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Posts Tagged ‘Dan Snyder’

SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan

In THE SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan on December 27, 2011 at 7:53 pm

SNYDER MISSES HIS CUE

   How can Dan Snyder stand to watch his team’s free-fall? This time around, Vinny Cerrato can’t be blamed. Neither can Albert Haynesworth. Nor Donovan McNabb.

With “Black Monday” a day away, you’d think Mike Shanahan could get his team ready to play in the season finale versus Philadelphia. Instead, the Redskins continued to stumble and bumble to finish 5-11 in a familiar locale – the NFC East cellar. The Skins managed one touchdown and were outscored by the Eagles by 24 points. Like against the lowly Vikings, this game wasn’t close, either.

On a day when two NFL head coaches (Steve Spagnuolo of the Rams and Raheem Morris of the Bucs) were fired, Shanahan was clowning around at his year-end press conference. Instead of explaining why he’s failed the past two years, he turned it into his own comedy hour. Snyder must be sick, having paid $14M for 11 wins, a little more than one mill per victory.

The owner must wonder what it’d be like to have Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, Mike Sherman, Jeff Fisher  or Brian Billick coach his team. Each has been to and won a Super Bowl except Fisher. And each is out of coaching. Yes, Shanahan had the same credentials (when hired two years ago) but winning 11 games over two seasons isn’t “super.” Maybe Snyder’s self-conscious about first firing Norv Turner and then hiring and firing Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier and Jim Zorn. In Washington, the lemming-like media hordes would chastise him for another rush to judgment. But I’d applaud a coaching switch.

Shanahan has done no better than Todd Haley (fired by the Chiefs) and Tony Sparano (fired by the Dolphins).  Why keep him?  What has he done to warrant a third year at $7M per? His experience was supposed to count for something but it hasn’t. If Snyder waits too long, that illustrious coaching list will go “Poof.” Andy Reid of Philadelphia was reprieved but did finish 8-8, just one game off the division lead. Turner also kept his job but had his Chargers in contention until the last weekend of the season. It’s called being competitive, something the Redskin coach isn’t.

In Week 16, you’d think a coaching staff would have eliminated silly, mental mistakes. But we saw Santana Moss yank off his helmet to draw a 15-yard penalty. Then we saw the field goal unit zig-zagging on and off the field until time expired in the first half. And yes, Rex Grossman continued to throw off his back foot, tossing yet another interception.

At his press conference after the Vikings loss (Week 15), Shanahan muttered the word, “progress” over and over. Progress?! Where’s Jim Mora, Sr. when I need him? I don’t care if Evan Royster had rushed for 300 yards. The team still had no business losing to a 2-12 squad which lost both its starting quarterback and all-world tailback at halftime. Shanahan can be proud of his zone-blocking schemes all he wants but where are the wins?

The pinnacle of the ridiculous was three weeks ago when Shanahan dodged the DeAngelo Hall fiasco, saying “The players elect the team captain,” after Hall was penalized twice on one play – once for throwing an official’s flag. If Redskin players think Hall is a leader, you’ve got a serious roster problem. Hall is mouthy and a poor tackler, not mentor-material. All Shanahan had to do was strip Hall of his captain’s title and say “I won’t stand for one player’s lack of discipline hurting my team.” Instead, he passed the buck and looked timid. How does that motivate a team?

Against the Vikings, Shanahan’s defense gave up 23 points in the second half to an offense run by a second-string quarterback and kick-started by a bench-warming fullback. Remember, all-world tailback Adrian Peterson was AWOL in the second half with an ACL injury – after being knocked out by safety Reed Doughty, who finally made a tackle.

Instead, Shanahan ought to be embarrassed, losing to a team that scored 33 points — one shy of its season-high — on the road!. When Grossman was intercepted in that game, it was the first pick by the Vikings defense in two months.

I hear how defensive end Brian Orakpo should have received a Pro Bowl invitation. I hear how first-year defensive end Ryan Kerrigan is one of the best rookies in the league. The Redskins have the NFL’s leading tackler in London Fletcher. So, how did such a “prized” unit collapse against an offense devoid of an All-Pro?

Why is it taking a “coaching legend” so long to win when first-year coaches Jim Harbaugh (49ers), Mike Munchak (Titans) and Hue Jackson (Raiders) won big in year one? Harbaugh and Munchak are in the playoffs. Jackson was in contention until Week 16. Enough whining about Grossman. QB Alex Smith of the 49ers was a bust before Harbaugh (with zero NFL coaching experience) took over the Mike Singletary mess and turned him into a Comeback Player of the Year candidate.

Speaking of first-year turnarounds, look what Bill Parcels did in New York and New England. Look at what Rex Ryan did with the Jets. Shanahan has coached 32 games with Washington and won 11 — one game worse than Zorn’s two-year mark. Shanahan might have long ago lost this team. If starters Trent Williams and Fred Davis were committed to his system, why was each busted three times for substance abuse?

We’ve heard how Shanahan had an eye for quarterbacks.  He inherited John Elway in Denver. McNabb was a major backfire. How could Shanahan have been so “high” on John Beck, a 30-year-old who failed miserably when given the offensive reins in mid-season?

Shanahan can’t even compete in his own division. This year, the NFC East champ was 9-7 while the second and third-place teams each were 8-8. Is playing .500 ball too much to ask of a coach? I bet Snyder would love to ask Shanahan that one.

SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan

In THE SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan on November 2, 2011 at 7:31 am

Washington Redskins fans wonder why a coach fitted for two Super Bowl rings and a $5M salary can lose three straight games – twice to teams with just one win and another by way of shutout for the first time in his 267 games as a head coach or offensive coordinator.

During the Buffalo game, Thom Brennaman and Troy Aikman snickered, watching the Redskins’ offense fall apart and later criticized their offense for not calling two plays in a huddle while down by 20 in the fourth quarter.

At one point, Aikman said, “It’s beyond the head coach.” But this was a stretch. Before Dan Snyder hired Mike Shanahan, he fired deputy Vinny Cerrato and since, has stayed out of Shanahan’s way. There have been no more “sexy” player signings or meetings with the coach in the bowels of FedEx Field after games.

Point is, Aikman still is bitter toward Snyder for firing Norv Turner – Aikman’s offensive coordinator in Dallas during that dynasty’s trio of Super Bowls.

Back in the spring of 2010, how could Shanahan have been wrong on quarterback Donovan McNabb? He’d coached for 25 years and McNabb had played for 11. What didn’t he know about the Philly veteran? He was supposedly the expert on quarterbacks. Then, months after signing McNabb, son, Kyle tried to change McNabb’s drop-back style. Seems odd, a then 29-year-old assistant toying with the mechanics of a player who’d been to five NFC Championship games. It’s hard to fault McNabb, wondering why his footwork was – all of a sudden – being scrutinized, especially by an assistant coach five years his junior.

The next Shanahan gaffe was Rex Grossman, who “roomed” with Kyle while the two were with the Houston Texans in 2009. Rex was benched as the Redskins starter after a 4-interception game vs. Philly, less than a third the way through the season. The fact he roomed with a player he coached points to Kyle’s naivete. Knowing this, think John Beck was surprised when he wasn’t named the starter seven weeks ago?

In the Buffalo game, Leron Landry and DeAngelo Hall’s names were hardly heard until a blown coverage in the Skins secondary helped give the Bills a touchdown. London Fletcher played with a pulled hamstring but made 12 solo tackles and had an interception in the end zone. How many stops did the Skins safeties make? How many INT’s? How many times did the duo reach the quarterback on a safety blitz? Besides six combined solo tackles, “nada” are your answers.

We’ve been force-fed the “3-4” as if it’s a magic potion concocted by defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. Basically, the Skins have a four-man front, only Ryan Kerrigan isn’t bent over in a 3-point stance. Former defensive coordinator Greg Williams had a much better defense here but was bypassed for the head coaching job that went to Jim Zorn. A year later, Williams took over the defense in New Orleans and won a Super Bowl.

Barry Cofield is an upgrade over Haynesworth at nose guard but he doesn’t remind anyone of Bob Lily, Randy White or Merlin Olsen. How many times have we seen him break through the muck to reach the quarterback? Again, nada is your answer. When Bills running back Fred Jackson took a hand off , he usually ran untouched until he reached the second level on his way to 120 yards.

We know the Skins’ replacements are lean on the right side of the offensive line. So why weren’t there roll-outs designed to take Beck to the left? Why wasn’t an H-back planted in the backfield? Why didn’t the team have a tight end on the right side the entire game? Where were Beck’s hot reads? It’s up to the Shanahans to provide answers but there weren’t any versus Buffalo.

Snyder should be fuming. As one writer put it, he could have kept Jim Zorn around for these results at a much cheaper rate. The owner didn’t balk when Mike wanted to deputize his son to run the offense. But how much experience did Kyle have? A couple seasons with the Texans? He was the coordinator there because Texans Coach Gary Kubiak was an assistant on Mike’s staff in Denver for years. Snyder should have balked and said, “OK Mike, bring your son on board but as an ‘offensive assistant’ under a seasoned coordinator like Mike Martz or Kevin Gilbride”

Buffalo is 5-2 with Fitzpatrick running the offense. He’s the same age as Beck with equal experience. Yet against the Redskins, his passes were uncontested, like practice where receivers are “allowed” to catch the ball. Buffalo is Fitzpatrick’s third team. Before this year, he’d never played on a winner but now his team is tied with the Patriots for first place in the AFC East. Fitzpatrick was a seventh round pick, Beck a second-rounder. And Beck played at BYU, whose pro-style offense threw the ball a bit more than did “Fitz” at Harvard.

For years as a landscape designer, my customers ask, “Is it the soil? Do we need to take out the old and bring in all new for the plants?” To that, I always say, “That’s unnecessary.” But when I apply the axiom to the Skins, I’m unsure.

Why is Marty Shottenheimer fired after going 8-8 and the very next year goes 14-2 with San Diego? Why does Steve Spurrier “lose” his coaching acumen with the Skins but regains it in Columbia, S.C., transforming an anemic Gamecock program into a national contender? How does Turner go from being fired in D.C. to taking his Charger team to the playoffs every year? How does Marty’s son, Brian go from being clueless with the Redskin offense, to advancing to two straight AFC Championship games as the New York Jets coordinator? What about Hue Jackson, who was fired here as a Zorn assistant, yet has his Raider team tied for first place? And while I’m at it, Bills’ defensive coordinator George Edwards (who coordinated the Skins defense in 2003) designed a defense last week that held the Skins to 26 yards rushing and 4-of-14 on third-down conversions.

It’s yet another coaching regime at work in Washington, producing the same, lame results. No one has answers, not even those at the top.

 

 

 

 

 

LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT Ross MacCallum

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on April 26, 2011 at 3:10 pm

There’s an unwritten rule regarding public disputes and use of the news media. It’s very simple. The first one to run to the media to defend his position is losing the battle.

Redskins owner, Dan Snyder might not want to admit this, but he IS losing his battle with the City Paper; at least in the court of public opinion, and maybe in court, too.

Snyder took to the Opinion page of the Washington Post and Post.com to re-state his intentions in his ongoing legal tussle with the City Paper, which he claims defamed him in a November 2010 article written by Dave McKenna. (I won’t even get into the question of why the Post climbed into the middle of this mess. I guess they really need to sell papers these days.) The piece entitled, “Why I am suing Washington City Paper,” is a plea for understanding from Redskins fans. The point that Dan completely misses, however, is that Redskins fans don’t care about his personal conflict with a tiny media outlet that most had probably never heard of until he decided to sue. They only care about winning and whether there will be a 2011 NFL season.

The only thing really new in the Snyder essay is the decision to re-file the suit in Washington instead of New York for “legal reasons.” As expected, it’s a little short on facts, and long on… well… long on Dan’s hurt feelings.

But, what’s really interesting here is what’s NOT mentioned anymore. There’s no more blather about the unwarranted mocking of Dan’s wife, Tanya, for saying in a TV interview that Dan had “grown and evolved.” And, there’s no more uproar over the so-called “anti-Semitic” photo illustration (Snyder with scribbled devil’s horns) that accompanied the original City Paper story. Why? Probably, because those complaints failed to garner the public sympathy that Dan was seeking when he opted to take on the City Paper in the first place. Those arguments quite simply lacked substance.

In fact, out of the roughly 60 “failings” of Dan Snyder listed in the McKenna article only one remains at the heart of this dispute.

And that is… Drum roll please… Snyder’s continuing focus on his portrayal in decade-old allegations that his communications marketing company “forged” names in a telephone “slamming” scheme in Florida. “Slamming” means that people’s long distance providers were changed without their authorization. According to the Attorney General of Florida, Snyder Communications’ employees carried out this activity on behalf of GTE/Verizon. A substantial fine was paid to end this matter “without admitting any wrongdoing.”

Of course, proof of malice by Dave McKenna will be the burden of Snyder in his case against the City Paper; an extremely heavy legal burden for a public figure. In the Post Op-Ed piece, Snyder targets the following line from the McKenna article for the bulk of his ire, “That’s the [same] Dan Snyder who got caught forging names as a telemarketer with Snyder Communications.” Snyder calls that accusation “false.” But, the Florida Attorney General’s April 2001 news release on the “slamming” case specifically refers to “thousands of instances” where Snyder Communications’ representatives “forged” customer signatures. Snyder obviously contends he was not one of the “representatives” in question. But, Snyder Communications was Dan Snyder’s company at the time. And, the buck stops where?

Snyder also continues to insist this is not about the money. Anything he might win is earmarked for charity. And, he doesn’t want McKenna fired. In fact, he says the whole matter would be dropped if the City Paper would just apologize and retract the “false charges.”

Dan, don’t hold your breath waiting for that apology. In an interview with WTOP, the publisher of the City Paper called the suit “frivolous.” The City Paper still stands by its story.

And to borrow from your own opinion piece, Dan, your University of Missouri School of Journalism graduate father would have understood the City Paper’s position, and that your foray onto the Op-Ed page of the Post is a clear signal that your battle is not being won.

Ross, the creator of Throwback Baseball 1.0, also blogs about sports memorabilia at: www.aberdeentradingco.com

LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT Ross MacCallum

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on February 18, 2011 at 7:28 am

Tony Kornheiser of WTEM ESPN Radio 980 in Washington, DC likes Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder. Former Washington Post colleague and well-known author, John Feinstein says so in his blog, Feinstein on the Brink.  Kornheiser also works for Snyder who owns WTEM.

And at this moment in time, all of this has become a problem and a news item unto itself in DC.

Naturally, it wouldn’t be a problem if Kornheiser didn’t also happen to host a daily radio show that focuses on sports and the media. It wouldn’t be a problem if Tony, who also works for ESPN itself, didn’t have a national reputation for tackling tough topics on the popular TV show, Pardon the Interruption.  It wouldn’t be a problem if Kornheiser wasn’t a widely respected journalist and columnist from his long tenure at the Post. It wouldn’t be a problem if Dan Snyder was a saint who never so much as creates a ripple in the sports pond. It wouldn’t be a problem if Dan Snyder wasn’t suing Kornheiser’s fellow DC journalist, Dave McKenna, and the City Paper, into oblivion for an unfavorable article published last November. It wouldn’t be a problem if Tony Kornheiser was willing to discuss Snyder v. City Paper on his radio show.

But, it is a problem, and Tony Kornheiser knows it.  It’s probably killing him inside. It’s certainly doing a tap dance on his credibility.  I mean, I’m not saying he should have McKenna’s back on this. And, nobody is demanding that Kornheiser attack Snyder, or even simply take a position on the somewhat pretzel logic behind the lawsuit. Heck, a good ride on the fence would probably satisfy most folks.  We all understand that it’s tough to bite the hand that pays a good salary. But, to almost pretend this headline-grabbing issue with Snyder doesn’t exist.  To, according to Feinstein, ask his radio guests not to bring up the matter on the air.  Well… the silence is deafening.

Tony Kornheiser has crossed one of those lines that true journalists aren’t supposed to cross. Sure the line is more gray than black these days.  ESPN college football hosts have sneaker contracts and others do commercials. Several DC TV sports reporters have also had ties to the Redskins in the Snyder era; although money may never have changed hands. And, at one time or another, all of the DC TV stations have had lucrative programming ties to the Skins: The Donovan McNabb Show, The Norv Turner/Terry Robiskie/Marty Schottenheimer/Steve Spurrier/Joe Gibbs/Jim Zorn/Mike Shanahan Show, and so on.  All of this can call into question “journalistic independence and journalistic integrity.”

The problem of course, is that Snyder pays Kornheiser. Pure and simple. Honestly, I don’t buy Feinstein’s contention that it’s not about the money.  It’s always about the money.  Money blurs the line that separates journalists from the people they cover.  Money creates a relationship, a friendship, a “liking” of someone that begins to erase the line.  Money makes a man beholden to another.  Money lowers the volume on the microphone, fades the ink of the writer’s pen, changes the subject when the questions start to get too tough to answer.

Money puts saving your job ahead of saving your reputation.

Tony Kornheiser is better than this.  At least, he used to be. He knows it. And, it’s killing him inside.

Ross, the creator of Throwback Baseball 1.0, also blogs about sports memorabilia at: www.aberdeentradingco.com

LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT Ross MacCallum

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on February 3, 2011 at 8:05 pm

With the possibility of an NFL lock-out looming, it appears that Dan Snyder’s back-up plan is to spend the 2011 season trying to sue the pants off a tiny Washington media outlet, the City Paper.  What a great way to pick up cash to offset lost ticket revenue!  Although, I’ve read that Snyder’s lawyers have suggested that any proceeds will be donated to charity.  If so, can I suggest starting a legal defense fund for the City Paper?  We’re not talking about the Washington Post.

According to the Associated Press and other major news organizations, the Redskins owner is suing the City Paper and its parent company for $2 million plus punitive damages and court costs claiming defamation in a November 19th article called “The Cranky Redskins Fan’s Guide to Dan Snyder.”  And, depending on which on-line report you read, Snyder either is or isn’t seeking the dismissal of the story’s author, Dave McKenna.  Snyder is also reportedly upset with other articles that have appeared in the City Paper since 2009, and he seems notably unhappy with the photo art that went along with the “Fan Guide” that depicts Snyder with a beard and devil’s horns.   Reportedly, Snyder’s lawyers have gone so far as to get a west coast rabbi to label the crudely drawn horns as “anti-semitic.”   For the record, Snyder is Jewish.

Now, to be completely honest, I had not read the McKenna article until the lawsuit story broke.  And, I couldn’t pick Dave McKenna out of a lineup even if he was alone.  I would classify the writing as “tongue-in-cheek” humor with an EDGE.   A SHARP EDGE, at that.  At first glance, the article’s “A-Z” approach pretty much hits all the low points of the Snyder-era as Redskins owner; on and off the field.   (I think we can all agree that the “high points” wouldn’t make for much of an article).  To call it libel or defamation is a stretch, at best.   To call the photo embellishment of Snyder anti-semitic is a longer stretch.   To call it unflattering would pretty much hit the nail on the head.

So, I can see why Danny is displeased with his portrayal.  But, why on earth would he draw attention to a not-so-positive article from a media outlet with a very limited readership (sorry City Paper) and turn it into a NATIONAL HEADLINE and splash it across the worldwide web, ESPN, the Washington Post, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum?  Is it because to claim libel somebody actually has to have read the allegedly libelous article in the first place?   If it were only that simple for Snyder’s lawyers.  You see, there’s the issue of proving malice, and there’s the sticky little issue of Snyder being a public figure (unflattering stuff comes with the territory).   Oh, and I seem to recall this little note from my Business Law class in college, “You can’t libel someone with the truth.”   And, while Snyder is claiming the article in question contains “lies, half-truths, and innuendo” designed to smear him, the City Paper says the facts of the story are facts.  And, let’s not forget the First Amendment here.  Danny’s lawyers could clearly use a little re-fresher on this one.

So, what is the truth?  Well, the truth is, as they say, out there.  Snyder may lose, but he can afford to lose.   The City Paper probably can’t afford to win, lose, or draw.  Money is power, and Danny is flexing the money muscle, for sure.   But, bizarrely, this might actually be the best thing that’s ever happened to McKenna and the City Paper.   Money just can’t buy the exposure they’re getting right now.

As for the outcome,  Snyder might wind up proving the original point of McKenna’s article. (If you get my drift).  And, if you didn’t, let me just say that Danny might just have clinched another “Sports Jerk of the Year” award from Tank McNamara.   More critically, however, Snyder may have committed the biggest PR blunder in NFL history.   Never bite the hand that feeds your ego.  The City Paper is an easy target for a bully and his legal team, but it’s not alone out there. The media can and will bite back.

And, the fans?   Dan Snyder lost them years ago.

Ross is the creator of Throwback Baseball 1.0 www.aberdeentradingco.com