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Let Angelos Own the Redskins and Things Will Happen Fast

November 04, 1998|THOMAS BOSWELL | WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON — Why would Peter Angelos want to buy the Washington Redskins? And, before you laugh, ask yourself if he might not be pretty good at it.

Ever since it was reported last week that the Orioles owner had informed baseball commissioner Bud Selig that he intended to pursue the Redskins, local wits have been in heaven. Angelos styles himself as the quintessential native Baltimorean, not Washingtonian. He's the sworn enemy of baseball for Washington. But now he wants to buy the city's favorite team--for $450 million or more. Is this a joke?

Why would he want to buy the Redskins? Maybe because he harbors a secret hatred of Washington and wants to give lifetime contracts to Norv Turner and Charley Casserly. Or he hopes to solve cross-ownership problem by buying the Redskins, then selling Orioles to John Kent Cooke.

Actually, that last tongue-in-cheek point may hold some truth. For years, Angelos critics have said he was a baseball owner with a football mentality. Maybe he just wants to fix the problem and get into the right racket.

Angelos has the prototypical temperament that's often suited to NFL leadership: impatient, take charge, emotional, smart, quick to demand results -- or else. Think of Eddie DeBartolo, Jerry Jones and Jack Kent Cooke. Not exactly your gentle, nurturing types.

Ironically, as Redskins boss, John Kent Cooke has operated like many successful baseball owners--showing patience with key personnel through difficult times, taking a long view, not panicking.

If Angelos had spent the past five years owning the Redskins, not the Orioles, and Cooke had run the Orioles the past couple of seasons, not the Redskins, think of the mischief that might have been avoided.

If Angelos bossed the Redskins, Washington wouldn't have spent this season agonizing about whether Turner and Casserly should be fired. Angelos would have canned them both long ago. One year ago certainly. Two years ago maybe.

Why, Angelos fired Johnny Oates because he thought he looked worried and insecure in the dugout. Not up to the job. Angelos ran off Davey Johnson, with the best career record in baseball, after Johnson just missed going to the World Series twice. Now Johnson has what may be the plum job in his whole sport--managing the Dodgers--while Oates keeps making the playoffs in Texas.

What would Angelos have done after the '97 Skins started 7-1, then squandered three close games to blow a near-certain playoff spot? What would he have done after the '97 season was trashed by a lackadaisical loss at home to the woeful Rams? This year, at 0-5, 0-6 and 0-7, as the team gave less effort each week, wouldn't Angelos have fired his coach?

Generally speaking, that's the NFL way. And it doesn't work too badly. Sure, Jack Kent Cooke showed patience with the young Joe Gibbs. But for how long? Gibbs turned his team around after five losing games. How long did Richie Petitbon get? One year, then thanks for the memories.

Did that kind of subliminal tension about The Old Man's famous temper motivate the Redskins and keep Gibbs on edge? Every single day.

If Angelos had owned the Redskins, they'd never have fumbled a decade's worth of No. 1 draft picks; yet they still might have made all their smart low-round picks. Why? Because Angelos only meddles with The Really Big Decisions. But he always fusses with them. With Angelos, Casserly and Turner might've had a perfect draft record. Angelos would've grabbed the big decisions from both of them.

If Angelos owned the Redskins, you can bet Michael Westbrook would have found his way to a telephone last Saturday morning, no matter how sick he was and no matter what the cause. But then if Angelos owned the Redskins, Westbrook probably would have been traded long ago -- when he still had value. Before the whole league knew he blew assignments and ran sloppy routes, would punch a teammate or ignore a coach, snub the press or flaunt his huge but-still-unearned contract.

Look at Robby Alomar. The Orioles have as much as told him, "Get lost." His sin this year? He didn't run out every ground ball.

In baseball, it's not always a great idea to get disgusted with a fat, gifted southpaw (David Wells) after just one year and let him go free agent. Be patient. He might throw a perfect game and help you win the Series.

In football, a quick trigger's usually better. A player's shelf life is much shorter. And you can't afford to get stuck with stale, valueless inventory. Decide fast. Salvage something.

If John Kent Cooke, who rewards loyalty and service, ran the Orioles, wouldn't Jon Miller still be broadcasting the games? Wouldn't Johnson still be the manager? Can you imagine the mild-mannered Cooke losing valuable people in petty personality clashes?

It's ironic that Angelos, who's so competitive and spends so freely to win, and Cooke, who wants so desperately to continue his father's legacy, may not be well suited to the games they're playing. In a sense, they both deserve better. But that doesn't mean their teams will get better. It's disheartening, but possible, that neither man will ever have the level of success which might arrive if, somehow, they really could switch teams.

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