Like most Redskins fans, I’ve had my issues with Daniel Snyder and those criticisms have been richly deserved. His reputation for employer insensitivity wins no awards. But, the mercurial Redskins owner has worked hard to rehabilitate his reputation. My active disdain for him has morphed beyond tolerance. I’ve come to like him. That’s a surprise to me and would be to him, if he ever bothered to read this. But there are good reasons to like Dan Snyder now.
- Joe Gibbs endorses him. In an interview after the Seattle game, Gibbs gave his reasons for the Redskins' improvement. Before mentioning any players, coaches, or himself, Gibbs cited Snyder for his willingness to do whatever was asked to build a winner. OK, coach. I don’t buy into Snyder as being the number one reason, but it means something when a Hall Of Fame legend makes the point. Mr. Snyder gets full credit.
- He owns a jet plane and knows how use it. Snyder dispatched Redskins One to recruit Joe Gibbs and the stars Gibbs wanted. Mark Brunell, Santana Moss and Clinton Portis were all wined and dined on that plane. Gibbs was on Redskins One right after the last game to lure Al Saunders to the coaching staff. When the family of tight end Robert Royal suffered flood damage during Hurricane Katrina, Snyder flew Royal to New Orleans and flew Royal's family back to safety in Washington. Class act.
- He’s been low key. True to his word, he has made Joe Gibbs the face of the Washington Redskins, replacing Lavar Arrington as the face of the Redskins. I can’t recall a single interview or public appearance that Snyder’s made this season, except for a few pictures of him at owners meetings, which is quite appropriate. Now if only he would move his picture in GAMEDAY magazine from page one to the back of the book and show Gibbs’ picture and bio first. That’s appropriate too. After all, the team and the coach are the attractions. Not a full page portrait of the owner.
- He lets the football guys control the on field product. OK, I only think this happens. Who knows what’s really going on? Early in his ownership, in his “Little Danny” days, Snyder displayed a maddening tendency to play the name game. He stocked the team with famous free agents as if that was sufficient to build a team. There was no synergy; in fact, there was the opposite effect. Cohesion escaped the Redskins and they never elevated beyond an assortment of players. They were at games, but not in them. How could they be with the owner churning head coaches every 18 months? Snyder made some good decisions. He was wise enough not to sign Danny Weurffel as a quarterback when Steve Spurrier pushed it. Word is that Snyder wanted to sign Santana Moss from college. (I think the team went with Rod Gardner instead.) But on balance, both the roster and the salary cap were a mess by the time Gibbs returned.
- He put escalators in FedEx Field. I flew to Washington in 1998 to attend a Redskins game with my father when the Cooke family was still in control. Dad was slowing down by that time and our seats were on the upper deck as they were at RFK Stadium. It was a long walk and painful to watch Dad walk up the ramp to get to our section. It would have helped to use the inside escalators to at least get to the plaza level. But we could not use them without club level tickets. They were reserved for the privilidged who could affort expensive tickets. Dad called the ticket office and was told he needed a letter from his doctor to get a pass. A letter from his doctor? Is that like a note from his mommy? Dad was in his seventies and a forty year season ticket holder. Couldn’t they take his word? Snyder has a talent for working the fan experience. He said the stadium "needs work" when he bought the team and he drove the installation of the elevators. Dad passed before he could enjoy them, but I'm still grateful.
- Fan experience is a Snyder theme. He is an astute business man who knows that efficient service and a positive fan experience yields more money. He is a master at wringing revenue streams from assets. He bought the football franchise and stadium for $800 Million in 1998. Now it’s worth $1.2 Billion according to a recent issue of FORBES magazine. The Redskins generated $325 million revenue last season and possessed the largest stadium in the NFL (and still have 140,000 names on the season ticker waiting list). If I had the investment capital, I would have bought shares of Six Flags as soon as Snyder made his bid for it, and more when he won control. Six Flags is trapped in a time warp with its 1970s ambience. There is nothing attractive about it except as a teen hangout and nauseating roller coasters. It is weak on movie and pop culture tie-ins a la Universal Studios Orlando. It does not invite family participation. Rather, it's more of a kid drop-off. I have not a doubt that Snyder will turn it around. He’s genuinely gifted in that way. I respect gifted business people.
- Snyder is from the DC area. He’s a homer and committed here. The Redskins will remain a Washington fixture for the remainder of my lifetime.
- He recruited Joe Gibbs from retirement. The Redskins' prospects improved from that moment.
- The Redskins are winning and they are entertaining. I can now go to a game and feel the team has a 50-50 chance to beat any opponent. That's the bottom line.