Has Dan Snyder found redemption?
It took 11 years and a revolt by fans for the Washington Redskins owner to stop his meddlesome ways. Snyder finally relinquished control to coach Mike Shanahan in 2010, and that resulted in more than an NFC East title in 2012. The team is no longer a joke, and Snyder is no longer the punch line.
Many Redskins fans seem to have forgiven Snyder now that the Redskins are set for their first playoff game in five seasons Sunday against Seattle. Not all, of course. It's pretty hard to forget outrageous free agent busts, awful drafts, price gouging and the banning of signs at the stadium by fans wanting change.
It took years for fans to figure out Snyder saw the Redskins as a money machine. They were dazzled by the owner's high-spending ways. He just wants to win, they would rationalize.
But Snyder had no business intervening in the football side. Firing coach Marty Schottenheimer was a power play. Not having any sort of transition plan when Joe Gibbs retired was inexcusable. Hiring Steve Spurrier and Jim Zorn and keeping Vinny Cerrato as the top personnel man for a decade were perfect examples of an owner who knew nothing about running a football team.
It took massive fan no-shows in late 2009 for Snyder to change his ways. Cerrato and Zorn were replaced by Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen. It's largely Shanahan's show, but Allen gets players signed and repaired sour relations with the team's alumni. Real football men run the show nowadays, and the team is filled with young talent that could make the Redskins contenders for years.
All it took was for Snyder to quit playing fantasy football. Winning makes fans willing to forget the past. Maybe not forgive, but forgetting is nearly as good.
Snyder's predecessor, Jack Kent Cooke, was a marvelous owner. He picked the right people and let them do their jobs. Cooke was consulted in major signings such as an unheard of $1 million for a backup quarterback -- Doug Williams -- but rarely overruled his people.
Cooke's biggest tool was motivation. Employees wanted his praise. Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell lived for an "atta boy" from Cooke when he was an assistant general manager. Employees rarely left because of the organization's family atmosphere.
Snyder loves making money. That's fine -- spend some extra time on marketing, like the mass emails selling playoff merchandise sent out moments after the game ended Sunday. Just stay out of football operations.
Indeed, Snyder's next big job should be a deal for a new stadium that could host a Super Bowl. The Landover stadium contract ends in 2026. Given the complexity of returning to the District, it's never too soon to resume negotiations. There have been informal talks with D.C. leaders, but this is a long process best accelerated now. The new venue could be a key for a future Olympics bid as well as the Super Bowl.
Cooke always knew when he should leverage power, and Snyder now has more than ever.