Daniel Snyder’s continued presence as owner of the Redskins is reason to be skeptical that Ron Rivera’s hiring on the heels of Bruce Allen’s dismissal will translate to any sort of sustained success for the downtrodden franchise, but the two widely heralded moves have provided a jolt of offseason optimism for many of the team’s dejected fans.
Snyder has overseen exactly two playoff wins (and nine coaching) changes in 21 seasons since purchasing the once-storied franchise in 1999. In October, ESPN “SportsCenter” host Scott Van Pelt, who grew up in the D.C. area as a Redskins fan, described the state of the organization under Snyder’s ownership as “a treadmill to nowhere.”
“As long as the song remains the same at the top, what’s ever going to be different?” Van Pelt asked during his “One Big Thing” segment after Washington fell to 0-5.
And yet, against his better judgment, Van Pelt is among those allowing themselves to be swept up in the promises of better days ahead in Ashburn, and the belief that, yes, this time will be different.
“I think it’s the “Godfather” scene,” Van Pelt said on the “Kevin Sheehan Show” podcast before Rivera was introduced at Redskins Park on Thursday. “I think they’re pulling me back in. … A guy like Rivera, I believe, is the sort of person who, if he’s given the autonomy to do his job, can do it well, and get this franchise back to a place where you at 1 o’clock on Sunday say, ‘I’m not going to watch the RedZone. What channel are the Redskins on?’”
As many skeptics, including City Paper’s Matt Terl, have noted, the Redskins’ latest reboot feels all too familiar. Ten years ago, amid growing fan discontent, Snyder replaced his top personnel executive, Vinny Cerrato, with Allen and hired a well respected and accomplished coach, Mike Shanahan, to replace the in-over-his-head Jim Zorn. Shanahan had one winning season in four years before he was fired and replaced by Jay Gruden, who led the Redskins to one playoff berth in his five-plus years at the helm.
“As long as Snyder is the one making the decisions, it won’t matter what those decisions are, and it won’t matter how they initially appear to turn out,” Terl wrote in the wake of Allen’s firing last week, while other Redskins fans celebrated and, for the first time in a long time, felt hopeful about the future of the franchise.
Sheehan asked Van Pelt what makes him believe that Rivera will be given the autonomy and authority to see his vision for the team through, given that Shanahan was denied that opportunity.
“That’s why I feel like I sort of regret it as it’s happening, because what evidence would there be that suddenly Dan Snyder would have this epiphany that he would not put his finger in the soup, that he would let Ron Rivera cook the meal?” Van Pelt said. “I would think, this many years of sustained decline from within his customer base and going Sunday after Sunday to that stadium to see it taken over by opposing fans, I don’t know the man, but I don’t think he’s a dummy. I think you can be blinded, I think you can see what you want to see, but at some point I believe that he must be a smart man. And a smart man at some point has to do the smart thing.”
At Thursday’s news conference, Rivera said Redskins fans are right to feel disgruntled and upset with the team, and that winning is the only cure. He talked about working collaboratively with the rest of the front office and was asked why he believes he will have more success working alongside Snyder than his predecessors, including Marty Schottenheimer, who lasted on season, and Shanahan.
“Nobody really knows, but I’ll tell you this, I believe in me and I’ll bet on me,” Rivera said. “We’ll see what happens.”
In the meantime, Terl shared seven things that could help convince him positive change is coming to the franchise, including hearing more from Snyder and less from anonymous sources. Van Pelt said he’s choosing to be optimistic, but is fully prepared to be disappointed again.
“If I’m Charlie Brown getting ready to run up and kick the football, and I’m flat on my back flying through the air getting ready to land on my back after they hoodwink me again, then so be it,” he said. “I just feel like I want to root for the team again, and this gives me a window into that. That and a young defense that I think has talent, and Chase Young, and [Dwayne] Haskins looked good at the end. Let’s go.”
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