By Barry Svrluga
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
In his first public comments since a tumultuous season began, Washington Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder said Tuesday that team officials are "disappointed and embarrassed" by a 2-5 start to the season, part of an apology to fans for results that he deems unacceptable.
Speaking briefly to a small group of reporters after a Redskins Charitable Foundation event in Clinton, Snyder gave a rare in-season assessment of what is shaping up to be one of the most difficult of his 10 years as the team's owner, repeatedly mentioning a fan base that has grown increasingly disenchanted in recent weeks.
"I feel bad for the fans," Snyder said, according to a transcript on the team's official Web site. "I feel sorry for the fans. And we're very, very appreciative of our great, loyal fan base. And I'm understanding. I mean, we just feel terrible. We're disappointed, and we're embarrassed. And we hope to get it going soon. We're disappointed."
Snyder has a policy of not granting interviews once the season begins, and he spoke publicly only a couple of times during preseason training camp. In his comments at Tuesday's event, in which the Redskins partnered with Prince George's County Schools to help maintain and improve athletic fields in the county, Snyder did not address many of the central issues the team has faced this season, including the futures of Coach Jim Zorn, quarterback Jason Campbell or Vinny Cerrato, his executive vice president of football operations. Instead, Snyder said everyone who works at the team's Ashburn training complex is exasperated by the season.
"It hurts," Snyder said. "I mean, it really hurts. We are really trying very, very hard. Everyone at Redskins Park -- the coaches, the players. The organization's really, quite frankly, held up well.
"And I think we have an opportunity the rest of the season to hopefully get it going. But to date, we've let everyone down -- including ourselves. We know that. We're just apologetic."
The Redskins entered Zorn's second season with hopes that the offense would improve as Zorn and Campbell became more comfortable with each other and second-year wide receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly developed. The defense, which ranked fourth in the NFL in average yards allowed in 2008, added free agent All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and rookie linebacker-defensive end Brian Orakpo, developments that figured to make an already solid unit more dynamic.
But the difficult start has included devastating injuries and results that some in the organization find stunning. Veteran offensive linemen Chris Samuels, a six-time Pro Bowler, and Randy Thomas were lost for the season in the first five weeks, exposing a lack of depth at the franchise's most precarious position. Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley broke a bone in his leg in the team's Oct. 26 loss to Philadelphia, an injury that will force him to miss at least a month.
Three previous times during Snyder's stewardship, the Redskins have started 2-5. But this season, the two wins have come over St. Louis and Tampa Bay -- teams that have combined to go 1-14, and those two victories came by a total of five points. The Redskins are the only team to lose to Detroit or Kansas City; and the loss to the Lions ended a 19-game losing streak for Detroit.
"We've blown some games that obviously we should have won," Snyder said.
The schedule, now, turns significantly more difficult. The team's next five opponents -- Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, Philadelphia and New Orleans -- have winning records.
The Redskins also have endured their share of off-the-field issues. With the offense struggling through the first four games, Cerrato and Snyder hired retired assistant coach Sherman Lewis as an offensive consultant on Oct. 6, a move that shook some on the coaching staff. Following a Week 6 loss to Kansas City in which the offense managed just two field goals, Cerrato stripped Zorn of his play-calling responsibilities and turned them over to Lewis. On Oct. 23, Cerrato used his radio show on ESPN 980, a station owned by Snyder, to say that Zorn would be the coach for the rest of the season.
With fans growing increasingly despondent, officials at FedEx Field confiscated signs -- both supportive and negative -- from people who entered the stadium for the game against Philadelphia.
Snyder said he understands the fans' feelings.
"I see disappointment," Snyder said. "It's the same way I feel, and I share their frustration. It's hard. We're going to put it together and get it going."
After expressing his frustration, Snyder vowed to look ahead. He said he thinks "the players still believe," and they reiterated as much as they reconvened following Sunday's bye week. They begin practice in earnest Wednesday for this weekend's trip to Atlanta, which is 4-3 after a loss Monday night at New Orleans.
"The next step is Sunday," Snyder said. "It's really that simple. We hope we can put together a good performance down in Atlanta and start a winning streak."