Washington Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder's 'Hands Off' Approach Worked for Team

John Bibb@@JohnBibbAnalyst IIIJuly 25, 2013

On January 6, 2010, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder shakes hands with new coach Mike Shanahan as GM Bruce Allen looks on at the press conference announcing Shanahan as head coach.
On January 6, 2010, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder shakes hands with new coach Mike Shanahan as GM Bruce Allen looks on at the press conference announcing Shanahan as head coach.Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Washington Redskins as a team and organization are better off without the meddling, sideline-pacing, overbearing presence of owner Dan Snyder who took a step back and took a "hands off" approach—letting coaches coach and players play under current coach Mike Shanahan—even if the Redskins win-loss record during the time did not reflect it.

With Coach Mike Shanahan at the helm—piloting the worst-to-first turnaround in the NFC East last season—fans should look forward to an announcement of a long-term contract extension with Shanahan in the near future.

But the change of attitude and approach by Snyder started well before Shanahan joined the Redskins and signed a five-year, $35 million contract to coach the Redskins in 2010.

Following the firing of coach Jim Zorn in January 2010, former Redskins receiver Antwaan Randle El, told the Northwest Indiana Times newspaper Zorn didn't stand a chance of success with Snyder's meddlesome nature.

"When (former Redskins coach) Jim Zorn was there, he was hands-on," Randle El said. "He had great potential, but (Redskins owner) Dan Snyder was too involved because he didn't trust coach Zorn as much as he did coach (Joe) Gibbs, and those were things that prevented us from success as a team."

Snyder, a college dropout-turned-billionaire businessman, had tried before to be less involved—vowing to be "hands off." This was something he first stated in 2001 when he announced the hiring of Marty Schottenheimer, according to CBS News.

In 2009, Longtime Washington, D.C.-area sportscaster George Michael—a friend of Snyder's off the field—told listeners on all-sports D.C. radio station 106.7 The Fan all Snyder wants is for the team to have success.

"You all want to dump it on Dan Snyder," Michael said via The Washington Post in 2009. "I understand that. I understand that. I don't think Dan does. I don't think he understands why people hate him so."

Michael, who spent 27 years covering the Redskins, seemed surprised at the fans reaction. "I saw a poll the other day (in September 2009) where 52 percent of the people believe that the Redskins' problems are Dan Snyder's fault."

Michael added, "Dan doesn't even understand what he does wrong. He doesn't even understand the things he does wrong. If the fans knew how bad he wants to win, they would go, 'My God, he wants to win as much as I do.'"

High expectations and criticism of Snyder from Redskins fans are somewhat understandable considering the Redskins appeared in the Super Bowl five times between 1972-1991, winning three times from 1982-1991.

Since taking ownership of the team in 1999, the Redskins have been through seven head coaches and 15 different quarterbacks who have started at least one game. The team has reached the NFL playoffs only four times, advancing to the next round twice, 1999 and 2005, which both resulted in a loss.

With previous attempts of "hands off" ownership not working for Snyder, it wasn't until the addition of current head coach Mike Shanahan months after Zorn's firing when the current "hands off" style flourished.  

Shanahan, hired by Snyder in January 2010 and seventh coach hired during his ownership, assumed full control over player personnel and had the final say in Redskins team matters. 

In trying the "hands off' approach again, Snyder showed Shanahan the level of respect not seen in Washington since the Joe Gibbs era. Perhaps the owner finally acknowledged his way was not working to even his own satisfaction.

Shanahan brought with him a full package of coaching characteristics, having led the Denver Broncos in back-to-back Super Bowl victories in 1997 and 1998. He was also the offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers when they won the Super Bowl in 1994.

With the hiring on Shanahan, Snyder was finally able to take a step back behind the curtain and allow a proven winner to oversee all football operations.

Along with his credentials came Shanahan's most appealing talents as an NFL coach: integrity, authority and offensive intellect. With that came Snyder's respect.

Despite finishing in last place in the NFC East twice and an 11-21 record his first two seasons, Shanahan was able to guide and possibly direct Snyder away from previous errors and mistakes in the acquisition of free agents and drafting rookies.

Under Shanahan's control of player personnel, the Redskins began a period of rebuilding and ceased gambling on players—convincing Snyder that spending the most money for players does not automatically lead to success on the field.

This was something Snyder had been guilty of on several occasions. 

The most widely cited example is what has been called "one of the worst free agent signings in the NFL" by the website SportsNet—when in 2009, the Redskins signed defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to a seven-year, $100 million contract which included a then-NFL record $41 million in guaranteed money.

Haynesworth was a bust while with the Redskins, accounting for only 42 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 20 games over two seasons. His suspension by the Redskins in 2010 for "conduct detrimental to the team" was really putting it nicely.

Since joining the Redskins, Shanahan has been able to build a team to his liking and stresses the importance of youth and depth at all positions. His reputation and instinct for identifying talent that may have been overlooked is something that extends to his coaching days with the Denver Broncos.

As for Snyder, his popularity seems embedded with fan sentiment and it may be something the owner will not be able to shake for some time. Just last year, Time magazine published an article that included Snyder as a selection for their "10 Most Hated Sports-Team Owners."

After all, it was Snyder who decided to charge higher prices for tickets, parking and concessions at FedEx field. He also banned fans from bringing any signs into FedEx field.

There are other instances but the bottom line is how his "hands off' approach has worked for the Redskins. Snyder's approach will continue to work as long as Shanahan and Bruce Allen share duties as general managers and handle matters pertaining to the players and team.

One only needs to look at the first-round NFL draft picks the Redskins have selected during his most recent years of maintaining a "hands off" approach.

The list includes, in order since 2009, outside linebacker and three-time Pro Bowl selection Brian Orakpo, offensive tackle, Pro Bowl selection and 2012 co-captain Trent Williams, outside linebacker and 2012 Pro Bowl selection Ryan Kerrigan and some guy named Robert Griffin III.

The Redskins will continue to improve under the self-imposed, "hands off" approach by Snyder. He will always have his detractors and those who will not forget what he did in years past.

They were cited recently by Forbes magazine as the third most valuable team among NFL franchises and the eighth-most valuable sports team in the world, with an estimated value of $1.6 billion and twice what Snyder paid for the team in 1999.

The fact of the matter is the future of the Redskins lies in the hands of Shanahan. In order for the future of the organization to become a reality, Snyder is the one who pays for that to become a reality. Love him or hate him, Snyder has developed the Redskins into a business juggernaut with a tradition of winning.

That tradition can and hopefully will continue in 2013 as the team starts training camp in Richmond, VA this week.

Follow on Twitter @JohnBibb and view previous Bleacher Report articles I have authored on the Washington Redskins here.


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