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He can watch with equanimity now and the reason is Snead, his tall, rangy, beetle-browed and remarkably unscarred quarterback. While chronologically this is only his second year at his job, Snead has had the equivalent of at least three years' experience, all crammed into one horrendous season.
Not only Snead but other rookies aged quickly last season and Bill McPeak, the soft-spoken, personable young head coach of the Redskins, has mixed in a judicious selection of experienced pros obtained in trades. Significantly, most of the oldtimers come from teams that have had a habit of winning. Most spectacular of these is Mitchell, who arrived from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for the draft rights to Ernie Davis.
"They taught us something we needed," Snead said the other day in the Redskin dressing room before going out to practice. "They are used to winning. I mean guys like Pellegrini and Billy Barnes we got from the Eagles. They talk about it all the time, about how little difference there is between a winning effort and a losing one. I mean in this league it takes maybe just a little bit more to win. This year, we've had the little bit more and last year we didn't."
Snead is a graduate of Wake Forest with a degree in physical education. Surprisingly, he has always wanted to play for the Redskins, principally because they used to train on the Wake Forest campus, and he became acquainted with the team early in his college career. He was a first-draft choice. Owner Marshall preferred Fran Tarkenton, who went to the Minnesota Vikings. Not McPeak.
Grade A players
"Tarkenton may be better in his first year," McPeak said then. "Snead will be better over the long pull."
"The original squad I took over two years ago had only 15 or 16 topflight players," McPeak said the other day. "The club had to be rebuilt with grade A football players, and we started doing that with the 1960 draft."
McPeak, who played pro football for the Pittsburgh Steelers, came to that draft meeting well equipped. He had been a talent scout and assistant coach for the Steelers, and he knew the available crop of college seniors very well. His first choice, of course, was Snead, but he also obtained Center Fred Hageman, Defensive Tackle Joe Rutgens, Fullback Jim Cunningham, Defensive Halfback Jim Kerr and Offensive Tackle Riley Mattson in the same draft. Nearly all of them are regulars on the Redskin team this season.
Familiar with the weaknesses of the team after a full year as head coach and possessed of valuable draft choices as trade bait, McPeak was ready to go out and get the exceptional players in 1961 who could make his team go. Mitchell, his real catch, gives Snead a deep target that he never had before; Pellegrini has lent experience and muscle to the defense from his middle linebacker position and Bobby Freeman, another ex-Eagle, has stabilized the deep defense. Chunky Billy Barnes adds punch to what—with Bosseler hurt—was a nonexistent running attack last year. And, as Snead pointed out, all were winners.
"I learned a lot last year," Snead said ruefully in the dressing room. "I learned it so that I remember it, too. It was not like watching a game movie and having the coach say, 'See, he called the wrong pass-blocking pattern then and the linebacker came in and hit him.' When I called the wrong pass-blocking pattern, it was me the linebacker came in and hit. I made a mistake. I got hit in the head. You learn pretty quick that way."