If one isn’t paying close attention these days at Redskins Park, it’s fairly easy to fail to notice Daniel Snyder. He walks quietly to and from practices without anything resembling an entourage. Often only General Manager Bruce Allen is by his side. He might chat unobtrusively on the periphery with Coach Mike Shanahanas practice gets underway. But mostly, it’s under-the-radar stuff.
For many of Snyder’s 14 seasons as owner of the Washington Redskins, his team was all about grandeur. The moves were big. So, too, were the disappointments that most often followed. As the losses piled up, Snyder came to symbolize the team’s dysfunction.
But as the Redskins celebrate their first NFC East division title since the 1999 season, Snyder’s first at the helm of the franchise he adored as a kid, and prepare to host the Seattle Seahawks in a playoff game at FedEx Field on Sunday, a certain air of serenity, an overarching sense of pro-football normalcy, has settled over the team and its owner.
Snyder and the Redskins no longer are the NFL’s leading soap opera, and the biggest reason why may be how the owner himself is conducting business.
Snyder, 48, who long has had a reputation for being meddlesome and overbearing in his relationship with his coaches and his team, has remained in the background, associates say, and has allowed Shanahan, with Allen’s help, to plot the team’s course and make the decisions on the football side of the operation.
The Redskins are said to be giving consideration to negotiating a contract extension with Shanahan, an unusual state of affairs for a team that so regularly has been sorting through the pieces of a just-completed broken season and searching for a new head coach at this time of the year. The helipad at Redskins Park sits unused these days, an unintentional monument to a time in the not-so-distant past when grand entrances were the Redskins’ way, along with grand failures.
There is plenty of credit for the team’s success to go around, so much so that the long-running characterization of Snyder as the most intrusive NFL owner this side of the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones no longer seems so apt. Even the general manager that Snyder ousted in 1999, Charley Casserly, says Snyder merits his fair share of the plaudits.
“I think he deserves a lot of credit,” Casserly said. “He hired Bruce Allen as the general manager to run the front office. He hired Mike Shanahan as the coach to run the football team. They’re both proven winners. He’s allowed them to do their jobs. They’ve turned the franchise around and made it a winner again. It starts with ownership hiring the right people, letting them do their jobs and giving them the means to do it.”
Snyder’s change in approach, associates say, came about because he finally tired of all the losing — and of being excoriated by fans and the media for it.
“He’s had growing pains,” said one person familiar with the team’s internal dynamics. “He wanted instant gratification. He only wanted to win and, ‘Why couldn’t it happen to me?’ I think he got some bad advice along the way. He had some knee-jerk reactions. . . . He’s the kind of guy who wants it so bad. It comes across the wrong way.”
‘He’s stepped back from it’
Snyder for years involved himself intimately in the details of team personnel matters, and often made the big decisions on player acquisitions himself, according to people who have been in or dealt with the franchise. A much different picture has emerged since he hired Allen, the son of late Redskins coach George Allen, and Shanahan. By all accounts, Snyder over the past three regular seasons has been a supportive boss — and a non-meddler.
“He’s stepped back from it,” the person familiar with the inner workings of the team said. “And he’s having more fun because of it.”
This individual spoke on condition of anonymity, as did several other people interviewed about the Redskins owner. All said they feared reprisals or damage to their relationship with Snyder if they spoke frankly and their comments were attributed to them by name. Snyder declined to be interviewed for this article through a team spokesman, who said the owner was unavailable.
Snyder has been accused in the past of having personal relationships with some players that grew too close, enabling them to undermine the head coach’s authority. Some at Redskins Park point particularly to his friendship with former tailback Clinton Portis when Jim Zorn was head coach in 2008 and 2009. Portis last played for the team in 2010.
Veterans on this year’s team say they have less contact with Snyder than they used to.
“I haven’t talked to him in his office since Bruce and Mike got here. And I don’t think anyone really has,” tight end Chris Cooley said. “But he comes to practice. He’s part of the team. He’s part of what’s going on. He knows what’s going on. And I think he’s excited about it.”