Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said yesterday he gives Coach Norv Turner a large chunk of the credit for the four-game winning streak that has the team in first place in the NFC East entering Sunday's game at Dallas.
"We're 4-1," Snyder said. "I think the head coach is critical, and he's done a good job so far."
During an interview in his Redskin Park office, Snyder said he not only expects the Redskins to make the playoffs this season but expects them to be a force in the postseason. He praised the dedication and work ethic of his team but said he will continue to apply pressure to his front office, coaching staff and players to produce winning results.
He expressed disappointment at the club's inability to deal one of its three first-round picks in next April's college draft for an impact player before the NFL trade deadline Tuesday. He said the team won't re-sign linebacker Ken Harvey this season and won't sign running back Stephen Davis or any other player to a contract extension until after the season.
Snyder has been in the spotlight for the high expectations he has brought to Redskin Park since he and his partners closed their $800 million purchase of the franchise and Redskins Stadium in July. Yesterday he deflected credit for the team's successful start.
"The credit goes to the coaching staff and the team," Snyder said. "I think that I will be there to always keep the team and the organization accountable. It's my style. It's what has led me to tremendous success, and I think it will lead the new Washington Redskins to tremendous success. But we are not here pointing at why we're successful. All we're saying is, 'How can we get better?' "
Snyder ousted Charley Casserly as the Redskins' general manager before the season and gave Turner the final say over the team's player-related personnel decisions but also made it clear that Turner would have to get the club into the playoffs to keep his job. Snyder has forged a smooth working relationship with Turner and new director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato, and he said yesterday he hopes for more out of this season than the franchise simply ending its six-season playoff drought.
The Redskins will take a one-game lead in the NFC East into Sunday's game, in which they will try to avenge their 41-35 overtime loss to the Cowboys in the Sept. 12 regular season opener. The Redskins squandered a 21-point, fourth-quarter lead at home but have rebounded with four straight victories.
"We're obviously pleased to be 4-1, but our goal is still quite high," Snyder said. "Our goal is not just to be 4-1, but it's to make and dominate the playoffs. If you look at the games, we've had some close games. The first one still hurts and still makes us feel as if we had the potential to be even better."
Snyder would not go so far as pronouncing the Redskins a Super Bowl team.
"We look like a team that's getting better and better, but has a long way to go," he said.
Snyder was heavily involved in the deliberations that led the Redskins to add longtime NFL defensive guru Bill Arnsparger to their coaching staff prior to Sunday night's 24-10 victory at Arizona, in which the club's beleaguered defense had its best performance of the season.
"I wouldn't say that we're so much better" than in the past few seasons, Snyder said. "I would say we play like a team, number one. We play like a team that's improving week to week on both sides of the ball. Even when one side may have an off week compared to previous weeks, the other side is starting to pick up the pace.
"That is something that hasn't been done the last few years with the organization. The organization has not had the amount of energy that this team has this year. This is an energetic, pumped-up feeling. We're ready to play. We're prepared. We're much more intense as an organization, as you can see, from previous years. The comments I'm hearing back from within the organization are that we're very, very focused."
The Redskins tried since training camp to make a high-impact trade, and were willing to give the Seattle Seahawks first- and third-round draft picks for holdout wide receiver Joey Galloway. Snyder did not discuss specific deals but said he would have liked to have made a major acquisition.
"I would have loved to have traded a number one," he said. "There were several players who would have helped our organization get better. We still have three number ones and we'll look to do something with those, whether it's using all of them in the draft or trading after the season. We will do what's in the best interests of the Redskins."
Harvey, who retired during training camp, recently expressed interest in making a comeback this season. He met with Turner to discuss the matter and accompanied the Redskins to Arizona. But Snyder, echoing comments by Turner earlier this week, said a comeback by Harvey with the Redskins is unlikely.
"I don't think that will be taking place this year," Snyder said. "But he was a great Redskin and a tribute to the organization."