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Profile of John Kent Cooke, son of former Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke
He has sailed, golfed and regretted little over the past 10 years. Five years ago, he said, he engaged in serious conversations with Gabe Paul Jr., who was then the executive director of the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, about the possibilities of bringing a Major League Baseball franchise back to Washington, for which Cooke would have served as majority owner.
Asked whether he would still entertain the idea of owning a professional sports team, he added: "I would be only interested in it if it were in the Washington area. And I would prefer football.
"I've had so many other experiences in life that I am thankful for," he said, peering through wire-rimmed spectacles across the desk. Putting his fist down gently, Cooke added, "But, yes, I would have liked to own the team."
He bristles at the handling of the Redskins since the Cooke era. "Dan Snyder destroyed the reputation of this franchise," Cooke said. "I sure as hell don't like the way he gutted the organization after we left. And he commercialized the Redskins like my father would have never commercialized the Redskins. People brought cushions and pennants to the games. You know how they got those? My father gave them out at fan appreciation days."
Cooke also took issue with recent controversy over tickets. "Suing season ticket holders?" he said, incredulously. "My God, it's embarrassing. We would have never done such a thing."
Redskins officials have said the lawsuits, against individuals and companies trying to back out of long-term ticket agreements, were a last resort involving a small percentage of premium seat contracts.
Of this week's decision to hand over play-calling duties to Sherman Lewis, who was hired as an offensive consultant, Cooke added: "Total madness. You've now undermined the authority of your coach. You don't have to say you'd never fire him. But just for the sake of stability, I would give Jim Zorn a vote of confidence and then say, 'Let's see how well he does.' It's a shame they continue to operate so recklessly."
'Give a guy a chance'
Cooke's connection to the Redskins today is like that of any other fan away from FedEx Field -- the television. He shakes his head the way a disappointed parent might when asked his thoughts on the team.
"We were rebuilding the club with Norv Turner," Cooke said of the coach fired by Snyder 13 games into the 2000 season when the Redskins were 7-6. "You talk about continuity, but it's not just continuity, it's patience. You got to give a guy a chance. And the mistake that Snyder made is that he got rid of Norv too soon."
In six-plus seasons with the Redskins, Turner had a record of 49-59-1, including 14-17-1 in John Kent Cooke's two years as owner.
Cooke said he thinks the team's performance the past 10 years -- a 78-88 record under Snyder heading into Monday night's game against Philadelphia -- results from the management failure to have a long-term perspective on how to build a team.
Those who know Cooke's handling of the team during the two years the estate controlled the Redskins before the sale say he was far less brash than his father. As for whether he would have been an effective owner?
"I think he learned so much from his father [that] John would have been a great owner," Beathard said. "His dad wasn't a hands-off guy, but he wasn't a meddler. He didn't want to come over and want to watch films or tell us who to take. John helped me to show me how to approach his father."
Sonny Jurgensen, the Hall of Fame quarterback who now broadcasts the team's games, said: "John is a good man. But if his dad thought he was capable of running the franchise, I think he would have given it to him. They could have taken care of the charitable trust when John sold the team."
Cooke, though, refuses to blame his father. He said his father could not have given him the franchise and fund the foundation at the same time because of estate and gift taxes. His father was also doubtful that his son could raise the money necessary to buy the team because the family businesses were not as valuable then as they had been previously.
"Those last games my dad was carried into his seat," Cooke said. "He forced himself to the elevator door and he couldn't stand very well, and at halftime, the end of the game, win or lose, the fans would turn around and salute my father because of the way he ran his company. The way we ran the company. And that's the thing that was destroyed. And if [Snyder] doesn't win he'll never get it back."
Special correspondent Stephen Ball contributed to this report.