Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder – a good NFL owner

The Washington Redskins were blasted by the Philadelphia Eagles 59-28 Monday night, in a game that was over almost before it began. Football pundits once again are all over the Redskins – lampooning Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. Hours before Monday night’s thrashing, the Redskins announced quarterback Donovan McNabb had agreed to a five-year, $78 million contract extension. ESPN reported the contract included $3.75 million in guarantees, other media outlets suggested the contact could have included as much as $40 million in guaranteed money.

McNabb’s best days as an NFL quarterback are clearly behind him. Once upon a time, McNabb led the Philadelphia Eagles to five NFC title games and a Super Bowl appearance but those years are part of NFL history.

Two weeks ago in the late stages of the Redskins game against the Detroit Lions.
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan suggested it was McNabb’s “fitness” level was at issue. McNabb was benched for only the second time in his career.

The announcement that the Redskins had signed McNabb to a contract that could be worth as much as $78 million, given how the Redskins coach had tossed McNabb under the “bus”, surprised a lot of people. To a lot of Redskins followers it was a case of the Redskins and their owner once again over paying for services that would never be rendered, a classic bad investment on Snyder’s part.

If there is an NFL owner less appreciated that Daniel Snyder, one would be hard pressed to find that owner. Why exactly he is underappreciated is a very good question. All one has to do is look at Snyder’s resume as Redskins owner and you will realize he has been a better than average NFL owner.

Snyder’s life has been consumed by an enduring love for the Washington Redskins. Growing up in the D.C. area, his youth and young adulthood were shaped and inspired by his devotion to the team. Now in his second decade as owner, Snyder has put his passion into action. He has consistently led the franchise to new prominence in the community, the business world, and the National Football League. Under his leadership, the team has raised millions of dollars for charities and maintained its place in the top tier of the world’s most valuable sports franchises.

Snyder, 45, is prominent in the affairs of the NFL, where his expertise in the fields of marketing and media has been recognized with appointments to the Broadcast
Committee, the Business Ventures Committee, the Digital Media Committee, the Hall of
Fame Committee (which oversees the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio) and separately, as a member of the Board of Directors of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Redskins, who continue to be ranked among the world’s most valuable sports franchises on Forbes magazine’s annual list, remain at the forefront of NFL marketing and business organizations. Since buying the team, Snyder has launched a highly successful retail arm, with more than a dozen Official Redskins Stores in Virginia and Maryland, as well as mobile units for use at home games and other events.

FedExField, the team’s wholly-owned stadium, has the largest seating capacity in the NFL with nearly 92,000 seats. Tickets to Redskins games have been sold out for more than 40 years. Since he purchased the team, Snyder invested more than $100 million in improvements to the facility, including high-speed escalators to the upper deck, updated signage, more than 1,000 flat-screen TVs on concourses and other areas, as well as the League standard-setting Owner’s Club East and Owner’s Club West private luxury suites. During the 2010 offseason, the Redskins installed two new video boards – 30 feet high and 100 feet wide – in each of the end zones at FedExField.

The screens feature state-of-the-art high definition LED displays and tripled the size of the previous end zone video displays. The team will also enhance the fans’ gameday experience with all new game clocks, play clocks, other in-stadium video displays, and the Party Deck Platform on the Club Level.

The Club’s media ventures include Redskins Nation, a daily 30-minute television show produced by the Redskins Broadcast Network, television and radio broadcasts via, a robust editorial staff, professional sports‘ first fulltime independent blogger, and, the team’s fan forum with more than 100,000 registered members. The team also produces a variety of other television programs, broadcast independently as well as in partnership with local television outlets.

During Snyder’s 11 seasons as owner of the team, 18 different Redskins have earned a total of 30 Pro Bowl appearances, nine different Redskins have been named All-Pro and seven Redskins draft picks have been selected to the All-Rookie Team. In addition, two players from his tenure as owner, Darrell Green and Bruce Smith, have gone on to induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Snyder was Founder, Chairman and CEO of Snyder Communications, Inc. (he was the youngest CEO of a New York Stock Exchange company at the time). From its launch in 1985, the company grew to a global organization of 12,000 employees, with 77 offices in 17 countries, and more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The company’s client base included 200 of the Fortune 500, to which it provided targeted marketing solutions, including advertising and marketing services.

In March of 2000 the company was acquired by the French marketing firm Havas for
more than $2.3 billion, at the time the largest such merger in the history of the advertising/marketing industry. Snyder also is founder and Chairman Emeritus of inVentiv Health. His RedZone Capital investment firm maintains the Johnny Rockets chain of hamburger, fries and shake shops in its portfolio of owned companies. As well as dick clark productions, inc., the premier producer of live television programs such as the Golden Globe Awards, the Academy of Country Music Awards, the American Music Awards and the hit reality series “So You Think You Can Dance,” as well as numerous other productions.
Additionally, Snyder is founder and Managing Member of the Board of Red Zebra Broadcasting, LLC, which operates radio stations in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia airing Redskins broadcasts, popular national radio shows and locally generated programming. He is a partner with Tom Cruise in Cruise/Wagner Productions, the actor’s production company and was an Executive Producer of Cruise’s 2008 film “Valkyrie.”

Snyder is active in a variety of other private business ventures, both as an investor and as an advisor to management. He is a frequent invitee to share his experiences and views with business organizations nationwide and he is enshrined in the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Snyder continues to be seen as one of the Washington area’s most prominent community leaders. He is active in the Larry King Heart Foundation and devotes most of his public philanthropic efforts to Washington’s Children’s Hospital and the Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

His support enabled construction of the Snyder Family Emergency Medicine and Trauma Center at Children’s Hospital. He is a member of the Children’s Hospital Foundation Board of Directors. He also funded construction of the Daniel M. Snyder and Family Communication Center at the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Each day the Center handles hundreds of calls from around the nation from law enforcement organizations, parents of missing children, runaways seeking help, and people responding to the Center’s well-known awareness campaigns on behalf of missing children. He also serves on the Executive Board of the Martin Luther King Memorial Project. In 2000, Snyder founded the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation, which utilizes the assets of the Washington Redskins and its corporate and community partners to make a positive and measurable impact on youth development in the greater Washington, DC, region. The foundation focuses on the areas of education, community outreach, and health and wellness. Since its inception, Charitable Foundation programs have made an impact on millions of lives and given back well over $13 million to individuals, groups, and organizations in the community.

Washington Redskins players also donate their time, talents, and resources by providing toys, coats, and clothes to children, inspiring young football players and making wishes come true for some little fans battling big diseases. In addition, Snyder, Redskins players, and other volunteers annually distribute more than 33,000 pounds of turkey and 120,000 pounds of other food in the form of Thanksgiving food baskets for Prince George’s County, Md., families in need during Harvest Feast.

In May, Snyder was honored by Beacon House, a nonsectarian, neighborhood based organization that supports at-risk youth and families of the Edgewood Terrace community in Washington, D.C. The ceremony came during a community celebration to dedicate the football field at Edgewood Department of Parks and Recreation Center, where Snyder’s Charitable Foundation assisted in funding a newly resurfaced field, bleachers, and an electronic scoreboard.

This past April, Snyder was presented with the Youth For Tomorrow’s Distinguished Leader Award in recognition of his years of support for the organization’s private, residential school and counseling center in Bristow, Va. The center has provided year-round care for more than 900 homeless and at risk children ages 11-17 from Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia. The honor is periodically awarded to individuals who have demonstrated long and generous support to Youth For Tomorrow. When announcing the award at YFT’s annual Burgundy and Gold Banquet, Hall of Fame Redskins Head Coach Joe Gibbs, who is also Founder and Chairman of Youth For Tomorrow, said, “Dan Snyder began his support of the kids at Youth For Tomorrow long before I ever considered returning to coach the team in 2004.”

Through its educational programs, the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation has encouraged children to read, provided academic counseling and life skills lessons to high school student-athletes and established a $25,000 scholarship to allow a low-income, high-potential student the opportunity to attend college.

Signature education programs include:
• 4th & Life
This curriculum-based program for high school football players focuses on what
it takes to be successful on the field, in the classroom and in the workplace by
using examples from Redskins players, coaches, and alumni.
• Redskins Read
The program encourages and promotes literacy among youth is the mission of the Redskins Read literacy program. This is accomplished through the production and distribution of Redskins Read activity books throughout the area, along with player appearances.
• Coaches in the Classroom
Coaches in the Classroom places Academic Coaches at area high schools throughout the region. The coaches help student-athletes create an academic game plan to prepare them for college.

The fight to combat childhood obesity and get children active has become a priority for the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation. Through the Charitable Foundation’s health and wellness programs, young people are learning how to eat healthy and “Play 60” by incorporating at least 60 minutes of physical activity into their daily lives. Signature health and wellness programs include:
• Atlas and Athena
Atlas and Athena, two nationally acclaimed programs for male and female student-athletes, focuses on healthy living and the elimination of drug use through peer mentoring in high schools in Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia.
• Fields for Tomorrow
Fields for Tomorrow renovates, upgrades, and maintains football fields at high schools in need throughout Washington, D.C. and Prince George’s County, Md.
• Redskins Youth Fitness Zones
Youth fitness zones are interactive spaces that feature the HOPSports Training Systems. HOPSports has workout equipment and lessons designed for children ages 6–14 to help put the excitement back into exercising.

Given this information it is hard to suggest that Snyder’s decision to sign McNabb came with little forethought. Unfortunately, it may indeed be the latest in a series of very bad player decisions made throughout Snyder’s ownership tenure.

One internet based publication offered a look back at some of the gems:

• Bruce Smith -- five-years, $23 million in 2000. He played 62 games for Washington in four years

• Antwaan Randle El -- seven-years, $31 million in 2006. He played 63 games over four years

• Mark Brunell -- seven-years, $43 million in 2004. He played 33 games in four years.

• Laveranues Coles -- five-years, $35 million. He played 32 games in two seasons.

• Jeff George -- four-years, $18.25 million in 2000. He played 8 games over two years before retiring.

• Albert Haynesworth -- seven years, $100 million in 2009. He has played 16 games with Washington, but only 4 in 2010.

• Deion Sanders -- seven-years, $56 million in 2000. He played 16 games with Washington in just one season.

The one characteristic each of these contracts and the McNabb contract share – the players each received free agent contracts well after their best years as football players were behind them. If Daniel Snyder is guilty of anything in relationship to these contracts is in his trusting of those around him.

Compare Daniel Snyder to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis. Both owners are involved in the day to day operation of their football franchises. Snyder manages the day to day business affairs of the business he owns and operates.

Snyder has put in place people who he believed, Mike Shanahan (one example), would make the right football choices. If they have not made the right football choices he held those men accountable. Remember Steve Spurrier coaching the Redskins in 2002 and 2003, or the return of Joe Gibbs from 2004 to 2007. Spurrier is a great college football coach and Gibbs like many of the key player signings had his best years as a coach behind him. Jim Zorn, well that was another mistake. It remains to be seen if Shanahan will work out as the teams’ coach.

Owners do not win Super Bowls, but their actions can easily cost an organization a championship. Consider one of the most hated owners in NFL history, Art Modell, won a Super Bowl during his final years as Ravens owner. Who would Redskins fans have rather had as their team owner Art Modell or Daniel Snyder? Safe bet when it comes to character there is no question, the better man is Snyder. What separates good owners from great owners may indeed be Super Bowls, but what in part separates good owners from the not so good owners are the ones that meddle in the day to day affairs of their sports franchises – and that Snyder has not done.

For this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: Redskins 2010 media guide,

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