Alright everyone...I get it. The first part of the interview is reading like a lovefest. Chalk up at least some of that to Kevin and I getting our feet under us. We think the second part is markedly different. Not that there is any confrontation or anything like that, but we think you will appreciate us raising such issues as Vinny Cerrato, Jim Zorn, and the signs/t-shirt scandal with Dan Snyder himself. Among the things that you should all take away from this interview: Dan Snyder sincerely regrets hiring Jim Zorn. It set the franchise in a direction that was altogether awful and Snyder owns up to it multiple times.
Based on the majority of comments so far, it seems that the interview is helping Snyder's image a little bit. I have to say, I am absolutely in that camp. To say this was not what I expected is an understatement. Yet, here I am, a day later, with a changed mind on Snyder. I can't speak for Dan (yeah, Dan), but I would bet he is completely cool with everyone waiting for the season to start for people to really start judging him again. He wants to win and he wants to be the guy who brings Lombardi trophies back to DC. Suffice to say that if and when that happens, we'll all be toasting Snyder in the parking lot at FedEx.
HH: We had the opportunity to meet with DeMaurice Smith last week to talk about the ongoing CBA talks. We actually got to talk to Domonique Foxworth, which was great since as you know he was a Terp.
Dan asked us if we went to Maryland, which neither of us did, but as both of us grew up in Maryland and we are bound to root for the home team, we are huge Terps fans.
HH: You went to Maryland right?
DAN: Yeah, but I didn't graduate.
HH: Hmmmm...there's a success story in there somewhere.
HH: We understand the ways that agents and the NFLPA are preparing themselves for the possibility of a work stoppage. Assuming you can't really discuss the position of the owners here -- unless you want to give Kevin and I copies of your audited financials -- what is your message to Redskins fans on this topic?
DAN: (Laughs, but does not use the available conference phone to get his accountant to rustle up those documents.) Yeah, I think that I have all the confidence in the world in Roger Goodell, the commissioner, and I think he'll do the right thing. I hope, obviously, that things work out and I'm just looking forward to playing football in 2010, and having a great season this season.
We Start to Dig a Little Deeper
HH: This past season, you expressed regret and sorrow to the fanbase. This broke your traditional in-season silence policy. Can you talk about what you were feeling that prompted you to make that statement?
DAN: Yeah...you know, I felt like people needed to know how I felt as well about the fans and the terrible season. It was my worst experience as owner of the team and it was shocking...one that I said, OK, I have to re-evaluate and start by looking in the mirror and surround myself with some people that can really help me and help the organization go in the right direction. And that's what I did. Shortly afterwards, I think I made the move and brought in Bruce Allen. That was during the season, about a month to go and it was just exciting to get this thing turned around. You can see what these guys are doing (Shanahan and Allen). They're both workaholics, Bruce and Mike, and they're unbelievable. Bruce slept here a couple days doing the deal for Trent Williams, and he just works...he's a worker, just a workhorse. It's fun to watch for me and I really enjoy it. I had a lot of that with Joe Gibbs, you know, high level of competence, where I just support him. It's what I really think I'm good at.
HH: When you have found yourself faced with offseason coaching searches, what is the characteristic you rank above all others in a head coach-X's and O's, control of the locker room, sideline presence, resume, potential-I assume all are important, but which stands out to you?
DAN: Besides all that, what I have found I like and I had a great experience with Joe and...Gibbs was amazing and to see him and to work with him for 4 years was a special part of my life and I now understand that what I need is a true professional, experienced proven guy that I can hand the keys to and that's what I did with Joe and that's what I've done with Mike and Bruce. It's great. But that's my personality...it's more the hierarchy, and...
HH: So there is a gap in the middle there, between Gibbs and Mike...
DAN: (smiles and kind of chuckles) Mike wasn't available two years ago. (everyone busts out laughing) I wish he was.
Now we're talking...
HH: Would it be fair to say then that somewhere in there where you came to that moment and you looked in the mirror and broke your silence, that-as good of a man as Jim Zorn is-maybe he is not the right coach for this team, right now?
DAN: Sure. Absolutely. But it starts with me. It starts with really understanding where we were as a franchise, understanding that hey, I made a wrong decision...admitting that to yourself.
HH: In your tenure as an NFL owner, what is something you have done for which you are most proud, and what is something you may wish you could go back and do differently?
DAN: I think I'm most proud of 4 years with Joe Gibbs, and the experience that was given by Joe, which was just first class. We still remain dear, dear friends and speak every week or two. He retired by the way-he always asks me to explain that he retired. He said I am not resigning, I am retiring. And I said OK...don't leave. And obviously the last two seasons...I really regret them.
HH: While you have taken heat for your varying levels of involvement over the years, one thing we at Hogs Haven remind our fans is that you can never discount when an owner is willing to put his chips in the middle of the table.
DAN: Willing to spend...
HH: Willing to spend, yes, but also kind of backing up his intent with all his resources. There are owners who don't spend what they could and that's of course their prerogative. But our owner is a guy who is very much willing to spend his money.
HH: How do you balance yourself inside the organization and to what extent-today-do you feel comfortable involving yourself in different facets of the franchise?
DAN: I'm here, number one, for support, OK? It starts with hiring the right people and give them support and let them do their jobs and let them be successful by doing their jobs. And it ends there. It's very simplistic. When Joe Gibbs was here for four years, you didn't hear anything about meddling or anything at all...not a word. The last two years, you know, can be excuses, but reality is reality. We were not good for two seasons, and went in the wrong direction. I looked in the mirror and said I need to right the ship here and that's what I did. Starting with Bruce Allen, and ultimately bringing in Mike Shanahan. My job is to support them in any way I can. If they need a different plane to go to away games, we are going to have a different plane. We stayed at the [nicest hotel] in Dallas, and you couldn't stay in a better hotel. My job is to help support in any way I can.
HH: Is that hard when you give away control and then you are the one that gets the blame when it doesn't work out?
DAN: You know...you're responsible as the owner of the team... so because you own the team, it's your fault. On the other hand, I don't look at it that way. I really see this as a stewardship...it's something that the fans own the team and my responsibility is to try and do the right thing. I think Joe Gibbs...for four years you didn't hear anything about me, and when someone would say anything, Joe would go and say, "Let me tell you about the truth because we better be clear." And then I hired a rookie head coach and we went in a...poor direction. It's the past and I look forward to the future. I've got myself a Hall of Fame head coach, and a fantastic General Manager so we're in good hands.
HH: So you're in a room, talking with Bruce Allen about the direction of the franchise...what did he tell you or what did he propose to you that was different than the direction that Vinny believed in?
DAN: I think, first of all, it starts here. When Vinny Cerrato worked for Joe Gibbs for four years-reporting to Joe Gibbs for four years-Joe Gibbs was the team President. It was his show. After Joe retired, I promoted Vinny Cerrato at that point to help and effectively be GM. And what we did, together, was interview coaches, candidates...you know, I am not a football guy...you know, I can't tell if they're qualified. That's his job. And the day when I went with Bruce Allen, I thought here is a guy who is a true manager, someone I've known for a decade and...I've always wanted to take a run at him and it was an unusual circumstance because he left Tampa. We're so lucky to have him.
HH: I don't think you will get any argument there. As fans in this area our whole lives, you are surely familiar with the term, "The Oriole Way". It became a blueprint on how to design and build a team in Major League Baseball, and was passionately embraced by the fanbase.
DAN: We hope not to do it their current way. (laughter by all)
HH: If there were to be a "Redskin Way", what would be some of its core tenets? What do you want it to be and what would it have to offer the greater NFL in terms of revolutionizing how franchises become winners?
DAN: The best thing you guys can do...you need to interview Bruce. It's Bruce and Mike's show and they will tell you their beliefs are, what the system is on scouting and so forth...
HH: We intend to take you up on that. A lot of the decisions being made right now, should they be carried forward in subsequent years, could very well be the foundation of the "Redskin Way". People are excited about the new direction.
DAN: I'm as excited as they are. I was actually on vacation when I got the phone call from Bruce Allen about McNabb and that it looked like it was a real possibility. We're at this dinner thing and we had Bernard Shaw with us and some other folks and my family and we're all there, and I go, "Please, don't make a joke. Are you making a joke? Don't make a joke." Like everyone else how many times, when people first found out, they were like, "No, you're just playing with me."
HH: I didn't think it was real.
DAN: Right, we didn't think it was real, and my first reaction was, "Come on, don't play with me." And Bruce says, "No, no...this is serious stuff. By the way, where's the airplane?" And I'm like..."OK..."
HH: Time to gas up the jet!
DAN: Yeah, he was talking about going to get him. And I was like, "Wow...far out!"
It is obvious there is still some excitement over bringing in a guy like McNabb. We did not ask about Jason Campbell.
HH: We notice that you have really coveted Mike Shanahan for a long time.
DAN: If only he was available two years ago. That would have been...man, would have changed all those bad things you said about me.
HH: You even joked with Pat Bowlen that you were going to steal his coach.
DAN: (chuckles) I didn't say 'steal'...I said trade me your coach. I always told Pat, "Trade me your coach!"
HH: What was it about him a decade ago that made him stand out to you?
DAN: Well I got a chance to know him. I actually met him 11 years ago. When I first bought the team in '99, I decided to go to the Pro Bowl which was in Hawaii, and I took my dad, my mom, my best friend Tony Roberts. And we went golfing...really played terrible golf for 5 days. And so we went down there to kind of take a break and in the same hotel was Mike and Peggy (Mike Shanahan's wife). So we ended up all getting together and got a chance to really spend some time together.
HH: Any friendly, gentleman's wager between you and Pat Bowlen?
DAN: No, no...hehehe.
Now things started getting fun. At this point Tony Wyllie chimes in.
TONY: You guys hear from the fans...the true Redskins fans. Is there anything they want to know from Mr. Snyder?
Wow...the door just got dropkicked open. Kevin and I look at each other and it was exactly like the moment in A Few Good Men where Tom Cruise decides that yes, he is going to risk it all and ask the hard question(s). The pause was fantastic. Remember in the original Karate Kid, when Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel he can pick any car he wants for his birthday? It was like that. Except the big shiny yellow car Daniel chose was Vinny Cerrato.
TONY: Here's your opportunity.
HH: Well...a lot of people comment that they are no longer a fan, they can't go to the stadium any more. It's tough.
DAN: Because of last year?
DAN: Well, we hope to get things going in the right direction.
HH: At what point of the year-last year-did you say I'm going to start looking for a new coach?
DAN: Well, I think the first thing I was doing was actually looking for a General Manager. That was step one. Bruce and I spent a lot of time together before I hired him and then I got Bruce in here and we started obviously.
HH: So, even before the season started?
DAN: No, no, no...not before the season started. We were all optimistic. You know if you go back and read what Jim Zorn said...we were expecting to have a great season. We were going to improve and all this great stuff and it just didn't come to fruition.
HH: We were all optimistic...then that Detroit game...uhhhh...
DAN: (painful look on his face) Oh man...don't bring that up!
HH: The progression of Vinny Cerrato reporting to Joe Gibbs and then being elevated to GM. Would it be fair to say that his promotion was a way for you to give him that responsibility as a--I don't want to use the term "last straw" or "final chance"--but that is kind of where I am going...
DAN: I didn't see it that way. I saw it more that we came off a playoff game, we went through one of the most terrible tragedies and adversity that any team has ever faced, and this guy (Cerrato) was there the whole time, and worked for Joe, and if you asked Joe, did a good job for Joe. So, I promoted him. Whether it was the wrong decision, obviously he is no longer here and we're going in a fresh new direction. And it's as simple as that.
HH: That's very fair.
Tony also wanted to make sure we were happy with our question and answer regarding what Dan Snyder was most proud of and what he regrets in his tenure as an NFL owner. We told him that we were satisfied that bringing Joe Gibbs back was his proudest moment and the last two years are his biggest regret.
DAN: I'd love to rewind those!
HH: One of the other main things we spend a lot of time listening to our readers kind of talk about-listen, there was no shortage of stories last year that were negative and depressing for Redskins fans-but the whole issue over the signs and the t-shirts and the impression from fans that the Front Office was dictating those decisions, you know what kind of signs you could have and what t-shirts you could wear.
Dan Snyder looked right at me and with a level of determination that had yet to really manifest itself, he smiled.
DAN: The Front Office has been changed.
Simply an awesome moment. Did he throw Karl Swanson under the bus? No. Did he blame Vinny Cerrato for the whole incident? No. But in his answer was a very, VERY clear message: There are new folks in charge and these kinds of things are simply not going to happen again. That is what I took from it and I feel comfortable I read that correctly.
TONY: Are people really still harping on that? Even despite everything guys? I want to know the pulse.
HH: I'll say this. It seems to be a bit of a dead issue, but ONLY BECAUSE-and I'm being point blank honest-when Vinny Cerrato was no longer here, Redskins fans were...
HH: Yeah, excited. You know, none of us know Vinny personally, not a single one of us know him that way, but he was so inextricably linked to what has gone on here the last decade, that the mere subtraction of him from the equation was something that magically gave people that feeling. Was there any part of that decision of moving on-not firing or blaming him, but turning the page-was there any part of that decision that was meant to inspire hope in Redskins fans?
DAN: That wasn't the driver. For me the driver was: my intentions are pure. I'm trying to win, OK? I'm trying to do good in the community. I'm trying to be a good father for my kids, trying to be a good family man. I'm also trying to get this franchise to where it belongs which is the Super Bowl and championships, and the highest level both on and off the field. And we were headed in the wrong direction. It's very simple. And the first thing you have to do is look in the mirror and you have to say-and be honest with yourself, you can't say well, "Hope springs eternal and it's going to get better and what Vinny Cerrato or Jim Zorn says is going to be great." No, reality is reality. You know, I didn't call two fake field goals in a row.
HH: Fair. Kevin, go ahead and cross that question off the list!
Best quote of the entire interview, in my opinion. Pure, honest, and a nod to one of the defining moments of last season. Just amazing.
And wouldn't you know it, that is how we finished.
I trust Part Two treated you all better than Part One. It is very important that we note there will be yet another part coming out. We actually insisted on talking to Dan about the community service efforts of both himself and the team. It is amazing stuff, and deserves its own space. Dan Snyder created the Redskins Charitable Foundation and the fact of the matter is he is doing some pretty awesome work. Don't sleep on the difference this franchise is having in this community through these efforts.
Thanks to Dan Snyder, Tony Wyllie, Dave Donovan and all the folks at Redskins Park who take very seriously the nature of our site. We're the fans. As it turns out, one of the biggest fans out there is also the owner. If this interview proves anything (other than the fact that Dan Snyder did not call those two fake field goals in a row), it proves that we are, in fact, living in a new era in Redskins Nation.
Like the rest of you, I pray that what we see on the field on Sundays this fall is also reflective of this change.