Redskins owner Dan Snyder, with his team winless and his fanbase torn between anger and apathy, views Steelers coach Mike Tomlin as best candidate to help revive the franchise, according to numerous sources close to the situation, and is poised to try to acquire his services this offseason.
Snyder, who has long been a fan of Tomlin, has gotten to know the Super Bowl-winning coach more personally over the years, at league meetings and through several mutual friends and peers, and would be willing to give Tomlin a top-of-the-market salary and full authority over the organization, the sources said. He views Tomlin as the kind of coach, leader and face-of-the-franchise Washington sorely lacks -- the perfect point person with the media and sponsors and to help efforts to get a stadium built in downtown Washington, DC.
Tomlin has an excellent coaching record, is a member of the prestigious Competition Committee, is one of the game's great orators and already has relationships with key members of the organization like team president Bruce Allen and general manager Doug Williams from their time in Tampa. Snyder believes Tomlin could help restore faith in the fans and kick-start the team's sagging business operations as well.
Snyder fired coach Jay Gruden last week in his sixth season on the job, and would be prepared to part with draft picks to secure Tomlin, who signed a one-year extension with the Steelers before the season. Three times before has Snyder made the head coach also the head of football operations -- with Marty Schottenheimer, Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan -- and Tomlin, a Virginia native, would have the opportunity in Washington to not just to put a coaching staff together, but also reshape the franchise however he sees fit in ways that just would not be feasible in Pittsburgh, where both the coach and general manager report directly to the owner.
Tomlin remains on strong footing with the Rooney family, sources said, despite missing the playoffs last season with a late collapse amid locker room turmoil and despite a slow start this season (1-4). He is in no jeopardy with that franchise. However, the Steelers, who expect Ben Roethlisberger back as starting quarterback next season albeit a year older and coming off major injury, are short on draft capital -- they traded their top two picks in 2019, plus a 2020 third-round pick, to move up for Devin Bush in the draft and are without their 2020 first-round pick (which could be in the top 10) after acquiring Minkah Fitzpatrick last month.
While many around the Steelers organization are skeptical as to how seriously ownership would consider a trade of this nature, the franchise does find itself at a unique potential turning point, with long-time general manager Kevin Colbert declining to sign a contract extension and with a transition at quarterback perhaps coming by 2021 as well. The idea of Tomlin possibly taking over the Washington organization has come up internally there well before Gruden's firing, with Snyder's affinity for him not lost on some, though it's not something they have discussed with the coach.
Some sources who know Tomlin well believe the opportunity in Washington could appeal to him on many levels. The team holds training camp in Richmond, Virginia, not far from Newport News where he grew up, and Tomlin has a son playing at the nearby University of Maryland. Tomlin, very loyal to his assistants, could get a bigger budget for them all in Washington as well. Of course, Tomlin also knows how even the best coaches to have come through Washington under Snyder have suffered, how the team has failed to sustain even a modicum of success under this owner, and how the Rooneys' model in Pittsburgh has helped make the team an almost annual contender for a title.
Snyder also would have interest in Tampa defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, sources said, if securing Tomlin is not possible. He met personally with Bowles last season for a potential defensive coordinator job after he was fired as head coach of the Jets. Gibbs, who is still close with the owner, has urged him to hire Bowles, a former standout defensive back in Washington, as well. Snyder also has maintained ties with Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was a defensive coordinator in Washington and has been a head coach with Buffalo and Cleveland (as a successful interim last year).
Current Raiders coach Jon Gruden was the last coach to be traded, though the Browns and 49ers did discuss a trade for Jim Harbaugh earlier this decade but could not agree on compensation.