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Tempered by Gibbs, Snyder's game improvesIT'S FASHIONABLE, and sometimes fair, to fire water-cooler broadsides at Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins. Beyond the proletarian tendency to deprecate those whose financial successes eclipse our own, Mr. Snyder appeared smug. He meddled and seemed unwilling to listen--to general managers, players, or a string of coaches. The end result was a once-proud franchise in a very deep and self-made hole, regularly licking its wounds while other teams were on to the playoffs.
Mr. Snyder is a lifelong Redskins fan, yet the rich young man seemed to have little respect for some key Washington traditions. The rights to the team's new stadium name were sold to corporate FedEx. Ticket prices soared. When things didn't go well on the field--often as a result of Mr. Snyder's tinkering--coaches were summarily dispatched. He paid too much for big name players past their prime (Deion Sanders, anyone?) and forced in young players who didn't fit with a coach's system (pity the oft-sacked Patrick Ramsey in Steve Spurrier's tenure).
And yet, for all his initial disasters, Mr. Snyder seems to have learned from his mistakes. The most important sign of redemption, of course, came in the miraculous hiring of Joe Gibbs, the beloved Hall of Fame coach who led the Redskins to four Super Bowls in his initial stint. Mr. Gibbs was retired from football, sitting in a NASCAR owner's box, but Mr. Snyder--using his patented tech- nique of big money and aggressive pursuit--got his man.
And in the process, the owner guaranteed his own reduced role in the day-to-day operations of the team. For Coach Joe isn't one to take marching orders from a boy wonder, money or not. Lo and behold, with Mr. Gibbs in the saddle, the 'Skins found themselves not only in the playoffs last season, but into the second round.
The mix of a more subdued Dan Snyder and veteran Joe Gibbs is a good one--and Redskins fans have had even more reason for optimism recently. Mr. Snyder's willingness to toss large sacks of coin to big names, coupled with Mr. Gibbs' shrewd ability to find the right players for his system, has brought in stellar--and functional--names: safety Adam Archuleta, linebacker Andre Carter, wide receivers Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El, and tight end Christian Fauria. These players all fill vital gaps in the Redskins' lineup. The result, perhaps, is that a mature Dan Snyder will be dealing with the unfamiliar in 2006: praise, rather than pans.