How Dan Snyder wooed free agents

October 4, 2012

AP photo.

Among the fascinating reads in this ESPN the Magazine D.C. issue I keep hyping is a long piece by Seth Wickersham, about Dan Snyder, Dave McKenna, and the team and lawsuit that join them.

Now, I’m just going to ignore the McKenna stuff entirely, since we’re friends, and I’ve probably written about him enough in my life. But the Snyder stuff is fascinating, and includes a bunch of great details. I’d encourage you to read the whole story, but to whet your appetite, here are a few especially memorable anecdotes.

About the bad oldish days:

Portis and other players disliked Zorn, and they took their complaints about his playcalling and his arbitrary rules — such as insisting that Portis remove his hands from his pockets during practice — over his head, down the hall to the corner office. “Dan gave more say to the players than to the coach,” one former starter says.

At the same time, Snyder was still molding the Redskins in his own image by appealing to players, such as Haynesworth, who were moved by money. As the point man in wooing star free agents, he would boast over bottles of Opus One about his Super Bowl parties with Tom Cruise, remind players that his company produced the Golden Globes, in case they wanted to attend, and offer use of his jet — emphasizing that it was a $50 million Global Express. Need a dinner reservation? Call his secretary. Need a lawyer? He’ll handle it. Just worry about football.

About experiencing losses:

Watching games from his private box, Snyder would cuss and second-guess plays, unblinkingly huffing past people. “You want to stay out of his way,” says Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace, a frequent guest. After losses, Snyder would stay until 4 a.m., pounding drinks, downing burgers and pizza and blaming himself for being, in the words of a friend, “his own worst enemy.”

About the many sides of his personality:

Snyder can be petulant, gnawing on an unlit cigar and grinding the wet end into someone’s neck. He can be thoughtful; after Chris Wallace’s father, Mike, the legendary 60 Minutes reporter, died in April, Snyder was one of the people who sent Chris a card and flowers. He can flaunt his status, sometimes having his driver drop him off at the front door of Redskins Park instead of at his parking space 10 yards away. And he can be generous. A few years ago, Snyder scored an advance copy of Star Trek and hosted Donovan’s family at his home theater. The Snyders greeted their guests wearing pointy ears made from aluminum foil. “I thought, If people could see this,” Donovan says.

Interesting guy. These are all things that I have never done. Read the full story here.

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Dan Steinberg writes about all things DC sports at the DC Sports Bog.
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Dan Steinberg · October 4, 2012