Daniel M. Snyder has overhauled the Washington Redskins organization since he and his partners purchased the franchise in the summer of 1999. Marty Schottenheimer has surrounded himself with associates from his previous NFL stays in Cleveland and Kansas City since he was hired by Snyder in January as the Redskins' head coach and director of football operations.
The result has been a steady turnover of employees. Redskins officials declined to provide an exact number who have left the organization in the past 19 months but acknowledge that approximately 60 employees at Redskins Park have resigned or been fired during Snyder's stewardship. The Redskins said their figure does not count stadium workers, in addition to players, coaches, scouts and other staff members whose job is dependent upon the comings and goings of head coaches and general managers.
Excluding football players, an estimated 100 people have left the Redskins organization since July 1999. According to the Redskins, the team has approximately 190 employees, about 100 at Redskins Park in Ashburn and close to 90 at FedEx Field in Landover.
"The coaches and football people -- scouts, video guys, equipment guys -- that's the normal way the NFL operates," said Karl Swanson, a Redskins senior vice president. "When the coach goes, there's always turnover in that part of the organization. On the non-football side, we're comfortable with that sort of turnover in an organization this size over this period of time."
A Mere Resemblance
Only one remaining Redskins player, cornerback Darrell Green, played for Joe Gibbs, who retired following the 1992 season. Only a handful of Redskins employees -- most notably assistant general manager Bobby Mitchell (who has spent 31 seasons with the club as a player and front-office executive) and head trainer Bubba Tyer (30 seasons) -- predate Snyder's arrival.
"It happens in companies, school systems and sports," said Russ Grimm, the former Redskins offensive lineman who was dismissed by Schottenheimer as the team's offensive line coach. "It's all part of the world."
Others say they regret the changes that the organization has undergone since the Cooke family ownership ended with Snyder's $800 million purchase of the team, the stadium and Redskins Park from the Jack Kent Cooke estate. The three Super Bowl trophies on display in the Redskins Park lobby are among the few remaining links to the Redskins' championship teams of the 1980s and early '90s under Cooke and Gibbs.
"In the real estate or the communications business, maybe you can hire a guy, and if it doesn't work out you can get another guy to come in and shuffle the papers," said Terry Robiskie, the Redskins' interim head coach for the final three games of last season and a member of the coaching staff from 1985 until January, when he left the organization after Schottenheimer was hired. "You can't come into the NFL and have the turnover they've had and have any kind of continuity. In football, you must have continuity across the board. That includes the secretaries, the PR staff, the marketing people, the guys who do the scouting."
Including Robiskie -- now tight ends coach in Cleveland -- and Grimm, all but one of 10 members of Norv Turner's coaching staff have departed. Vinny Cerrato, the director of player personnel, also was dismissed.
Said Jay Brunetti, who resigned recently after 26 years as the team's equipment manager: "One part of me wants to rip [Snyder], but he bought the team and he can do what he wants with it. In January, I woke up one morning and said to myself, 'I'm not changing and he's not changing, so I've got a career decision to make.' "
Redskins officials declined to respond directly to the comments of any former employees.
What Snyder and Schottenheimer have done is not unprecedented in the NFL. Franchise sales and head coaching changes often result in a major personnel moves in the front office and coaching staff. After Jerry Jones took over the Dallas Cowboys in 1989, he made wholesale changes, even ousting legendary coach Tom Landry.
Snyder took over a franchise from John Kent Cooke that he and others viewed as complacent, having gone six seasons without reaching the playoffs and coming off a 6-10 season. Snyder and his partners fired about two dozen employees a few days into his Redskins tenure, and he negotiated a financial settlement just before training camp began in July 1999 that led to Charley Casserly's resignation as general manager two months later.
"I probably should have made more changes when I first took over," Snyder said during an interview in February with Washington Post editors and reporters. "I'm now in a position that I feel very, very comfortable with. In terms of the coaches and the player personnel and the areas that Marty has taken over, I feel 100 percent comfortable because it's individuals that I hired.
"There are probably eight or so people that I've cherry-picked over [from his Bethesda marketing firm, the former Snyder Communications Inc.]. I do believe that you go with people you can trust, people that you know can do the job. I admire Marty bringing in Kansas City people and bringing in relatives that I know he's got faith in. I believe in loyalty, and I believe in integrity and trust. We have the same beliefs on that."
Schottenheimer said: "My primary impetus in making the changes was that I was anxious to keep people I'd been involved with before, who understood the way we wanted to do things. It's no reflection on anyone who was here."
Of the approximately 60 front-office employees who have departed, 16 resigned to take other jobs, the Redskins said. According to the Redskins, five of the 60 accepted buyouts and two left for medical reasons. Some left after being told by Schottenheimer that they could stay but would be working for newcomers hired by Schottenheimer.
Some -- like Brunetti, longtime strength coach Dan Riley and many scouts -- have joined Casserly with the expansion Houston Texans. Others went to Detroit with new Lions president Matt Millen, a former Redskins player.
"Clearly, there are many reasons why those people left," Swanson said. "It's rarely as simple as saying one day, 'You're fired,' or someone resigning out of the blue."
A series of former Snyder Communications employees have followed Snyder to high-ranking positions with the Redskins, including club president Stephen Baldacci, executive vice president Dave Pauken and Swanson. The Redskins lured marketing executive David Cope from the Baltimore Ravens, who later left the organization to run his own local firm. Joe Mendes was the team's contract negotiator under John Kent Cooke, but left shortly after working out large deals with first-round draft choices LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels. He now represents players.
A Personal Touch
Under Snyder, the Redskins have become one of the top revenue-producing franchises in professional sports, and Snyder has demonstrated a willingness to pour money back into the team and stadium and parking improvements. The Redskins had a marketing department of six when Snyder arrived. Now the marketing department has 16 employees at Redskins Park alone, and more at the stadium.
Snyder paid his players close to $100 million, an NFL record, in salaries and bonuses for last season, and he and his partners have spent $42 million on stadium improvements. Even with last season's struggles, the Redskins set an all-time NFL home attendance record, averaging 80,928 per game.
"I made a bunch of changes when I first got here," Snyder said. "I promised that the parking would work. I promised that the stadium experience would be first class. . . . We've gone all-out to make this a user-friendly facility. . . . With all respect to Jack Kent Cooke, who I think was a great owner, these days the world of sports and entertainment is a little bit more sophisticated in terms of customer support and what you need to do with your facilities to service your customers."
Snyder retained Turner as head coach, and the Redskins won the NFC East title in 1999 and reached the second round of the playoffs. But the team was a disappointment last year, despite Snyder's offseason acquisition of big-game free agents such as Deion Sanders, and finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs. Turner was fired on Dec. 4. Robiskie coached the final three games, winning one, then was replaced by Schottenheimer on Jan. 4.
Schottenheimer retained only one member of the previous coaching staff, defensive line coach Mike Trgovac. He allowed defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes to leave for the Denver Broncos after Rhodes first sought a raise, then said he did not want to stay. Schottenheimer fired Cerrato after Cerrato said he had been told by Snyder and co-owner Fred Drasner that his job was safe.
Schottenheimer, the 12th-winningest coach in NFL history, hired his brother Kurt as defensive coordinator and his son Brian as quarterbacks coach. He hired other former assistants from his head coaching stints with the Browns and Chiefs, and he decided to attack the Redskins' salary cap problems sooner rather than later with an offseason roster purge.
"When ownership changes, there will be changes," said Grimm, who was hired as the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive line coach after 19 seasons with the Redskins as a player and coach. "He'll bring in people he's comfortable with. As an employee, it's something you understand. . . . I was fine with Mr. Snyder. He's going to be a good owner. Marty handled [Grimm's departure] very professionally. There were no hard feelings on my part. He handled it with class. They made a quick decision, and didn't hold me up looking for other opportunities."
Said Robiskie: "What happened to me there was all part of the business. There's no resentment on my part. . . . When I left D.C., I had no negative words for Dan. A lot of people say, 'He dumped you. You carried him through that last month, and then he dumped you.' People think I should be negative. I'm not.
"I don't look at it like Dan Snyder fired me. Marty didn't fire me. Michael Westbrook fired me. Albert Connell fired me. James Thrash and Dan Wilkinson fired me. . . . When you're allowed to be there and didn't win, you fire yourself. When the players screw it up and you're the coach, that's what gets you fired. The drafting of Michael Westbrook, bringing in the quarterback [Jeff George], the mistakes you make as a group get you fired, unless you own the team."
Robiskie said he is grateful for the head coaching opportunity that Snyder gave him, and indicated that Snyder was not nearly as meddlesome in football matters as his former boss in Oakland, Raiders owner Al Davis. But Robiskie also was critical of Snyder's management style.
"I don't care what you've got in life," Robiskie said. "You need the little people, so treat them like a person. I don't think he does, and I know that's part of the problem there, why so many people have left. I can't have a guy come to my house, like a guy collecting the garbage, and treat him like dirt and then, one week when I need him, expect him to pick up an extra bag of trash when I've treated him like dirt the last two years. Now I need him, so I'm nice to him one day? It doesn't work like that. Dan Snyder has to learn that."
Rhodes spent one season with the Redskins and oversaw the NFL's fourth-ranked defense, up from 30th in 1999 under previous coordinator Mike Nolan. He had a season remaining on his contract. But he told associates he was loyal to Turner and was upset when Turner was fired during the season.
"Schottenheimer is coming in with a new staff, and I think it's important for him to bring in the people he wants there," Rhodes said after being hired by the Broncos. "When things aren't getting done, I think, quite naturally, that people lose jobs.
"Norv Turner is a good man. I have a lot of respect for Norv Turner. . . . It was unfortunate what happened . . . [but] that's the nature of the business we're in."
Turner would not comment for this story.
Riley resigned following last season after 19 years as the Redskins' strength coach. He had been lured to the organization by Gibbs, and he had informed Turner prior to the season that he intended to leave.
"For me personally, Dan Snyder was very supportive," Riley said. "I was left alone to do what I did and when I needed a new piece of equipment, it was not a problem. . . . [But] how he handled other people I had a problem with. He felt he needed to make changes. But many of those people [who left] were part of four Super Bowls. They were part of the reason we got there and won. I didn't like the way some of it was done, but it's not my team. I told people, 'If you don't like it, you should leave.'
"When Joe Gibbs was here, it meant something to be a Washington Redskin. It meant something in the community. Players wanted to live here. I told Dan Snyder that just bringing in an athlete and putting him in a Redskin uniform, you just can't expect him to be a Redskin. It's about team chemistry. Some people thought that wasn't that important. Last year around here, you saw how important it was."
Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, a friend and advisor to Snyder, reportedly felt slighted by Snyder and the team when his son, Gunnar, was ousted as the head of retail sales at FedEx Field following the season. The younger Jurgensen was accompanied by the head of stadium security as he left FedEx Field, but he has told associates he was not bothered by that because that is how things regularly are done in the retail business. He has told associates the Redskins informed him that he had failed to meet sales goals.
"It was kind of a mutual decision," Gunnar Jurgensen said. "They had their ideas and I had mine, and they didn't match up. It was a business decision. I believe Dan Snyder is a phenomenal guy, and it's only a matter of time until he gets them winning again."
Sonny Jurgensen said: "I'd rather not comment. I guess they just wanted to go in a different direction."
Brunetti, 39, had worked for the Redskins since he was 13. "I resigned because I saw the handwriting on the wall," Brunetti said. "It's difficult to describe. I just had the feeling I was not going to be a long-term employee. I'd enjoyed 20 years of, if you do your job, remain professional and courteous, you'll be rewarded. . . . I worked with great people, great coaches and players. . . . It's a time in my life that I've just got to move on."
Staff writer Liz Clarke contributed to this report.