Look Back in Anger

Heading into the bye week, the state of the Redskins is not good. A retrospective of the weeks that were...

Owner Dan Snyder is, clearly and unsurprisingly, the story of the season. He set a sorry tone right off by making the Skins the first team in NFL history to charge for parking and admission to preseason training camp. However, the real gouging had yet to commence.

Just as he broke the Redskins contract with Frostburg State University to move camp, Snyder ripped up his team's deal with Domino's Pizza and tried to strong-arm the firm into a tenfold increase in sponsorship payments. When Domino's refused, Papa Johns became the official team pizza.

He added two rows of seats to FedEx Field at field level, the worst view in any stadium and the cheapest seats in everybody else's house, then had the gonads to dub them "Front Row Dream Seats" and charge an unfathomable $3,000 per ticket. "Unless you dream of Bruce Smith's ass," a buddy of mine said at the time, "those ain't dream seats."

At the Tennessee Titans game, season-ticket-holders in the upper deck complained that Snyder had added new seats to their rows in the two weeks since the previous home game. Apparently, room for all the new revenue sources was created by making the old revenue sources' seats smaller.

Snyder's attempts to control reportage show him to be either a PR genius or an idiot. He got rid of two-thirds of the press box to make space for skyboxes. Print reporters who are not in good stead with management watch Redskins games on television in the stadium's basement.

He forced local TV stations to become "partners" with the team—meaning pay big bucks to become Skins sponsors—if they wanted the same access they'd always had. Sportscasters whose stations won't get in bed with the team are now forced to do their broadcasts from the Redskin Park parking lot. Snyder even went so far as to buy the fanzine Redskins Weekly just so he could regulate its content.

While the Skins were in the midst of their recent five-game win streak, Snyder launched his worst gouging offensive. He somehow convinced the Prince George's County Police to enforce his plan to prevent fans from using public streets to walk to the stadium from Landover Mall, where parking is free.

In a press release about the pedestrian ban, Redskins President Steve Baldacci said the move had been made strictly for safety reasons and directed fans to park instead at USAirways Arena and utilize the "safe, free shuttle buses" to get to FedEx Field.

Baldacci, however, did not mention anywhere in the release that the team controls the lots at USAirways Arena, even though the venue is a mile distant from FedEx Field. Parking there costs $20—meaning Snyder stands to pocket tens of thousands more fan dollars in parking fees for each home game.

Under his ownership, the team now tells fans how and when to cheer—"It's thirrrrd down!" and so forth. To judge by the mood of the crowd leaving the stadium after the Titans game and among sports-radio callers following Sunday's loss in Arizona, there'll be no need to cue the booing when the Skins return home against the Giants in three weeks.

Norv Turner, the only story that mattered in previous Redskins seasons, can't compete with Snyder for ink. But Turner, it should be noted, has been his dependably unsatisfactory self thus far.

In fact, he may not be on the staff by the time you read this. Rumors have the Offensive Genius soon fleeing D.C. on his own just to escape the Offensive Owner, who allegedly tried bullying him into benching quarterback Brad Johnson for higher-priced, higher-profile Jeff George after the first Monday Night Football debacle against Dallas.

It's doubtful there's a huge market for a guy with a 48-57-1 lifetime record as a head coach. The fact that he's currently leading the most expensive team in the history of team sports to a 6-4 record shouldn't make him any more attractive to owners around the league.

So, if there is a god, the bye week should be Turner's bye-bye week. Against Arizona, the Skins showed that they still have the worst two-minute drill in the league. Offsides, procedure calls, and poorly run pass routes appear at an epidemic rate whenever the game is on the line. It's been that way since the day Turner took over, in 1994.

The most frustrating thing for fans is Turner's tolerance of mediocrity. In Tempe, special-teams coach LeCharles McDaniel yet again provided plenty of evidence why both he and Turner should be unemployed: a bad snap on an extra point, two missed field goals, consistently horrible kickoff coverage, ungainly punt returns, blah blah blah.

"We didn't play at a level we need to in terms of winning the game," Turner said after the Arizona loss. Great point, coach.

Though the season ain't over, it's surely not too early to label Deion Sanders a bust of historic proportions. Sanders, an ancient 33 years old, deserves kudos for suckering Snyder into paying $56 million to bring his degenerating bag of bones here from Dallas. "The Way We Were" should be the soundtrack to his 2000 highlights package.

Only the quarterback pressure applied by the Skins defensive line all year has saved Sanders from being fully exposed as washed-up as a cornerback. He's tried to make up for his physical shortcomings by cheating, but the refs no longer let him get away with it. A holding call on Sanders with about three minutes left, one of many flags thrown his way this season, kept the Cardinals' last drive alive.

After the Arizona game, the Skins radio network broadcast an advertisement Sanders had taped for the American Service Center, a local Mercedes dealership, in which Past-His-Prime Time talks about the beauty of returning kicks for touchdowns. The blowhard hasn't brought it to the house all year; he's averaging just 7.3 yards per punt return, not even good enough to crack the top-20 list among returners.

Sanders had two shots to live up to his self-billing in the closing minutes against the Cardinals, but he got pancaked on consecutive punt returns for no gain.

Now for Brian Mitchell's 2000 stats: Mitchell, who was let go by the Skins to make room for Sanders, is averaging 11 yards per punt return for the Eagles and has scored on a 72-yard punt return and a 91-yard kickoff return. He's also averaging 8 yards per carry as a running back for his new overachieving team.

Mitchell's salary, according to the NFL Players Association, is $450,000. That's less than 1 percent of the pact Sanders got from Snyder.—Dave McKenna

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