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Snyder's Power Play

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By Sally Jenkins
Saturday, January 26, 2008

Maybe Dan Snyder's got a big hire in his back pocket. Maybe he knows something nobody else does, including his own coaches, players and fans, whose patience he has exhausted. But the Washington Redskins still don't have a head coach, and meantime they've got too many assistants with fancy titles and big contracts, including the newly hired Jim Zorn. Maybe Snyder has a master plan, but at the moment it looks like nonsense, something a little boy would draw in crayon while he waits for the ice cream truck.

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You know how sometimes kids stare in their food and see a face in it? Maybe that's how Snyder will make a head coaching hire: He'll see the face of the next coach in a grilled cheese sandwich. It makes as much sense as what he's been doing lately, stringing along first Gregg Williams and then Jim Fassel in job interviews. Who knows why each rose or fell in Snyder's favor, or why he has delayed naming a head coach and instead signed Zorn as offensive coordinator. The Redskins have let Al Saunders go, but they still lead the league in offensive coaches with titles, what with assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel, and offensive coordinator Don Breaux still hanging around.

Who knows why Snyder needed so many job interviews with Williams, despite the fact that he has been the defensive coordinator for four years. The suspicion here is that Snyder wanted to see if Williams would be his football buddy, let him play X's and O's, and sit in on tape sessions as if they're video games. Can't you hear the conversation?

Snyder: Okay, I have some really, really, really important questions for you.

Williams: Fire away.

Snyder: What are your all-time favorite TV shows?

Williams: My favorite shows?

Snyder: Yeah. Mine are "Star Blazers," "Airwolf," "Super Friends."

Williams: I thought I was here to discuss the Redskins' position.

Snyder: And I really love "Land of the Lost," and best of all, "Kung Fu Theater."

Who knows why Williams seems to have fallen out of contention. Hopefully, it's because he preserved his self-respect and told Snyder: "I'll be your coach, but I won't be your pawn. My ideas are good ones, as you can see from the performance of my defense, which frankly is the only thing that's worked around here these last four years."

Or maybe he offended Snyder somehow. Maybe he ate all his Pop Rocks, and wouldn't play Voltron, Defender of the Universe, with him.

The hope was that Snyder had matured with four years of tutelage under Joe Gibbs. But maybe there was a reason Gibbs walked away with a smile. In the last two weeks, Snyder has seemed as duplicitous and addicted to misdirection as ever. He promised "continuity" for the organization and has proceeded to tear it apart, treating people like trees that block his view of the Potomac.

Snyder's main interest seems to be running the organization for his own pleasure in power. It's the only explanation that accounts for his leaving the football staff in such a state of uncertainty while installing perennial yes-man Vinny Cerrato as executive vice president of football operations. This is the same Cerrato who brought Trung Canidate to the franchise, and was part of the brain trust that thought they didn't need to match the Giants' offer to Antonio Pierce.

For too long, Snyder has treated the Redskins as his personal game of collectible action figures. If he wants to play, he should stick to games of racquetball with Cerrato. Or better yet, they should play Chutes and Ladders.

Snyder doesn't like to be thwarted, and he was reportedly frustrated by his inability to land interviews with assistant coaching candidates such as San Diego Chargers quarterback coach John Ramsdell. But he's built up some mighty bad karma in this league. Did he really think Chargers Coach Norv Turner, whom Snyder fired, would do him any favors?

Snyder may yet pull off a decent hire, but at the moment, his credibility is sinking faster than Six Flags stock. He's badly devalued the job of Redskins head coach. You wonder if Jim Mora bowed out early because he just didn't want the headache. In the past two weeks, Snyder has led two solid, experienced coaches to the altar only to strand them. At last report, he was interested in a couple of relative unknowns in young coordinators Josh McDaniels of the New England Patriots and Steve Spagnuolo of the New York Giants. Why would the Redskins pursue untried assistants, who are merely less experienced versions of Williams and Al Saunders? Only Snyder can answer that.

Maybe he has a mature plan. Or maybe he can't find anyone else to play with.


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