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Dan Snyder... a good owner?

Hat tip to Battle Red Blog though I'm probably leaving other deserving writers out, as I'm sure this article has made the rounds. But Michael Silver ranks the 32 NFL owners, and you'd be surprised where Dan Snyder ends up. First, his metric, emphasis mine:

...many factors are considered -- business savvy, devotion to league growth, aggressive pursuit of winning -- with one overriding consideration: If you're a fan of the team in question, do you want this person (or people) making the big decisions.
He also adds in "proactive behavior" though conceptualizes that through an ultra specific example: New England pursuing Wes Welker, Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, and Kelley Washington. I find his reasoning odd, however, as he phrases that entirely through a context of failure; Silver admits (and I disagree with him) that the main reason New England lost the 2006 AFC Championship was because they didn't have Deion Branch. Kraft watched last January's AFC Championship Game in Indianapolis -- with Reche Caldwell dropping key passes and New England lacking a first-rate wideout when Brady most needed one -- the owner was smart and realistic enough to understand this harsh truth: The decision to part with Branch may well have cost his team a fourth Super Bowl championship in six seasons.
I think that's a bit hysterical, but if Michael Silver really believes that Robert Kraft lost a 2006 Super Bowl because of his failure to secure Deion Branch, I think it's odd to applaud him as the best owner heading into 2007 (despite the fact that none of the four receivers acquired have caught a pass or won a game for the Patriots, yet). Were I making a case for one owner above the other 31, I would not frame the issue in terms of a colossal error by said owner, but that's just me. On to Dan Snyder, who rolls in at #5:
5. Daniel Snyder, Redskins

If anything, Snyder tries too hard to build a winner. In January '06, when Snyder wooed former Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders with a three-year deal worth more than $2 million annually, it seemed like a great move on paper. Instead, Saunders' philosophy clashed with that of head coach Joe Gibbs, which was one reason the team fell from a playoff appearance in '05 to a 5-11 finish last season. Snyder's zealous mentality also enables Gibbs and VP of football operations Vinny Cerrato to overpay for free agents like Adam Archuleta, Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd, none of which helps the on-field product.

But hey, at least he's trying. Snyder will get it right eventually, if only because he won't settle for anything less -- a quality far too owners possess. And he is pulling in an enormous profit in the meantime, thanks to his innovative marketing strategies. He's also more of a team player on the league level than you might imagine, as evidenced by his willingness to go along with the revenue-sharing plan that ensured labor peace in the spring of '06.

Certainly Snyder meets most of the criteria established in the article:
  1. He is as savvy a business person as anyone in the league.
  2. The Redskins have played as large a role as any individual team in league growth, and Snyder's willingness to play ball on revenue sharing helps.
  3. Dan Snyder aggressively pursues winning and, if I'm reading Silver correctly, that's a veiled critcism of him. Tries too hard? All things equal do you want an owner who tries less?
Where Snyder fails dramatically, per many fans (and perhaps myself) just so happens to be the single most important factor per Silver, namely "If you're a fan of the team in question, do you want this person (or people) making the big decisions" -- to which many of us would respond resoundingly: NO.

All things equal, you want an owner who is willing to aggressively pursue free agents financially, as that gives you a comparative advantage when bidding for players. The problem is that all things are never equal, and we've lacked in the personnel evaluation category for some time. Notably we've made a bunch of mistakes by paying quantities to players who haven't exactly earned said salary. Lots of teams can say that, by the way (effectively that's what a team says every time it cuts a player -- you aren't worth the contract we offered you). But at the end of the day you presume your scouting department does its job, and if it is the more money an owner is willing to pony up the better. If it isn't, well, that's a problem regardless of your frugality.

So I don't mind Dan Snyder cutting checks. I don't mind Dan Snyder's willingness to pay. What concerns me is that I am not convinced Dan Snyder is a mindful "football" guy. He knows more about football than me, but that doesn't mean he's always making the right decisions. And I'm also convinced that he plays a role in the acquisition process that goes beyond merely cutting checks. Case in point, I was very frustrated at how the Lance Briggs scenario went down. It appeared to be Dan Snyder's baby, as the official deal (later sent to the Bears) just happened to be the same one he proposed in a bar. That's strange. I would prefer that personnel decisions are cleared by the football people we hire first, and then cleared by the owner. Instead that particularly deal worked the other way around; Dan thought it up over a drink and then cleared it with Coach Gibbs. I didn't think much of that offer, either.

Anyways, I want to balance that criticism of Snyder with some praise, as he's an easy target. I applaud Dan for his willingness to spend on Coaches which he's demonstrated to a much greater degree than his peers. This didn't necessarily lead to more wins last year, as Al Saunders didn't really improve our offense. But that move might end happily ever after, and I'm willing to wait out the Saunders experiment for more than one season before declaring it DOA.

The great thing about blowing money on coaches is that a) it doesn't count against the cap, meaning the Redskins (with their much larger revenue) have a comparative advantage to the other 31 teams in the league in hiring. And b)coaching matters. I am a firm believer that some coaches are simply better at their job than others, and our advantage in the hiring process allows us to hire better coaches. We don't always do that in practice -- who is Steve Spurrier? -- but I'm happy to have that option should the next all star coach be available. Some teams will not get to pick the best of all available coaches. The Redskins are not one of those teams.

Finally, I'd appreciate if reader(s) were willing to provide their own metrics for ownership. I think a few of the things Silver touches on are important -- willingness to win for instance -- but really could care less about business savvy so long as said owner kept the program financially competitive. "Proactivity" isn't a good thing in itself, it's only good in so far as it produces wins. Were I to choose one deciding factor for measuring an owner's success, I'd use Wins to Losses ratio and little else, since games are played to be won. My overriding NFL maxim would be: Things that produce Wins are good and things that produce Losses are bad. That applies equally for owners, players, coaches, and waterboys. And that's one reason why I don't think Dan Snyder is as good an owner as Robert Kraft, business savvy be damned.

DC Sports Bog, This Week's (Sort of) Top Five: Daniel Snyder Rules
Washington Times, SI: Snyder fifth-best NFL owner