The news that Washington football fans had longed for, wondering if they would live long enough to hear it, finally came Thursday afternoon.
Daniel Snyder — hated by most of his football team’s supporters (current and former) — is nearing a deal to sell the Commanders to a group led by Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Josh Harris and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. $6.05 billion.
Dance and marching bands don’t just clog the streets and sidewalks of Washington, DC and the surrounding areas, but they might as well. Snyder’s 24-year ownership of the watch was wretched, woefully inept, and marred by several epic disappointments and embarrassments. April 13, 2023, may be reduced to an annual holiday at the DMV.
Washington fans know a lot about Harris. They didn’t hear the vision he and his allies, including Johnson, had for ownership. But the burgundy and gold faithful don’t care. News of Snyder’s impending departure brings the company the most authentic version of hope this fan base has experienced in a very long time.
Josh Harris, who will soon be the new Commanders owner?
Washington fans know all about hope. Snyder sold a lot over the past 24 seasons. But hope is always false because of Snyder’s ego and incompetence.
Snyder fired a proven roster-builder in Charlie Casserly and then played fantasy football, bringing in a highly paid, long-term future Hall of Famer to begin his reign. But those moves undermined the progress the company had begun to piece together during its first post-Joe Gibbs era.
Ownership sold hope again after one season by hiring a big-name coach, Marty Schottenheimer, because Snyder certainly knew more about how to run a team.
Hope then arrived in the form of hot-shot college coach Steve Spurrier, who couldn’t get out of a wet paper bag in the NFL.
There was the hilarious Jim Zorn experiment that never should have happened.
More hope came after the arrival of another future Hall of Famer in Mike Shanahan — another coach who left town after Snyder poisoned the relationship between Shanahan and prized rookie Robert Griffin III. Jay Gruden’s ineffective tenure (another run marked by Snyder’s meddling moves) also failed.
The only positive move Snyder made was to lure Gibbs out of retirement to coach the team again from 2004 to 2007 and stay out of the way enough to reach the playoffs twice in that four-year span.
But overall, since purchasing the team from the estate of Jack Kent Cooke, the only thing Snyder has succeeded in doing is running the franchise on the field.
How many prohibitive, overpriced and inappropriate free agent signings or trade acquisitions took place? How many prized draft picks were wasted? How many power struggles did Snyder win at the expense of progress? How many off-field controversies have been hidden and diverted to prevent coaches and players from reaching their true potential?
Here’s an embarrassing line for you: Snyder’s tenure consisted of 10 head coaches, 27 starting quarterbacks. Only once has Snyder’s team managed to string together back-to-back winning seasons — just barely (9-7 and 8-7-1 stretches in 2015 and 2016).
A franchise that won three Super Bowls with three quarterbacks from 1982 to 1991 and ranked among the most respected rosters in the entire NFL deteriorated into a clown-show soap opera that mustered just six winning seasons and six playoff appearances with Snyder since 1999. 2022.
But it’s not about failure. Many teams go on long and aimless forest journeys. But none have done so while its leadership behaved with such arrogance and blatant disregard for public decency.
Snyder — so insecure, calls everyone “Mr. Snyder,” and forbids employees from making eye contact with him while walking down the hallway — no one.
He belittled and alienated some of his most beloved franchises. He sued his own season ticket holders. Free speech was suppressed by banning symbols. The media blamed it misrepresenting his faults. Oh, and don’t forget the financial irregularities that put Snyder in hot water with fellow owners and multiple jurisdictions.
He also fostered a toxic environment made worse by accusations of sexual misconduct.
Dan Snyder Timeline: The owner of the contract to sell the Commanders to Josh Harris
Most fans found it impossible to like Snyder, and who could blame them? Some chose to walk away. Others tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, but they too grew tired of the endless controversies and his vindictiveness.
But now, Snyder is gracefully walking out the door.
That departure brings relief and hope.
Why? Because Washington fans are convinced things can’t get any worse. They endured it all, despite Sneijder clinging to a shred of hope that his team would return to respectability, never having a clue of how to lead effectively.
But now comes Harris and company, who have experience running pro franchises in multiple sports and leagues and command the respect of their peers, which certainly can’t be said of Snyder.
Many questions arise before anyone can make any kind of declarations or prophecies about the new group as true. But the stench associated with Snyder is gone. Ultimately, the hope is that the organization will operate as a first-class operation, while being driven by a leader with a clear vision.
Change, of course, takes time.
Team president Jason Wright spent the last two and a half years trying to undo all the damage Snyder had done. Decades. But there is still a long way to go.
However, the real first step towards a brighter tomorrow has finally arrived. For once, the prospects are plausible — unlike everything else in the past, “if Snyder doesn’t screw it up” most of the franchise follows whatever new direction it takes.
The master of self-sabotage takes with him the dark clouds that have lingered for years. Now the rays of hope are finally starting to peek through.
(Photo: Tony L. Sandys/Washington Post via Getty Images)