- The Washington Times
Sunday, December 15, 2019

LANDOVER — Bruce Allen walked along the field before Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles, watching the warm-ups and greeting Washington Redskins staff and players. His customary companion, Dan Snyder, was noticeably absent.

For 10 years, Mr. Allen, the team president, and Mr. Snyder, the owner, have been a fixture on the pregame sideline at FedEx Field.

But the two rarely have been seen together in recent weeks as the franchise plays out another losing season amid rumors that Allen will soon follow fired coach Jay Gruden out the door.

Long considered a trusted Snyder confidant, Mr. Allen’s future with the Redskins has never been more in doubt. Losses have taken their toll — Sunday’s 37-27 loss to the Eagles dropped the Redskins to 3-11, and Mr. Allen’s public estrangement from Mr. Snyder only creates more questions.

Mr. Snyder hired Mr. Allen, a veteran NFL executive and the son of George Allen, the team’s iconic coach from 1971 to 1977, 10 years ago Tuesday to return the Redskins to their glory days.

Mr. Snyder said Washington was “counting on Bruce to help lead the way” at the introductory press conference in 2009.

Instead, the once-proud franchise has floundered through Mr. Allen’s decade at the helm. Sunday’s loss dropped Washington’s record to 62-95-1 since 2010, the fifth-worst NFL record of the decade. Only the Cleveland Browns (42-115-1), Jacksonville Jaguars (50-108), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (59-99) and Oakland Raiders (62-96) have been worse.

If these are the last days of Mr. Allen’s tenure, fans are eagerly awaiting his exit.

“He should have been fired when he said, ‘We’re winning off the field,’” said season-ticket holder Paul Homon, referencing a famous Allen remark from 2014. “Followed up by … ‘culture is damn good.’ He’s not in touch with what’s really going on here.”

“They need to get a real general manager,” said Stan Rubinstein, a fan from Brookfield, Maryland. “I don’t know why he’s still employed with the Redskins.”

A decade gone wrong

These days, the Redskins’ social media team can’t post an update without an army of responses calling for Mr. Allen’s job. The hashtag — #FireBruceAllen — can be found under practically every post, representing how frustrated fans have become.

In many ways, the anger is understandable. In this decade, the Redskins have made the postseason just twice — losing in the first playoff game each time. In seven of the last 10 years, Washington failed to even get to .500.

In all, the Redskins actually have a lower winning percentage under Mr. Allen (.396) than they did with Vinny Cerrato (.431), who spent nearly a decade as Washington’s highest-ranking executive before Mr. Allen.

As a general manager, Mr. Allen has taken a different tack than Mr. Cerrato did.

Under Mr. Allen, the Redskins generally have avoided lavish spending on free-agent signings. There are exceptions — Josh Norman, Landon Collins — but the franchise has moved on from the days of shelling out record-setting money for other teams’ stars (see: Albert Haynesworth, Deion Sanders and Adam Archuleta).

Instead, the Redskins have tried to build primarily through the draft — with mixed results.

“They obviously haven’t been great with the draft,” said salary cap guru Jason Fitzgerald, who runs the website Over The Cap. “They’ve missed on some key players there. That’s been a problem for them.”

The Redskins have taken home-run swings, like in 2012 when they dealt three first-round draft picks (and one second-rounder) to land quarterback Robert Griffin III. Griffin was successful early, but his career was altered by a knee injury.

The Redskins have also failed to develop key prospects, watching them flourish for other teams. Linebacker Preston Smith, for example, was a 2015 second-round pick who is now having a career year with the Green Bay Packers.

From 2010 to 2015, the Redskins drafted 52 players — and only seven of them received a second contract from Washington, according to NFL analyst Warren Sharp. Thirty-four of those players are out of football or are now free agents.

Fitzgerald, too, said the Redskins have been stubborn under Mr. Allen. He pointed to Washington retaining players like Norman and tight end Jordan Reed for a “season or two too long,” which has hurt the Redskins’ ability to build elsewhere. That’s especially true this season as Washington has gotten little to no production from some of its highest-paid players (Alex Smith, Trent Williams, Norman and Reed).

Mr. Allen’s critics have also blamed him for his handling of off-the-field incidents and a lack of transparency. In 2018, for instance, the Redskins were widely criticized for signing linebacker Reuben Foster days after another domestic violence arrest. Though charges were later dropped, Allen faced scrutiny for not reaching out to the victim before signing Foster.

Mr. Allen’s sometimes contentious relationship with players has also drawn criticism. Some fans blamed the general manager for letting quarterback Kirk Cousins walk in free agency. Even players like Williams and former safety Su’a Cravens have blasted Mr. Allen in tweets or interviews over their grievances with the team.

“I just don’t think he’s very sincere at all about turning the franchise around,” said season ticket-holder Eric Grish, who said he has interacted with Allen in the past at fan events. “I believe he’s on his own personal agenda.”

Another Sunday, another invasion

On the very first snap the Redskins took Sunday, quarterback Dwayne Haskins and the offense faced “DE-FENSE” chants. The problem? The game was at FedEx Field.

Washington’s loss was yet another instance in which opposing fans outnumbered supporters for Washington, with a sea of green and black filling seats all throughout the lower bowl. After Eagles’ scores, Philadelphia fans chanted “E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles.” And they erupted when Haskins fumbled on the last play of the game to seal Philadelphia’s victory.

That, for better or worse, falls on Allen.

The Redskins haven’t been able to consistently put a competitive team on the field, and the fan base has tuned out. On game days, tickets are readily available on the secondary market, with some seats earlier this season going for as low as $4.

For the Eagles game, Mr. Grish purchased an extra seat in the club level for just $38 for his friend to attend the game with him on his 39th birthday. There was a time he would pay $250 per game for his tickets.

“I’m super embarrassed,” Mr. Grish said. “You look to our right, you look to our left, it’s all Philly fans around here. They are in the hunt right now, so it’s kind of understandable, but by any means, the other team’s fans shouldn’t outnumber your fans in the home stadium.”

Even among season-ticket holders, interest appears to be dwindling. Mr. Homon said that a few years ago, there would be 25 of his friends tailgating every home game. Now, their group is down to seven.

“They’re fed up,” said Fred Langsam, another member of the group. “The whole experience.”

Rumors or something real?

Despite the rumors involving his exit, Mr. Allen appears to be going about his job as normally as he can. The executive traveled to Irving, Texas, last week to participate in the league’s owners’ meetings. After Washington’s loss, Mr. Allen was just outside the locker room, talking with coaches.

There are reasons to believe the Redskins have no intention of cutting ties with Mr. Allen.

In the same report that indicated “major” changes could be coming to the Redskins’ front office, Stanford coach David Shaw was connected to Washington’s upcoming coaching search — Mr. Allen is reportedly a “big proponent” of Shaw. If Shaw is a serious candidate, does that mean Mr. Allen still has sway in the organization?

Mr. Allen, too, has found ways to maintain his status over the years, even as losses piled up. The Redskins hired Scot McCloughan as their general manager in 2015, but just two years later, fired him — with Mr. Allen remaining as team president throughout. Former president of business operations Brian Lafemina lasted less than a year, and his Christmas firing in 2018 gave Mr. Allen an expanded role on the business side.

Still, fans have little faith that Mr. Allen is the right man for the job. Asked why fans should trust him to lead a successful coaching search this winter, Mr. Allen said in October he doesn’t “want to ever hide from our record.”

“I’m not saying I care more than anyone, but I absolutely want what’s best for the Washington Redskins and we’re going to make sure we do it,” Allen said.

Ultimately, it will be on Mr. Snyder to decide if he’s willing to make a change. In the meantime, the Redskins face a fan base that grows increasingly apathetic each year.

“I was the type of guy if they lost, I was mad until Wednesday,” Mr. Homon said. “Now, I go home and be like ‘Whatever.’ Watch my fantasy football team and watch the NFL. … It’s frustrating.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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