This year marks the 20th anniversary of Daniel Snyder buying the Washington Redskins. Snyder was just 34 when he bought the team he grew up rooting for in 1999, paying $800 million.
A new story from the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore takes at look at the first two decades of Snyder’s ownership and comes to the same conclusion many of the team’s fans have come to: it’s not going well.
‘Unlike Snyder, I return phone calls’
Now 54, Snyder is unlike many of his fellow team owners in that he says very little publicly. He declined to sit down with Kilgore through a spokesman, and when Snyder grants interviews they’re usually done with team-friendly outlets.
He owns a legendary franchise in a huge media market, but is elusive. It has not gone unnoticed.
In his reporting, Kilgore called John Kent Cooke, the son of Jack Kent Cooke, who owned Washington until his death in 1997. John Kent Cooke was part of a group that tried to buy the franchise after his father’s passing and was outbid by Snyder.
It doesn’t seem John Kent Cooke is a fan of Snyder or what he’s done with the team his father had for 36 years.
“Unlike Snyder,” he said. “I return phone calls.”
Cooke continued: “I think that what’s happened over the 20-year period is that he has taken a franchise that has been universally respected in sports, not just the NFL, and proceeded to drag it down to mediocrity. It’s no longer one of the premier sports franchises in the United States.”
‘As long as Dan’s there, they don’t have a chance’
Cooke isn’t the only one bothered by Snyder’s tenure and how Washington has played and been run on his watch.
While Stephen Jones, the son of Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones and the Cowboys’ chief operating officer called Snyder “a visionary,” one former high-ranking Washington employee said Snyder is the problem.
“As long as Dan’s there, they don’t have a chance,” the former franchise employee said. “Even though the players are much better than they were … at the end of the day, everybody has to be beating on the same drum. If you’re not on your game [in the NFL], you’re going to get exposed very quickly. And that’s what’s happened to him.”
According to NFL insiders, Snyder has become less involved in football decisions, but still doesn’t always trust and listen to the people he hires — especially if their opinion conflicts with his.
Under Snyder, the Redskins are 139-180-1, a .436 winning percentage. They’ve won just three NFC East titles in that time, including in his first season, 1999 (the others came in 2012 and ‘15). They’ve made the playoffs five times, and finished last in the division eight times.
‘It’s just not being run properly’
The years since that 2015 NFC East crown — Washington lost a home game in the wild-card round to Green Bay — have not been great. Washington has finished third in the division in each of the past three years, and not much is expected again this season.
Last year’s home opener wasn’t a sellout, which would have been unthinkable several years ago. At times, the empty seats were hard not to notice during television broadcasts. There’s no longer a waiting list for season tickets.
While Washington’s struggles don’t necessarily impact the value of other NFL teams, the optics of one of the league’s marquee franchises struggling on-field and being a mess off it isn’t great.
“It’s more the perception of it,” an NFL power broker said. “You have a top-flight franchise that should be doing very, very well. But they’re not. … It’s just not being run properly.”
While the Redskins provided Kilgore with three individuals who spoke highly of Snyder — including current Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay, who was Washington’s offensive coordinator before he was hired by the Rams – others who spoke anonymously in order to be frank said they know Snyder has the drive to win but just doesn’t know how.
Last year, the team hired marketing executive Brian Lafemina away from the NFL office. Lafemina is highly regarded, so the move was considered a good one by observers. But Snyder fired Lafemina after only eight months. Almost 40 other business-side employees have left since Lafemina was ousted.
Kilgore gets into more, including Washington’s pursuit of a new stadium, which is both needed and could offer a boost to the franchise.
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