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Good Will Hunting

He's not a genius Southie janitor at MIT, solving quantum physics equations on his lunch breaks, but there is no doubt that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is Good Will Hunting.

You have to give Mr. Snyder some credit. I know you don't want to. But you must.

Crazy talk you say? Bear with me.

Our beleaguered owner has spent a couple of years being brought to his billionaire knees by organizational failure (both on and off the field) of near epic proportions. League laughingstock, Captain of the NFL's new HMS Titanic, mocked even by *gasp* Raiders fans, pilloried by his previous supporters, few have experienced as powerful a reputational fall as Daniel Snyder.

We fans are a particularly vicious sort. If the best comedy always has its roots in pain, suffering Redskins fans could get their own HBO special.

'Little Nicky'.
'Lord Farquaad'.

Nicknames that draw blood. Ouch.

Not that Snyder didn't have his detractors before, but the truth is, prior to the rambling wreck of a 2009 season, most Redskins fans were inclined to give their owner the benefit of the doubt. He was 'learning' they said. Sure, he was an owner, but above all things he was a 'fan'. He wore a 'Pat Fisher belt buckle as a kid for God's sake'. He'd 'spend whatever it took' to win. And hadn't he brought back the legendary Joe Gibbs? If Gibbs was okay with Daniel Snyder, how could adoring Redskins fans not be?

But the post-Gibbs façade soon developed cracks. Gibbs sudden departure, the inability to attract a big-name or experienced successor, the beyond goofy hire of an unknown in Jim Zorn, the seeming ascendance of 'ol' bug eyes', Vinny Cerrato to key power-broker status. Despite Zorn's initial swoon of success, Skins fans were worried. In a woeful 4-12 2009 campaign, Chicken Little turned out not to be some dumb cluck, but the smartest bird in the room.

And suddenly, Daniel Snyder, stood alone to shoulder the blame.

It must've been a tough couple of years for Snyder. Standing by his wife Tanya who was battling breast cancer, having a HOF coach depart, watching the team he almost unquestionably loves fall from grace. If the Redskins franchise were a theme park, we'd call them 'Six Flags Over Futility'. But we're guessing one of the most startling revelations of a difficult period was the realization that something previously thought impossible could happen. This franchise could lose its fans. I believe it is that which got Snyder's undivided attention.

We don't know Snyder. His Howard Hughes-like penchant for intense privacy makes it impossible to know him. That's too bad. But we know a few things about him. He hates to lose. He possesses a damn the torpedoes, ignore the critics style that has served him well, to the tune of billions. He's a self-made man, and you don't get to be one of those without some serious smarts, toughness, and courage of your own convictions. Redskins fans have, at times, been willing to believe there's another side to Dan Snyder. They've noted his generosity, both to his friends, and charitably. No Redskins fan missed the genuine sadness, kindness, and grace Snyder demonstrated when Sean Taylor was tragically slain. Redskins fans want to believe in that part of the guy. But it's not been easy.

After a 2009 season full of miserable predictability, Snyder has surprised. Adrift in a sea of angry fans squeezed of all generosity of spirit, mocked and eviscerated by fans and media alike on TV, radio, and the internet, Snyder could've lashed out. He could've laid the blame elsewhere. He could've hardened his position, fortified and armed the castle walls, could've embraced bitterness. But he did none of those things.

First things first, he made a tough decision. He cut lifelong friend Vinny Cerrato loose. It's difficult to know how big a part of the Redskins on-the-field failures Cerrato was, but one thing was sure - it wasn't working, and sometimes you just have to start fresh. Firing a friend? There's probably no tougher job an executive will ever face. Snyder did what he needed to do. And he did what he couldn't do after the 2007 season - he found himself a capable, proven, experienced coach. And to make that happen, he did something else he was ill-inclined to do, he gave up control to a true GM, one he wasn't drinking buddies or racquetball partners with, Bruce Allen.

And in the aftermath of disaster, Snyder has gone Good Will Hunting.

And he's not done yet. In addition to resetting the table with a coaching staff believed to be far more promising and capable than the one that preceded it, Snyder is luring fans back with real change. Former season ticket holders are being offered their relinquished seats back. The oft mocked 'jumbotron' currently showing Papajohn's commercials at Fed Ex Field is being replaced by a massive state-of-the-art version. New GM Bruce Allen has declared a new era in Redskins franchise history. 'The Future is Now'.

I don't know if I believe it, but I'll confess, I'm starting to want to.

The position Redskins now find themselves in, a mere month after our team's season came to a creakingly merciful halt, is undeniably more promising than anything we could've imagined then. All credit to Mr. Snyder for helping give back to fans the only thing they've ever really needed.

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