicts that local fans will like the one-price-fits-all strategy, even if that price for the first year is $949 per head. Once you get in the tent, he says, “Everything except hard drinks and beer is free.”
Snyder’s plan has never led to on-field success. The NFL didn’t approve his purchase of the team until late in May 1999, so he couldn’t fiddle with the roster that preseason. Coincidentally or not, the team that Snyder had the least control overthat 1999 squadwent 10-6 and made the only playoff appearance of his ownership tenure.
So anybody excited by the latest Snyder-blessed recruiting class might want to consider that for the three seasons in which the owner has lent his expertise to personnel matters, the Skins are 23-25. And fans might also want to pause to remember that the best offensive player of the Snyder era, running back Stephen Davis, and the team’s unquestioned defensive MVP of 2002, Daryl Gardener, were cast aside to make room for other teams’ stars during the latest chapter of the owner’s plan.
Nobody stays around here long anymore. To paraphrase Roger McGuinn: To every season, turnover, turnover, turnover. In his four seasons, Snyder’s bossed around four head coaches and five defensive coordinators (six if you count Bill Arnsparger, whom Snyder recruited out of retirement in midseason in 1999 to assist/humiliate Mike Nolan). No other owner in the league can match those numbers.
And when the team officially cuts Dan Wilkinson, the roster won’t have a single Redskin who predates Snyder’s ownership. Only three playersChamp Bailey, Jon Jansen, and Eddie Masonhave been with the Skins as long as Snyder.
Real Redskins fans have always favored the backup quarterback over the starterwhich is the only way to explain Snyder’s signing of Tampa Bay’s Rob Johnson, who spent last season on the bench watching Brad Johnson, whom Snyder ran out of Washington. Snyder’s plan calls for him to be particularly meddlesome in the realm of quarterback acquisition. In the past four seasons, 11 different quarterbacks have donned the burgundy and gold: Jeff George, Todd Husak, Brad Johnson, Sage Rosenfels, Kent Graham, Tony Banks, Casey Weldon, Rodney Peete, Shane Matthews, Patrick Ramsey, and Danny Wuerffel.
Snyder’s known to lose patience with kickers on game days, also. So in his four years, he’s cast aside Scott Blanton, Cary Blanchard, Brett Conway, Eddie Murray, Kris Heppner, Michael Husted, Scott Bentley, Brett Conway again, James Tuthill, and, most recently, Jose Cortez. (There have also been five Redskins punters in Snyder’s four seasons.) That’s more than any other team in the NFL has fielded in that span.
But Vinny Cerrato, the figurehead director of player personnel, says the placekicking problems that have plagued the team during the Snyder era ended with the recent signing of the Jets’ John Hall. “The thing that set him apart is that he’s good on kickoffs and good on field goals,” Cerrato said of Hall after the signing. Those criteria would set Hall apart from, say, a linebacker but would seem to be prerequisites of any NFL kicker.
That’d better be some good [bleeping] barbecue. Dave McKenna