Spurrier Can't Escape Snyder

This is all you need to know about Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins: After Hurricane Isabel knocked out all the electricity in his neighborhood this fall, Snyder had a massive generator brought to his home and lighted his mansion more brightly than the Las Vegas strip.

"He has the right to have his lights on, but he's so obnoxious," one of his neighbors told the Washington Post. "Every single light in his entire house is on -- his massive chandelier, every accent light. It's as though he's throwing a party."

With the power-hungry Snyder, the lights are on but nobody's home.

No doubt that has become apparent to Steve Spurrier, whose tenure with the Redskins could be headed for a blackout just 1 1/2 seasons into his five-year, $25-million deal.

When the owner of your team has the patience of a 2-year-old, trouble is always a couple of lousy weeks away. Since Snyder bought the team in 1999, the Redskins have had four head coaches: Norv Turner, Terry Robiskie, Marty Schottenheimer and Spurrier.

The Redskins started this season 3-1 but have lost their last four. Game after game, their weaknesses are exposed. So far, the Spurrier experiment has been a failure. Rumors are swirling that he might not even make it past this season, although Snyder, who's still paying off Schottenheimer, would owe Spurrier the remaining $15 million on his contract if he were to dump him after the season.

When he left the University of Florida and signed on with Washington in January 2002, Spurrier said that if he couldn't turn around the Redskins in three years, Snyder should find somebody else.

Halfway through that three-year plan, the Redskins are 10-14 overall and 1-8 against NFC East opponents, having scored their lone division victory in the 2002 finale when the Dallas Cowboys had pretty much given up on lame-duck coach Dave Campo.

Things are getting uglier by the minute, and there's plenty of blame to go around.

Spurrier, whose nail clippings know more about football than Snyder, recently was roped into a six-hour meeting with his boss, a guy most people couldn't tolerate for six minutes. Then there was Snyder's decision to bring in a couple of "consultants" to look over the shoulders of Spurrier's assistant coaches -- Joe Bugel, who coached the "Hogs" offensive line in the 1980s and was a flop as a head coach, and well traveled defensive coordinator Foge Fazio.

Now, bringing in those guys might have been insulting, but Spurrier's coaching staff is conspicuously light on experience. His son, Steve Jr., coaches the wide receivers, and 28-year-old Noah Brindise oversees the quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, linebacker coach Jim Collins and tight end coach Lawson Holland had no pro coaching experience before joining the Redskins in 2002.

The Washington assistant with the most NFL seasoning, offensive line coach Kim Helton, is having some of the biggest problems. The Redskins have surrendered a league-high 29 sacks, even though they have a line loaded with high-priced players. The running backs aren't helping much with pass blocking either, despite Spurrier's keeping them in the backfield by calling more maximum-protection plays than at any time in his career.

It was Spurrier's decision to get rid of running back Stephen Davis, who Spurrier thought was too much a plodder. Davis is now with Carolina, where he has plodded for 992 yards this season, making him and his team second best in the league. The Redskins, trying a running-back-by-committee approach as they battle injuries at that position, are 21st in the league in rushing.

Just as Spurrier can't keep quarterback Patrick Ramsey from getting clobbered, it seems no one is watching Spurrier's back.

He has Snyder second-guessing his every move, and a vice president of football operations, Vinny Cerrato, who's at best a so-so personnel man. He was already fired once by the Redskins and was shaky as a personnel director in San Francisco, where he offset some late-round finds (Lee Woodall, Fred Beasley, Tai Streets) with his share of first-round busts (J.J. Stokes, Jim Druckenmiller, Reggie McGrew). Snyder reportedly is on the verge of giving Cerrato a contract extension.

Snyder, the Redskins' de facto general manager, desperately wants to be seen as a "football man." Imagine someone as meddlesome as Al Davis without a hint of Davis' football knowledge. Recently, Snyder dialed up former Cowboy coach Jimmy Johnson for a lengthy chat, further stoking rumors that Spurrier's days with the team are numbered.

Wrote Thomas Boswell, Washington Post sports columnist: "The Redskins are now controlled by a brain trust with at least four heads: Snyder, Vinny Cerrato, Steve Spurrier and whoever the last guy was who said something that sounded smart to Snyder."

Spurrier sounded testy this week when asked by a reporter if he planned to stay beyond this season.

"How many times have I answered that?" the coach said. "Let's talk about Seattle. We're not the only team in the league that's 3-5. I'm tired of talking about that. You ask that every week. I've had the same answer every week."

Sadly for Spurrier, that question will probably be around as long as he is.

*

As conflicts of interest go, they don't get much more obvious than this. Pat Kirwan, a freelance writer for NFL.com, evidently was paid a six-figure fee for helping agent David Dunn recruit USC quarterback Carson Palmer as a client last year.

Kirwan, a former personnel executive with the New York Jets and scout for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals, wrote several articles ranking Palmer as the No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft. Palmer, the Heisman Trophy winner, was the first overall selection by Cincinnati.

According to testimony obtained by Sports Business Weekly in Dunn's bankruptcy case, Dunn's firm owes Kirwan at least $100,000 or a percentage of Palmer's contract, whichever is greater.

Kirwan did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Talk about a credibility gap. What if, say, Palmer had some hidden injury that Kirwan and the rest of his management team knew about? Would Kirwan have disclosed that in one of his articles, knowing he was taking money out of his own pocket?

The Dunn-Kirwan association was troubling enough for the league to take notice.

"We've talked about it, and Pat agreed he's not going to be doing that anymore," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

"He said he would not be working for individual players. He said he would discontinue that type of activity."

*

Disappointed as they are in their 4-4 start, the Buccaneers can take heart in the fact they reached the playoffs in 1999, 2000 and 2001 after starting 4-4.

Strange thing is, Tampa Bay is 1-3 at Raymond James Stadium. That matches the 1999 Broncos for the worst home start by a defending Super Bowl champion.

*

Buffalo, Green Bay and the New York Giants are also .500 after eight games. Over the last 10 years, 26 teams have rallied from 4-4 starts to reach the playoffs, six of them last season -- Oakland, Tennessee, Cleveland, Indianapolis, the Jets and Giants.

*

It must be a lot easier for David Carr to get out of bed on Monday mornings this season. The Texans have allowed 14 sacks, which is 31 fewer than they'd given up at this point last season.

Carr hasn't gone unscathed, though. His streak of 23 consecutive starts ended last Sunday against Carolina because of a sprained ankle. He was replaced in the lineup by Tony Banks, who went on to upset the Panthers. Carr is expected to return Sunday at Cincinnati.

*

Only this season have the Carolina Panthers started to climb out of the hole they dug by drafting so poorly in the late 1990s. Now, the Bears are wallowing through a similar scouting slump.

Linebacker Brian Urlacher, the Bears' top pick in 2000, is the team's only first-round success story in the last seven drafts. Chicago traded its first-round pick for Rick Mirer in 1997, and in the following years used its opening-round picks on running back Curtis Enis (out of football), quarterback Cade McNown (out of football), receiver David Terrell (starting only because of an injury to Marty Booker), tackle Marc Colombo (out since last November because of a knee injury), defensive end Michael Haynes (one sack as a reserve) and quarterback Rex Grossman (No. 3 behind Chris Chandler and Kordell Stewart).

*

Tennessee has had 24 consecutive home games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. That mark will be put to the test Sunday when the Titans play host to Miami and running back Ricky Williams, the AFC's fifth-leading rusher with 660 yards.

*

Detroit has lost 20 consecutive games on the road and is four away from breaking the league record for away-game futility. The Houston Oilers lost 23 consecutive road games from 1981 to '83.

The Lions seem bound to go down in history, considering their four remaining road games have them playing at Seattle, Minnesota, Kansas City and Carolina -- all division leaders with a combined record of 26-6.

It's astounding how the Lions could go that long without picking up a single road victory -- not one lucky bounce, not one fantastic finish, not once catching a good team napping.

Now, that's impressive consistency.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
65°