Sports

Picking Splinters: Burn Down to Build Up

Overreaction seems to be a mandatory quality of sports fans these days. In the face of adversity, die-hards who hang on every play call or pitch, often long for widespread, wholesale changes in the belief that they will instantly halt their team’s losing ways. Such strategies are popular among fans because, well, “fan” is short for fanatic, and rational thought is not so much their strong suit.

Those that work in sports are supposed to know better. They’re supposed to know that when you keep bringing a team back to the drawing board every year, it merely adds to the time required to build it into a winner. And yet, Washington Redskins’ owner Daniel Snyder keeps trying to tinker with his team’s blue prints every year. And he has exactly as many Super Bowl rings as I do to show for his efforts.

Cornerback Carlos Rogers this week, suggesting that the team’s problem “starts with ownership,” is spot on, even if it is shocking to hear someone criticize the man that signs the pay checks. Snyder has been the one behind the coaching changes, the coordinator changes, the philosophy of spending draft picks like loose change and investing heavily in free agents only after years in the NFL’s trenches have already worn down their bodies. He’s the reason the Redskins have an offensive line that’s about as imposing as a rusty screen door. He’s the reason quarterback Jason Campbell has had to spend nearly every offseason learning a new playbook instead of working on the physical and mental aspects of the game.

Snyder is involved in everything and he chafes at the mere whiff of displeasure. As told in John Feinstein’s book “Next Man Up,” when Mike Nolan was with the Redskins, Snyder sent a tub of 31 Flavors ice cream to the defensive coach following a loss when the owner criticized the defensive play-calling as “too vanilla.” After another loss to Dallas, Nolan returned to his office late Sunday night to find three melting tubs of ice cream and another note. “I was not joking. I do not like vanilla.”

Snyder is simply too involved. If the Redskins were a tree, he’d prune the branches back the second the grew in a direction he disliked and if it didn’t grow fast enough he’d transplant it daily. Eventually the Redskins would look like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree … kind of like now.

Washington has lost to two previously winless teams this season and struggled to beat the Rams and Buccaneers, two other winless teams. Any team worth a lick should be sitting at 4-1 and lining up the hapless Kansas City Chiefs for another “W.” Not the Redskins. Not this year. Not any year. And the natives are restless.

Here’s the ironic part: This team actually does deserve to be torn down. Nothing is working. Nothing looks like it will work. The offense stinks because the quarterback has been bad. The quarterback is bad because every time he gets the ball it’s like his commanding officer just blew the whistle to go over the top of the bunker at Gallipoli. He’s shell shocked because of his porous offensive line and the fact he has just one reliable receiver.

This team has gone 4-9 in its last 13 games dating back to last season and has not shown a lick of improvement. Fans are howling and carrying torches. It’s time for Snyder to do what he does best: Break out the gasoline and burn this thing down to the ground again.

Get a new coach, a new GM, a new quarterback, a new offensive line and a new receiving corps.

Then step off.

If Snyder has learned anything during his tenure as owner of the Redskins, and I’m not sure that he has, it should be that his overinvolvement has completely undermined his employees and sabotaged this team. He needs to find an experienced hand to plot a course in the front office and another to guide the ship from the field. Then he needs to put his hands in his pockets and not touch anything. It may go against every over-reactive instinct that he has, but it is the only way this wreck of a franchise is going to improve any time soon.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*