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Inside the NFL | Sam Farmer ON THE NFL

Spurrier Can't Escape Snyder

November 08, 2003|Sam Farmer

This is all you need to know about Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins: After Hurricane Isabel knocked out all the electricity in his neighborhood this fall, Snyder had a massive generator brought to his home and lighted his mansion more brightly than the Las Vegas strip.

"He has the right to have his lights on, but he's so obnoxious," one of his neighbors told the Washington Post. "Every single light in his entire house is on -- his massive chandelier, every accent light. It's as though he's throwing a party."

With the power-hungry Snyder, the lights are on but nobody's home.

No doubt that has become apparent to Steve Spurrier, whose tenure with the Redskins could be headed for a blackout just 1 1/2 seasons into his five-year, $25-million deal.

When the owner of your team has the patience of a 2-year-old, trouble is always a couple of lousy weeks away. Since Snyder bought the team in 1999, the Redskins have had four head coaches: Norv Turner, Terry Robiskie, Marty Schottenheimer and Spurrier.

The Redskins started this season 3-1 but have lost their last four. Game after game, their weaknesses are exposed. So far, the Spurrier experiment has been a failure. Rumors are swirling that he might not even make it past this season, although Snyder, who's still paying off Schottenheimer, would owe Spurrier the remaining $15 million on his contract if he were to dump him after the season.

When he left the University of Florida and signed on with Washington in January 2002, Spurrier said that if he couldn't turn around the Redskins in three years, Snyder should find somebody else.

Halfway through that three-year plan, the Redskins are 10-14 overall and 1-8 against NFC East opponents, having scored their lone division victory in the 2002 finale when the Dallas Cowboys had pretty much given up on lame-duck coach Dave Campo.

Things are getting uglier by the minute, and there's plenty of blame to go around.

Spurrier, whose nail clippings know more about football than Snyder, recently was roped into a six-hour meeting with his boss, a guy most people couldn't tolerate for six minutes. Then there was Snyder's decision to bring in a couple of "consultants" to look over the shoulders of Spurrier's assistant coaches -- Joe Bugel, who coached the "Hogs" offensive line in the 1980s and was a flop as a head coach, and well traveled defensive coordinator Foge Fazio.

Now, bringing in those guys might have been insulting, but Spurrier's coaching staff is conspicuously light on experience. His son, Steve Jr., coaches the wide receivers, and 28-year-old Noah Brindise oversees the quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, linebacker coach Jim Collins and tight end coach Lawson Holland had no pro coaching experience before joining the Redskins in 2002.

The Washington assistant with the most NFL seasoning, offensive line coach Kim Helton, is having some of the biggest problems. The Redskins have surrendered a league-high 29 sacks, even though they have a line loaded with high-priced players. The running backs aren't helping much with pass blocking either, despite Spurrier's keeping them in the backfield by calling more maximum-protection plays than at any time in his career.

It was Spurrier's decision to get rid of running back Stephen Davis, who Spurrier thought was too much a plodder. Davis is now with Carolina, where he has plodded for 992 yards this season, making him and his team second best in the league. The Redskins, trying a running-back-by-committee approach as they battle injuries at that position, are 21st in the league in rushing.

Just as Spurrier can't keep quarterback Patrick Ramsey from getting clobbered, it seems no one is watching Spurrier's back.

He has Snyder second-guessing his every move, and a vice president of football operations, Vinny Cerrato, who's at best a so-so personnel man. He was already fired once by the Redskins and was shaky as a personnel director in San Francisco, where he offset some late-round finds (Lee Woodall, Fred Beasley, Tai Streets) with his share of first-round busts (J.J. Stokes, Jim Druckenmiller, Reggie McGrew). Snyder reportedly is on the verge of giving Cerrato a contract extension.

Snyder, the Redskins' de facto general manager, desperately wants to be seen as a "football man." Imagine someone as meddlesome as Al Davis without a hint of Davis' football knowledge. Recently, Snyder dialed up former Cowboy coach Jimmy Johnson for a lengthy chat, further stoking rumors that Spurrier's days with the team are numbered.

Wrote Thomas Boswell, Washington Post sports columnist: "The Redskins are now controlled by a brain trust with at least four heads: Snyder, Vinny Cerrato, Steve Spurrier and whoever the last guy was who said something that sounded smart to Snyder."

Spurrier sounded testy this week when asked by a reporter if he planned to stay beyond this season.

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