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Daniel Snyder: The Big Baby With the Big Bucks

By Yong-yi Zhu

SPORTS COLUMNIST

Think back to when you were young. What did you do to get everything you want? Some of us begged; others wailed; and there were even a few that threw tamper tantrums. But those days of being a kid have long since passed. Or have they? Are we in an age where adults can control themselves and not want everything in sight? Can we say that we act responsibly, especially with our money?

With those questions in mind, I turned to sports owners for a chance to find some big babies with big bucks. Dan Snyder is a perfect example of such a person. He is a businessman at heart, having started the company Snyder Communications, which was sold for $2.3 billion. In 1999, Dan Snyder wanted the Washington Redskins and won by bidding $800 million, the most that’s ever been paid for an NFL team. He outbid John Kent Cooke, brother of the late Jack Kent Cooke, the previous owner of the Redskins. Snyder was not about to let money stand in the way between him and his football. That’s the first sign that Dan is a big baby.

With the Redskins came their stadium, which was at the time named Jack Kent Cooke stadium. Cooke had just recently died and never left the organization to anyone; that’s why the team went up for auction. It seemed appropriate that the stadium would be named after its late owner, especially since he funded the construction. Snyder of course, had no sympathies for Cooke family, and immediately sold the naming rights to FedEx for $207 million. FedEx Field was born.

The moment Snyder got the chance, he went out and bought whatever free agents he knew of. Jeff George went to DC. Bruce Smith went to DC. Even Andre Reed went to DC. He then expected his perfectly molded team to be perfect. That’s when things went wrong. The big baby could not handle the losing involved in a team that did not fit. Jeff George and Marty Schottenheimer, the coaches of the Redskins at the time, did not fit with one another. Andre Reed performed a little differently from his days in Buffalo. And Bruce Smith was forced to play every down, instead of just his favored third downs. The main problem was that they were not winning and the boss was not happy.

So, everyone went out the door and in came a new group of guinea pigs. Steve Spurrier was the largest hire. Snyder felt as though he had won a huge victory wooing the former Florida coach away from all the Florida teams. Of course Spurrier’s offense was going to produce just like it did in Gatorville, right? Majorly wrong. Winning again became a problem and after two losing seasons, Spurrier himself quit the organization.

When Spurrier got off, Snyder once again got back on the team. He spent a ton of money this time rehiring Joe Gibbs. Once again, they threw top money for him, just like Snyder did with Spurrier, just like Snyder did with Schottenheimer. Again, Snyder hopes the results to be different.

In addition to hiring Gibbs, Snyder bought the services of Mark Brunell despite already having a starter quarterback. Patrick Ramsey was not at all happy with the signing of Brunell because he started the entire last season. Ramsey is still in contract with the Redskins, but having Brunell at the helm, Ramsey will not get much playing time. Oh well, as long as Dan Snyder can get what he wants, right?

And just this week, Snyder traded his top corner, Champ Bailey, along with a second round draft pick to Denver for Clinton Portis. Granted Portis is a great running back, but nobody expected the contract that Snyder suddenly came up with: $50.5 million for eight years, which makes Portis the highest paid running back in the league’s history. Portis was happy, considering he was not even expecting a new contract. But as long as Snyder feels like shopping, might as well cash in, right?

So I guess I must say that Snyder is a pretty big kid who wants everything he can get his hands on. Fortunately for him, he has that kind of money, although this may be unfortunate for the Redskins players. After all, if he is spending the money to get the good players, he expects great results. In fact, he might just be the next coming of Jerry Jones, the Cowboys’ owner, who also micromanaged his team to a tee. He may even be George Steinbrenner-esque. I’m not sure how Snyder will respond if Gibbs is not up to par, but whatever it may be, I’m glad I’m not his employee. I guess I just enjoy working for adults, not kids.