In May of 1999, an intelligent and successful businessman by the name of Daniel M. Snyder purchased the Washington Redskins for $800 million. It was the most expensive team-acquisition in sporting history according to Washington Redskins History: 1990’s.
With no previous football experience, Snyder immediately established himself as the primary decision maker within the franchise. After an inaugural 10-6 season with the franchise’s first trip to the playoffs since 1992, hopes and expectations were high for this new era of Redskins football.
However, soon into his ownership Snyder fired then coach Norv Turner. He proceeded to hire Marty Schottenheimer. Schottenheimer soon fired Snyder’s personal hire and constant “Yes Man” Vinny Cerrato.
Yet, like many Redskins coaches, Schottenheimer did not last long. Repeated feuds regarding decision making and personnel prompted Snyder to fire the coach who simply wanted an appropriate amount of control over his team.
Snyder was to have none of that. It was his belief that because he signed checks, his input in potential draft choices and dealings with players should be highly regarded.
Shortly after Schottenheimer’s termination, Snyder quickly rehired the inept Cerrato.
Next up was Steve Spurrier, a career college coach. After two disappointing seasons, Spurrier resigned from the team, and the head coach position was once again vacant.
The return of Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs inspired optimism all throughout Redskins nation. And, to a certain degree, his return was a success. Washington reached the playoffs twice during his four seasons.
Nevertheless, that was not enough to entice Gibbs to come back another year as he retired after the 2008 season. Although Snyder promised Gibbs less intervention in football matters, his voice was still repeatedly heard and his decision making questioned further.
Jim Zorn, a Quarterback’s coach his entire career, was then hired as offensive coordinator before Washington had even selected a new head coach. Shortly after, Snyder and Cerrato promoted Zorn to the position without even once proving himself as a signal caller.
Under Zorn, the Redskins’ fifth head coach in Snyder’s 10-year tenure, Washington went a miserably 12-20 in two seasons.
At that point in time, after 10 years under Snyder’s ownership the Redskins went to the playoffs merely three times. Their winning percentage had been .475 under the intrusive billionaire.
He had wasted millions upon millions of dollars on useless and overrated free agent signings. He had traded away draft picks for aging veterans and left the team without youth and consistent means to reload on talent.
Snyder’s ownership is stained with uninformed mistakes and arrogant decisions. Yet, the mark of a man is not his mistakes but how he responds to them.
It certainly took longer than fans would have liked, but Snyder finally seems to understand and accept his role.
The hiring of Mike Shanahan is a dramatic change in culture for the Washington Redskins. Finally, Snyder has agreed to take a back seat when it comes to football matters. Vinny Cerrato resigned in December of 2009, and Mike Shanahan assumed control as head coach and VP of Football Operations.
Shanahan is a proven winner with the rings to show for it.
In his one season with the Redskins, he has gone about erasing the losing and chaotic mentality that plagued this franchise for years. His brings instant credibility and professionalism to a franchise that has been turmoil for over a decade.
In no way do I think Shanahan has been perfect. He certainly could have handled the Donovan McNabb scenario better. And, the feud between him and Albert Haynesworth has gone on long enough. Plus, there is no getting around the team’s 6-10 season in Shanahan’s first go around.
But his hiring and his actions are steps in the right direction, reasons for hope for what has become a punch line of a franchise.
Snyder’s first pick in this year’s draft, Ryan Kerrigan, speaks volumes about the mentality heading forward. Kerrigan is not the flash or sexy pick. He is not going to wow anybody with his ability and will probably never be a double-digit sack guy.
But what he does provide are intangibles this team has been severely lacking. Kerrigan possesses quality character, a staunch work ethic, contagious energy and high football intelligence.
His selection is a message to the franchise and the rest of the league.
These are not the same old Redskins. The era of losing, instability and poor decision making is over.
For the first time in a long time, there is hope for the Washington Redskins.