By Keith McDonald
Photo via Getty Images
If you’re anything like me, you can’t remember a Washington Redskins team that wasn’t controlled by a greed-driven, power hungry owner. I’m talking, of course, about the one and only Daniel M. Snyder.
The businessman that bought my beloved Redskins in 1999 never coached, scouted or even played football at any sort of competitive level. No, this multi-millionaire was a Maryland native who just adored the team.
Snyder purchased the team and became majority owner around the same time his Bethesda, Md. based Snyder Communications was reaching $1 billion in revenue per year. He started with a good tone and convinced fans that his new project was not just another business venture, but a dream come true. Shortly after becoming owner, Snyder told reporters,
“I’m not focused on the money, I’m focused on the opportunity and the dream… Hundreds of fans have written to me with their support and suggestions… Your most pressing issue is no different than mine. You want to win, we want to win, and we’re going to deliver that.”
Excuse me, my lungs just collapsed from laughter looking back at that one. As years would pass, most Redskins fans would look back and realize that quote was merely the first time he would mislead us all.
Although the Sith Lo-, Dan Snyder, I mean, has seemingly been nothing but a thorn in the Redskins side since ‘99, it would be a disservice to the organization to not at least mention Snyder’s long list of achievements.
The young tycoon purchased the redskins, mostly with borrowed money from investors, for $800 million. Within the first year Danny increased the teams revenue to $245 million, up over $100 million from the year prior. According to Forbes, the team is now worth an estimated $3.1 billion. That absurd mark is good enough for the 8th most valuable franchise in the world and 3rd most valuable team in the NFL. The only teams in the NFL more valuable are the perennial Super Bowl contending New England Patriots and the worst franchise in the world, the Dallas Cowboys.
“Come on, now. That can’t be the only good Danny-boy has brought this team,” you say? Thank you for inadvertently admitting that you haven’t been sadistically following this 19-year train wreck. For the sake of staying on track, lets stay on the fiscal platform.
Redskins’ tickets included a 10% tax from Prince George’s County (a tax that was added to tickets face-value for placing the team’s stadium in their county). After Snyder bought the team, he removed the tax from the printed prices on tickets and moved it to the invoice, throwing off the actual face value. He then commenced the largest ticket price hike in Redskins history. Snyder even added a $4 security surcharge to game tickets after 9/11.
During the 2000 offseason, ‘Skins fans were lucky enough to become the first fan base in the NFL to be charged an entry fee to watch their favorite team practice. They also became the first fan base to be charged for parking at the team facilities in order to watch practices. Almost every team in the NFL has since adopted these practices. You’re all welcome.
Front row seats behind team benches were viewed as some of the worst seats in the house because no one could see, and were generally cheaper because of this. The entrepreneurial mind of super-fan Dan renamed these sections, “Dream Seats,” and re-priced them to $3,000 each.
He even went as far as creating a public humiliation campaign around Head Coach Jim Zorn. The plan was to embarrass Zorn so much that he would quit, leaving the organization off the hook for his remaining salary. Snyder didn’t hold back and even hired Sherm Lewis mid-season to take over Zorn’s play-calling duties. At the time Lewis was hired he had been calling Bingo games at retirement homes. Zorn pushed through with balls of steel, forcing ownership to fire him and pay out his remaining $2.4 million.
If there has been one constant in my 21 years as a Redskins fan, its been variations of the words “dysfunction.” In fact, if you Google anything that pairs Dan Snyder and the Redskins, they are overwhelmingly negative articles about the lack of normal football operations year-in and year-out. Most parts of my brain refuse to believe that this can help anyone attempting to lure in top-end free agents.
Let’s jump into Dan’s next fib, which came only a few months after the first. Norv Turner was heading into his sixth year as Head Coach when Snyder acquired the team in 1999. That year the ‘Skins posted a record of 10-6 and even won two playoff games. The following season, when asked about the Head Coach, Mr. Snyder backed him up by stating that Turner would be there, “for a long time.”
In that 2000 offseason, Snyder fired GM Charley Casserly after their 10-6 season. During his time with the organization, Casserly helped the Redskins to a combined 89-86-1 record, including a 6-3 playoff record and one Super Bowl win. He was replaced by Vinny Cerrato, who would be fired one year later by Marty Shottenheimer… and would then be rehired by Snyder the following year… and would stay with the team for another eight.
Photo via http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcsportsbog/2009/11/burgundy_revolution_travels_to.html
Cerrato attempted to retool the team with aging stars on long-term, astronomic contracts. Norv Turner led the NFLs most expensive roster to a 7-6 record before being fired with three games left in the season. The team would finish 8-8 that year and the next, before three straight losing campaigns.
Including the seven seasons at, or barely above, the .500 threshold, the Redskins have only had two ten win seasons since 2001. To add salt to the wound, Turner would be the first of seven head coaches to be fired or resign under Dan Snyder since 2000. That is tied for the most in the NFL in that span with the Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns. Yes, that list includes the only two teams in NFL history that have gone 0-16.
Hell, even Redskins legend Joe Gibbs couldn’t last with the guy! In the pre-Snyder era, Gibbs had a coaching record of 124 wins and 64 losses. The guy led Washington to four conference titles and won all three of the Lombardi Trophies they claim. In his first tenure, Gibbs managed to only have one losing season and one season at .500. Snyder-era Gibbs? Two playoff births mixed with two losing seasons, before retiring after year four of a five-year contract. Although Gibbs wasn’t forced out, retiring again mostly due to family issues and the tragedy involving star safety Sean Taylor, it was clear that the magic just wasn’t there anymore.
A year later came another big turn over. One year after hiring Jim Zorn, GM Vinny Cerrato would issue his letter of resignation and Snyder immediately accepted it. The team addressed the issue, saying it had to move in new directions to bring winning back to DC. Snyder almost instantly hired Tampa Bay GM Bruce Allen, grandson of Redskins coaching legend George Allen. His reasoning? Bruce was- and this is an actual real life quote- “a proven winner.” A real proven winner with a five year sample size of 38-42.
A real winner, guys. On and off the field.
Photo via Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Look, Bruce Allen makes my blood boil and if I dig back into his business with the ‘Skins I might actually stop following them. If you’re not up to date on Allen’s heinous, almost decade-long hack job, Matt Hines at riggosrag.com did an excellent job recapping the highs and lows right here.
For the first time since coming to DC, Allen’s job may finally be on the hot seat. Fans have been pleading for years that if the team would just hire a football minded GM and retool the front office, things on the field would turn around quickly. Take a look at Jacksonville and San Francisco and make it a case study for the entire NFL.
Snyder needs to wake up and realize that nepotism hasn’t worked in DC. George Allen is legendary, Bruce Allen is infamous. It’s time to clean house in the front office and let football minds deal with football. But we know this isn’t going to happen, at least not until the sale of the team is forced by the league. Boycotting is the only way Snyder will ever notice his failures and us fans need to ban together.
But we’ll all see each other at FedEx Field week one, drowning our sorrow in $12 water-beers.
Photo via http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcsportsbog/2009/10/signs_banned_at_fedex_field.html
An interesting take on the situation.