Yesterday, I posted a column discussing Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder‘s sudden fascination with public opinion. I argued that there was little Snyder could do in the interim to win the affection of Redskins fans. While the owner has clearly made improvements in recent years, there was simply too much past negativity to make any difference in the short-term.
Further, the only chance I see of public opinion shifting significantly in favor of Snyder is a scenario that cannot possibly happen in the short-term: the Redskins becoming a year in, year out championship contender.
Still, as I wrote yesterday despite his image as an aloof, devoid of personality, corporate villain, Snyder has a soft side and clearly yearns for the affection of Redskins fans. This offseason he’s conducted a town-hall type forum and recently sent out a survey to Redskins fans in which a number of the questions asked fans to give their opinion of him.
But why now?
Well, the Redskins are coming off an NFC East title and we’re suddenly about to enter year four of a different Dan Snyder after the debacle that was the 2009 season — in which the team was 4-12, but a national laughingstock (see: bingo hall play caller or swinging gate).
Also, it was during that forgettable season that the loyal-to-a-fault Redskins fan base began to show not so much frustration, but complete and total apathy. There was probably no better example of this than that season’s October game against the Kansas City Chiefs. With the team 2-3, FedExField was incredibly lifeless and possibly not even half full at kickoff. Changes were to come.
Gone late that season was former personnel guy Vinny Cerrato, and he was replaced by general manager Bruce Allen. Gone at season’s end was head coach Jim Zorn, and brought in to replace him was Mike Shanahan.
Of course, Snyder had made big-name, splashy hires before. But it wasn’t the people that changed so much as it was the structure of the organization. No longer would Snyder in conjunction with someone like Cerrato, long considered a Snyder mouthpiece and despised by the fan base, be making the decisions on personnel.
No, for better or worse, Snyder was going to hire professional football people. Those professional football people would operate within a professional management structure, make professional football decisions, in a professional way. Whether they were the right people or the best people didn’t matter as much as the fact they were professional football people.
Although, Snyder would stay informed, his role on the football operations side would be to support his professional football people. This is what the fan base wanted.
And to be fair, it is what they have gotten.
Remember the Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb debacles? Each were instances in which it could have been argued that Shanahan has at least in part, mismanaged his people. However, Snyder did not criticize his coach, simply offered support. This can of course, be contrasted with situations such as Snyder not supporting Zorn in his with running back Clinton Portis.
Now, it seems Snyder is looking to gauge the reaction of the fan base. In other words, now that he’s changed, he’s trying to learn if the attitude towards him has changed as well.
While I would say it has to some extent, this is far from a love affair a la Redskins fans with Jack Kent Cooke. The fan base has come to accept and tolerate Snyder, and so long as they perceive he is detached from the football operations, they will continue to do so.
But will Snyder get the approval and admiration he seeks? I doubt it.
After all, the Burgundy and Gold faithful are fine with Snyder conducting public opinion survey and fan forums. But generally speaking they just want him to stay out of the way.
And while a few years ago, Daniel Snyder gave Redskins fans something they thought he never would, ironically, those tables seem to have turned.