New Washington Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder said yesterday that he expects the team to be in the playoffs next season and will apply "pressure" to his players, coaching staff and front office to try to ensure that it happens.
During a meeting with Washington Post editors and reporters, Snyder said he won't tolerate players being out of condition and already has spoken to General Manager Charley Casserly and Coach Norv Turner about the possibility of getting rid of a few players with attitude problems. Snyder said he's optimistic that he will get former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs to serve as a team consultant, and indicated he thinks there still is time to make some player moves before next season, including possibly trying to sign Deion Sanders if the cornerback is released by the Dallas Cowboys.
The 34-year-old Bethesda marketing executive also talked at length about having a more fan-friendly organization, with players who visit children in local hospitals and a stadium that offers easier access and a better entertainment experience.
But Snyder, whose $800 million purchase of the Redskins, their training facility and Jack Kent Cooke Stadium was approved unanimously by the NFL's team owners on Tuesday in Atlanta, emphasized that his top priority is fielding a winning club. The Redskins haven't been in the playoffs in six seasons, and Snyder made it clear that he expects that drought to end.
"I'm expecting it this year," said Snyder, who met with Casserly and Turner Monday night in Atlanta. "I told that to Norv Turner and Charley Casserly the other night. First off, we're going to instill some energy that needs to exist a little bit more and the commitment from the owners. We [he and his partners] are all winners in our business careers. We've really focused and dedicated and put pressure on when needed. And we will put the pressure on. I think people generally perform better under pressure. . . .
"We will be there and the players and the management of the Redskins will understand that we want to win. We didn't do this to have losing seasons."
Casserly and Turner have contracts that run through the 2001 season, but probably are on what amounts to a one-year tryout with the team's new owners. But Snyder said the Redskins' second-half resurgence last season -- they won six of their final nine games following an 0-7 start -- left him convinced that Turner and Casserly could get the job done and deserved to be retained this year.
"I wouldn't say it was a factor of the timetable," said Snyder, who announced his intention to keep Casserly and Turner when his deal with the Cooke estate was completed on April 26. "Try the last eight games of the season times two, and you've won the division."
The effort level of Redskins players was questioned at times last season by those inside as well as outside the organization. Snyder declined to say which players he feels have problems with their attitudes or effort levels, but said it's possible that the organization will rid itself of a few such players before next season.
"Certain players that are severely overweight, they'll be losing their weight under us," Snyder said. "We're not going to tolerate that. Certain players that don't want to play won't be on the team. We're going to make it clear: We want to win. We did this [and] we're very serious. . . . It's not that difficult to step up the activity in the basics."
Snyder has said that he may sell the naming rights to the team's 80,116-seat stadium but might not not remove the Cooke name altogether. He said he will hire consultants to find ways to get motorists in and out of the stadium parking lots more rapidly. He talked about encouraging more tailgating by fans in the parking lots and adding more automated teller machines inside the stadium, and finding other ways to "beef up the entertainment value" of a day at the stadium.
"We understand that we have a situation that needs to be enhanced, and it can be," Snyder said. "This is not rocket science. . . . We're committed to that. It's a great stadium. It's a good foundation. We'll build on that. . . . All these simple things, to us, are really basic rules of marketing. We're going to upgrade the services [and] enhance the entertainment."
Snyder called the February deal that sent first-, second- and third-round draft picks over a two-year span to the Minnesota Vikings for quarterback Brad Johnson a "good trade" for the Redskins. He said he's pleased with the team's decision to pass up Heisman Trophy-winning running back Ricky Williams in last month's college draft and select cornerback Champ Bailey.
The Redskins might not be done with their offseason player reshuffling, Snyder said. The team could part with one of its three first-round picks in next year's draft if the right player becomes available in a trade. Meanwhile, Snyder said he "absolutely" would be interested in attempting to sign Sanders if the Cowboys release him in the next few days because of salary-cap issues and his injured toe.
The price for Sanders probably would be steep, and the Redskins have Bailey and veteran cornerback Darrell Green. But Snyder said: "You put Deion Sanders in a game, generally you win. Certain players make that much difference. He's one of them."
Snyder said he does not foresee hiring retired NFL coaching great Don Shula as his team president but plans to have someone lined up for that position as soon as possible. He reiterated that he'd like to have Gibbs and former Redskins wide receiver Art Monk associated with the franchise.
"Joe Gibbs is a friend of mine," Snyder said. "He's the best coach ever in the NFL, in my opinion. I'd like to ask his advice from time to time. Any involvement that he's willing to do, we'd accept."
Snyder reiterated that he has "no intention" of changing the team's nickname and said he does not plan to raise ticket prices "any time soon." He said he wants to get his players more involved in community activities. "Today not enough is done in Washington from a standpoint of community affairs and activities. That will take place. You'll see the players visiting the hospitals and visiting the children."
CAPTION: Daniel M. Snyder says Redskins' playoff drought should end in 1999.