Monday, December 9, 2013

Snyder, Shanahan, and finally reaching the point of despair

Yesterday was a bad day. And I think I can say without exaggeration that this is the most hopeless I have ever felt as a Redskins fan. Yes, I know that's saying a lot. What I usually do in a situation like this is to try to argue that the media is forcing an over-wrought narrative, or that fans are oversimplifying, or that the problems, while severe, are fixable. But I don't have it in me this time. 

Based purely on the poor football performance, I am disappointed but not to the point of despair. If bad football were the only problem, I would stand by my post from a week ago in which I argued that Mike Shanahan had the best chance of fixing things. But this is the Redskins, so we can’t just talk about football. We have to talk about egos not getting along.

Somewhat surprisingly I am seeing most of the internet/newspaper backlash directed at Shanahan. I’m not insisting that he’s totally innocent; in almost all cases that a personal relationship turns nasty both parties contribute in some way. And a lot about how he has handled his last two press conferences has poured fuel on the fire. However I can point out that Shanahan, whatever criticism he may get for football decisions, tends to get described by various sources as a man who treats others with respect and therefore gets it in return. While I know it's a mistake to think you know a man's personality based on how he's portrayed in the media, I have never gotten the impression that anyone deems him petty. But I am here to bury Shanahan, not to praise him, as the kids say.

Whether or not Shanahan’s own ego contributed to the crisis is really beside the point. With the exception of Joe Gibbs, who happened to be Dan Snyder’s childhood idol, every single one of Snyder’s coaches will have left Washington with a poisoned relationship with the owner. Snyder is clearly the common variable. To quote noted behavioral psychologist Raylan Givens, “You run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole.  You run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole.” You will be hard pressed to convince me that Shanahan, however he may have mishandled certain things, is primarily responsible for this situation. He is not the first to have felt undermined by this owner, and he won’t be the last.

I have never really gotten into Snyder-bashing, and frankly have tended to roll my eyes when Redskins fans announce “this team will never win anything with Dan Snyder in charge.” This is not because I have liked the way he runs the team – I haven’t – but it has always struck me as somewhat pointless. I would much rather focus on the things that can be fixed, and Snyder is the one guy in the organization that can’t be fired. His ownership is the one variable that won’t change, so we are better off talking about what is or is not possible within that context. It is also lazy analysis to pick out a boogie man and blame him for all the team’s failures.

But now I am forced to reconsider. My perception had been that any coach the lacked gravitas – Norv Turner, Jim Zorn etc – would be actively undermined by Snyder to the point that he wouldn’t even have a chance to succeed at his job. However celebrity coaches like Joe Gibbs or, I thought, Mike Shanahan – whom Snyder had not-so-secretly lusted after for some time – would get sufficient respect that they could actually run football operations for the most part. I fully understand that the Celebrity Coach model has its flaws, and being restricted to that was a serious limitation on this franchise’s options for success. But per the previous paragraph, we were better off just acknowledging that restriction and talking about how to work within it.

That’s why all of yesterday’s drama was so discouraging. Apparently even Mike Shanahan, about as big a football name as you can get, feels he can’t do his job because of the owner he works for. If even the Celebrity Coach model can’t protect the franchise from Snyder’s dysfunction, then what other options are there?

I want to make sure I am clear here – I am not in this despondent state because of 3-10, or getting blown out yesterday, or because of Robert Griffin’s regression. I can love a losing team; that’s not the problem. In fact in the past I have often found myself resentful of fans whose support of a team is conditional on success. To me that’s missing the point. And yet I’m finding myself pushed to the limits here. With a bad football team there is hope for improvement, and therefore a reason to keep paying attention. But when the personality of the owner prevents any football plan from being carried out, it is hard to even have anything to look forward to.

Uncharacteristically, this current situation has not provoked me to spend any time thinking about who the next coach should be, or which positions should be drafted or signed to fix this roster, or what the odds are of Robert Griffin III getting his career back on track. I find myself not caring.  I have been obsessed with this team since I was old enough to know they exist. I have never not cared before. It is a disconcerting feeling.


  1. 100% agree with your post. For me, it's gotten to the point where the Redskins don't even aggravate me anymore. They just make me laugh. In fact, I knew the Chiefs game was going to be a fiasco. And, even though I originally intended not to watch it, I heard there was snow, so I couldn't help but watch.

    The game was like watching a train wreck of epic proportions.

    It was the worst display of special teams I've ever seen. The team as a whole was unprepared. Basic football skills like tackling were missing from the likes of Baccari Rambo and other players on special teams and defense. Then, there's the woeful offense that could only put up 10 points.

    While posting about the game on facebook, it dawned on me that the main reason why I watched the Redskins on Sunday, was so that I could laugh at them and make jokes at their expense on facebook.

    It was a rather surprising revelation, considering that my dad raised me to be a die-hard fan. My poor father, I can only imagine what his reactions would be if he were alive to see all the dysfunction this team has gone through since Snyder took over. Bless his soul and count him lucky that he passed away in '98--missing all 6 coaching changes in the last 15 years, and the debacles that surrounded them.

    I honestly believe that this team will not win a Super Bowl with Dan Snyder, unless he truly matures and gives in to staying out of football operations.

    Dan Snyder thrust McNabb onto Shanahan. Dan Snyder wanted the Albert Haynesworth situation to work out. Dan Snyder forced Shanny to trade up for RG3. Dan Snyder, Dan Snyder, Dan Snyder.

    Like you said, Shanahan is at fault in this regime, too. But, who put him in charge?

    Dan Snyder.

    It is a disconcerting feeling to realize that you just don't care anymore. But, after so many years of being the laughing stock of the league, I don't blame you for it.

    The Redskins made us this way. They've trained us to be fixated on and enjoy the dysfunction, the drama, and yes, even the piss poor level of play.

    They have made us numb.

  2. Norv - left, took the Chargers to the AFC Championship. THE CHARGERS
    Marty - see above. THE CHARGERS
    Spurrier - left, made SOUTH CAROLINA into a college football power.
    Zorn - even he did some good things with Flacco

    Watch Shanahan leave and win a Super Bowl in Dallas.