Dan Snyder's up to his old tricks... or is he? Let's apply the magnifying glass.
Previously, his bad football decisions were only bad in retrospect. When he brought in the likes of Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, David Patten, Adam Archuleta, Patrick Ramsey, Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier... it's hard to remember back that far, but we fans all felt pretty good about those moves, didn't we? These were, for the most part, popular moves, not only for the fans but in the sports media world. And the criticism was: these were just ticket-selling maneuvers, that Snyder didn't know how to build a team and thought he could buy one.
This recent set of moves stinks of an entirely different stench. The popular move, the ticket-selling move, the move consistent with the way Snyder built his reputation, would have been to hire Williams as head coach after paying lip-service to a minority candidate, pay Al Saunders whatever he'd have to in order to keep him on, and bring in someone with a big name like Ron Rivera, Rex Ryan, Rob Ryan, or anyone else with only 'R' initials to run the defense. Instead, he 1) upsets his fans by promoting Vinny Cerrato, who we fans do not trust; 2) leaks that Jim Fassel is his leading candidate for head coach, a name not in terribly high demand these days; 3) fires both popular assistants to make room for the promotion of Greg Blatche and the hiring of Jim Zorn; 4) has yet to hire a head coach.
This is not typical Snyder. That doesn't mean this is good, as DC Sports Nut will have us believe. It's just different, and for me, it's scary and unpredictable.
So I'm sitting here, trying to make sense of it all. Here's what really doesn't add up:
1) Snyder has now given jobs to two individuals, offensive coordinator Zorn and defensive coordinator Blatche, without knowing for certain who their boss will be. This is rarely done; Baltimore and Atlanta hired head coaches first, then worked on coordinators, and the new head coach got to be part of that process.
2) Snyder had interviewed two candidates four times or more, according to reports, and has now eliminated one (Williams). That seems to indicate that the other (Fassel) won the battle. But no decision has been announced yet.
3) Snyder is reportedly bringing in Ron Meeks for a second interview. I'm sure it makes Meeks glad to know he wasn't just a mandatory minority candidate, but is seriously under consideration.
I see a couple of possible explanations:
1) Snyder is waiting until after the Super Bowl because he wants to see every possible candidate, which includes Steve Spagnuolo of the Giants and Josh McDaniels of the Patriots.
2) Snyder has decided on Fassel, but wants a chance to pick Spagnuolo's brain as a strategic move, because he's worked for two division rivals. He's bringing Meeks in to keep the buzz active so that the job still seems up for grabs.
3) There might be disagreement between Snyder and Cerrato, and at least one of them isn't sold on Fassel yet, and wants to keep talking to people.
I've said it several times, I don't like Fassel one bit, and would much prefer Meeks or Spagnuolo. I won't go into all of my issues with Fassel again, but it basically boils down to:
He had a talented roster as a head coach with the Giants, but didn't get the best out of them. They got much better after he left. He had an average roster with the Ravens as a coordinator, and their offense was pathetic. He was fired, and they started playing better. And this guy's supposed to be a motivator?
Meeks, on the other hand, has done a great job of getting his young guys ready to play in Indianapolis. Last year, star Bob Sanders missed much of the season, and while the defense wasn't highly ranked, they held on to win games and won the Super Bowl after Sanders came back. This year, he lost key starters to injury and free agency (Booger McFarland, Cato June, Jason David, Nick Harper, later Dwight Freeney), and I dreaded what would happen to their defense. Now Gary Brackett, Freddie Keiaho, Marlin Jackson, and Kelvin Hayden are considered better players than their predecessors as Indy became the league's #1 defense.
Spagnuolo took a talented defense that made a lot of mental errors and had trouble tackling, and made them a Super Bowl unit - the offense has really come together in recent weeks, but it's that pass rush that got them there - and right now, they tackle better than just about anyone. And of course, the big plus for Spagnuolo is that he knows the Giants, knows the Eagles, and knows the Redskins pretty well because he's been playing them twice a year for a while now.
I also see the Redskins' players responding better to either of these guys than to Fassel. And that's just perception. I look at the three of them, and I watch how they act on the sidelines, and I can't help but respect Spagnuolo - he composes himself like a leader, the sort of guy you'd follow anywhere. His demeanor is a lot like Williams', which players seemed to like.
Meeks has a different kind of look; he's got a lot of the same appeal of Joe Gibbs in that he's pleasant-looking, wizened, humble, but not to be underestimated. Plus, let's face it, it's a bonus that he's African-American. Some players will respond very well to him simply because of that fact. He also coached for Miami, which ties him to Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, Rocky McIntosh, and most importantly Sean Taylor.
Fassel, however, is more of an old-school coach, an intense yeller, the sort of guy who's going to come in and disrupt team chemistry until he is either fired or has a team of his own guys. Players don't respond so well to coaches like that these days, not when they see nice-guy coaches doing well.
So here's hoping that all this nonsense adds up to getting one of these other guys as a head coach. And here's a big sigh, knowing that even if Fassel gets hired, I'll be rooting for the Skins to make the playoffs again. It's frustrating, but there's nothing Snyder can do to get me to stop rooting for the team. Peter Angelos, on the other hand...