It is a cold, rainy and dreary Monday morning in Washington.
Which is perfect.
There is gloom again in the Snyder-ville. Do I sound a bit giddy? You bet. I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: Dan Snyder can’t lose enough.
I really don’t have any issues with those who play for The Washington Redskins, other than perhaps Albert Haynesworth who had the nerve to tell a radio show last week that no matter how much money the Redskins paid him he didn’t have to be “a slave,”—his depiction of being asked to show up for offseason workouts like every other member of the team. Next thing you know Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton will be demanding that Haynesworth be freed from bondage.
Actually it is the Redskins who are stuck—with Haynesworth who not only has made a total of two tackles all season in return for the $21 million bonus he was paid in April but continues to act like a complete dope. In the same interview he goes on to say the team ‘can’t buy his loyalty.’ They didn’t pay him to be loyal, they paid him to get into shape and play well; he’s done neither. Then after the game Sunday he said the team had probably overlooked the Rams.
A team that was 4-12 a year ago can overlook someone? Anyone? The Redskins shouldn’t overlook The Fordham Rams right now much less the St. Louis Rams.
All of which gets to a very smart column written this morning by my colleague Tom Boswell in The Washington Post. I tease Boz often about his unabashed loyalty to all of Washington’s teams even though it is perfectly understandable. He grew up here, suffered through the 34 seasons without Major League Baseball and is especially thrilled when the Nationals do anything right.
His enthusiasm is part of what makes Boz great—especially when writing on baseball. It was perhaps best described back in 2005 when The Nationals, in their first year in DC, got off to a very surprising start and actually led the National League East into July. When Tony Kornheiser said to Barry Svrluga, then the Nats beat writer during a radio interview that, “Boz had high hopes for this team early in the season,” Svrluga replied, “Boz had high hopes for this team when the bunting drills went well in February.”
It takes a lot for Boz to truly get down on a local team. A week ago he saw the glass at least half full after the Redskins lost in overtime to Houston. Sure the loss was disappointing he said, but what the game showed was that Donovan McNabb was going to be a productive quarterback in Washington for years to come.
This morning he wasn’t quite as upbeat. And he cut right to the heart of the matter when he pointed out that there is a unique sense of entitlement that surrounds the Redskins; that players seem to think they’re special and fans always think the Redskins simply SHOULD be good because they’re the Redskins.
That’s been true since George Allen took over in Washington but it has gotten worse since Snyder bought the team 11 years ago. We’re talking about a guy who sends out invitations to sit in his box for a FOOTBALL game that look like they’re for a royal wedding. (No, I’ve never received one but I’ve SEEN one).
This off-season, Snyder finally got rid of his bully-boy flak, Karl Swanson, in large part because not enough people bought Snyder’s story that it wasn’t his fault that Jim Zorn bombed as coach. He hired a young guy named Tony Wyllie, whose job is apparently Snyder image-repair. (If this works out maybe Tiger can hire him. That’s my one line for all you Tiger-lovers today). Wyllie spent a lot of the offseason inviting media types to Snyder charity ribbon-cuttings where Snyder would deign to speak to them. This was pretty smart: Snyder speaks—and says almost nothing—and the cameras show or the reporters write something like, “Snyder, speaking at a school where he is contributing x-dollars for scholarships…”
Wyllie has also taken to calling reporters who haven’t bought into Snyder to have lunch with them. Sally Jenkins got a call during pre-season. I got my call a few weeks ago. When I did I said, “Tony, I’d be glad to have lunch with you but why waste your time on me? I don’t even cover the team on a regular basis. You have to have more important things to do than talk to me.”
“Well,” Wyllie said, “you may not cover the team regularly but you certainly don’t mind criticizing Mr. Snyder on Washington Post Live.”
True, I don’t. That’s a local show here in DC that I’m on once a week and I do criticize Snyder—someone has to do it. That particular week I’d criticized the Redskins for firing Zach Bolno, who worked one slot down from Wyllie and who was one of the few people in the Redskins organization universally respected by everyone who dealt with the team. Bolno is bright, hard-working and honest. Needless to say, he had to be fired. That may be just about what I said about the firing on WPL.
I was actually sort of impressed that Wyllie would even bother to call me and talk about breaking bread until he said this: “Have you ever even met Mr. Snyder?”
Come on Tony, at least do some homework before you pick up a phone. “Yes, I’ve met DAN,” I answered. “We’ve spoken on a number of different occasions.”
Long pause. He’d clearly been going for the Snyder, ‘you don’t know me well enough to criticize me,’ line but that wasn’t going to work. He’d come un-prepared. Never good.
“Okay,” he said. “Um, well, why are you so critical of Mr. Snyder?”
“Because I think he’s a terrible owner.”
“You still want to have lunch Tony?”
“Yes, sure I do. I’ll call you when we get back from Arizona.” (Last exhibition game).
Well, I know Wyllie got out of Arizona because I saw him standing almost on top of Clinton Portis last night making sure Portis didn’t say anything un-toward about his second half benching. Still no phone call. I guess that means I don’t have to buy.
I also don’t have any particular issues with Mike Shanahan. He comes from the secretive, humorless school of coaching and he was willing to give up about 47 seconds of his time to the media after the Redskins embarrassing 30-16 loss to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. To me, he’s like most NFL coaches—except he does have a track record of success that makes it seem laughable that people here are already wringing their hands and claiming he’s another Zorn after three games.
That’s ridiculous of course. As Boz pointed out people forget how bad this team has been. The Redskins are now 7-20 since starting the 2008 season 6-2, under the now-hated by all Washington fans, Zorn. Shanahan hasn’t bowled anyone over yet—especially with four of his six draft picks getting cut—but you can’t judge any coach after three games. Not only is there a lot of this season left, but Shanahan has a five year contract and even Snyder isn’t going to be arrogant enough to not give a guy with his track record some time to get things turned around.
All of that said, how bad can a morning be when two of my local radio friends Andy Pollin and Kevin Sheehan, each an un-apologetic Redskins lover, play back audio of the opening kickoff in which Redskins kicker Graham Gano kicked the ball out-of-bounds.
“Maybe having to get ready to punt messed up his follow-through on the kickoff and he hooked it,” said play-by-play man/Snyder-Redskins Apologist No. 1 (that’s an official title) Larry Michael. Gano had to punt during the game because of a pre-game injury to the team’s punter. He had not yet actually punted except during those always grueling pre-game warmups.
“Oh come on Larry,” Pollin screamed. “You can’t start making excuses on the opening kickoff!”
Here in Washington you can and you do. Way to go Larry. You set a record that can be tied, but can't be broken.