Cutback, schmutback. Make some plays. The Redskins would have been much smarter to sign one of the two tackles and acquire or develop a granite-block-type nosetackle who could have been had for a bargain price. Then, instead of being reduced to playing three light linebackers (average weight: 233 pounds) with poor pass-rush ability, Washington would have had the dough to sign a run-stopping middle linebacker. Derek Smith, a 239-pound tweener, isn't the answer. Against Petitbon, opponents never knew where blitzes were coming from. Against Nolan, opponents don't respect the blitz. None of the linebackers has speed, and the Skins don't send their fast corners. On Sunday, Washington vainly devoted eight men to stopping the run and left star Buffalo wideout Eric Moulds single-covered most of the second half against 39-year-old and noticeably fading cornerback Darrell Green. Bad matchup. Moulds finished with five catches for 61 yards and a touchdown.
Expect Snyder and his general manager of choice (Cerrato, perhaps, if he hasn't walked the plank by then) to clean defensive house in the off-season, though Stubblefield and Wilkinson would be very hard to cut loose. If they released both before June 1, the Redskins would have to count $11.64 million in prorated signing bonuses against their 2000 salary cap. Nevertheless, after Sunday's debacle Stubblefield said wryly, "I better go in early in the morning to make sure my nameplate's still on my locker."
Snyder is getting his point across. He began his reign by firing 26 employees—13 in stadium operations, 10 in team operations and three groundskeepers at Redskin Park. "The stadium had out-of-control costs," says Snyder, who claims that the fired stadium staff wasted about $800,000 in utility costs this year. "They were running the air-conditioning in the off-season needlessly in the suites and club seats. At Redskin Park the fields were in bad shape. There were three guys trying to kill the players with their crappy fields, so I brought in the head of the grounds crew at the stadium to oversee the fieldwork. Shame on me for trying to make the fields perfect."
What about canning Casserly, the entire public relations and marketing staffs, including two loyal secretaries who had been employed by the Redskins since the 1970s? "I don't get turned on by firing people," Snyder says, "but I bought the team. I brought in all my own people, like I'd do in my businesses. Who can blame me?"
Snyder says that the once-close relationship between Casserly and Turner had deteriorated, hurting the organization's ability to make decisions. Snyder says he had to choose one, and when he purchased the team and stadium in May for $800 million, it was too late to find a new coach and assemble a staff. Maybe, but Casserly and Turner worked together just fine on draft day in April, when Casserly oversaw the selection of Bailey and right tackle Jon Jansen and dealt for a third first-round pick in the 2000 draft.
"In the end," Snyder says, "none of this is about individuals. It's about reaching the promised land. That's all I'm in this for."
Snyder's management style is impulsive. When he heard talk in the front office that Patton, a favorite of Casserly's, was dogging it, he backed Turner's wish to cut him late in the preseason—even though Patton was the starting left tackle. When Atlanta Falcons All-Pro running back Jamal Anderson was holding out, Snyder had Turner call Falcons coach Dan Reeves to discuss a trade. A source close to the Redskins says if Atlanta hadn't signed Anderson to a long-term extension in August, he believes Washington would have acquired Anderson for first-and third-round draft picks and Stephen Davis, who leads the league in touchdowns and the NFC in rushing.
In July, Snyder was watching ESPN when he saw that the Arizona Cardinals had released fullback Larry Centers. It was 12:20 a.m., Snyder remembers, but he immediately called Turner and said, "The Cardinals cut Larry Centers. Can you believe that?" Turner said that if Centers could be had cheaply, he would love to have him. Casserly, still the general manager, wasn't crazy about the idea because the Skins didn't have much salary cap room, but he signed Centers (who's on pace for a 58-catch season) to a reasonable one-year, $800,000 deal.
Turner says he got used to owner involvement when he worked for Jerry Jones's Dallas Cowboys from 1991 to '93 and for Jack Kent Cooke, when Cooke owned the Redskins during Turner's first two years. He insists he doesn't mind Snyder's almost daily meddling. "Dan is a fan, and all he wants to do is win," Turner says. "Without his involvement we probably wouldn't have Centers, [linebacker Marco] Coleman or [tackle Andy] Heck."
As for the infamous postgame meeting he had with Turner after Washington lost to the Cowboys 38-20 at Texas Stadium on Oct. 24, Snyder says he didn't so much as raise his voice. Nor did he ask for Nolan's head. "I was pissed we were so cocky," he says. "Why'd we let our receivers shoot their mouths off in the press? That can't help us win. Why give Deion Sanders more reason to get up for the game?"