It was not clear whether Snyder was referring to defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth, the two-time all-pro player who received a then-record $41 million in guaranteed money from the Redskins in February of 2009, or, less specifically, to other costly acquisitions that have not panned out.
Snyder’s response elicited the loudest laughter from the crowd during the Business of Sports breakfast forum sponsored by The Post’s Capital Business publication and the Greater Washington Board of Trade. Snyder was joined on the panel by Ted Leonsis, owner of the Capitals, Wizards and Mystics; Robert Tanenbaum and Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, two of the principal owners of the Nationals; and Will Chang, owner of D.C. United.
During the two-hour event, panelists answered a wide array of questions about how they run their franchises and explained some of the challenges they face in trying to build championship-caliber teams.
All the owners were asked about their teams’ “worst big-money mistake” on players, but the crowd seemed most interested in Snyder’s evaluation.
Coach Mike Shanahan — the head of Washington’s football operation — suspended Haynesworth for the final four games of this past season because of conduct detrimental to the club. Haynesworth, who has played in only 20 games during two seasons on the roster, already has been paid almost $35 million. The NFL Players Association has filed an appeal on behalf of Haynesworth.
Snyder has publicly supported Shanahan and declined to discuss Haynesworth’s conduct in detail, though three people familiar with the situation say he spearheaded the team’s efforts to sign Haynesworth and often had lunch with the nine-year veteran during his first season in Washington. In following up on the question during the panel discussion Tuesday, Washington Post Live editor Mary Jordan, the moderator, asked Snyder if it is “hard to spend that kind of money for a dud.”
Snyder acknowledged that the Redskins made a mistake, and “when you make a mistake, whatever the mistake, whatever the dollars are, you feel bad. You were obviously hoping for the best.
“One of the things you try to do is, you’re trying to make the right decision. You’re trying to be supportive. You end up taking the entire blame in response and I understand that. That’s fine. But the reality is the intentions are in the right place.”
Of course, money does matter, Snyder added.
“It may be our money, but it’s the fans’ teams,” he said. “And that goes across the board up here [for all the owners on the panel]. It’s the fans’ team. We have the responsibility to try to do the right thing. And from my perspective, obviously, people have known I’m aggressive in seeking free agents . . . but we’re trying to do the right thing.”
Snyder hired Shanahan and made him one of the game’s highest-paid coaches, but the Redskins (6-10) finished last in the NFC East for the third consecutive season. In addition to Shanahan’s problems with Haynesworth, a defensive star when he arrived, Shanahan also benched quarterback Donovan McNabb — Washington’s most accomplished offensive player — for the final three games.
Shanahan traded second- and fourth-round draft picks to the Philadelphia Eagles for McNabb last spring. It appears highly unlikely that the six-time Pro Bowler will return to Washington next season.
The Redskins have failed to qualify for the playoffs in nine of the past 11 seasons under Snyder.
“When you look at what an owner goes through . . . understand that we feel so bad when we disappoint the fans,” he said. “And this season, you feel like you’re close. And all of a sudden, maybe you falter a little.
“That’s a difficult, difficult thing to go through. Obviously, you’re trying to push for the future as best you can. But the beauty is you get ready for next season.”