“I’m a fan, a huge fan,” said Snyder, a lifelong Washingtonian who made a fortune as the co-founder of a Bethesda-based marketing firm and paid $800 million for the Redskins and Jack Kent Cooke Stadium. “It’s that simple. 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.”
Snyder, 54, hasn’t lived up to that promise. Under his leadership, the Redskins have had four times as many head coaches (8) as playoff wins (2). Splashy free agent signings haven’t produced victories — Washington is 139-180 since Snyder bought the team — and one of the more loyal fan bases in professional sports has been gradually driven away.
How did things get to this point? Here’s a season-by-season look at Snyder’s tenure.
Starting QB: Brad Johnson
Key additions: Johnson (trade), Champ Bailey (draft), Jon Jansen (draft)
Key departures: Trent Green, Terry Allen, Ken Harvey
Daniel Snyder wasted no time putting his stamp on the franchise, firing general manager Charley Casserly, who helped the Redskins win three Super Bowls, and replacing him with San Francisco 49ers director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato. Washington won the NFC East for the first time in eight years behind the league’s second-ranked scoring offense. The Redskins defeated the Detroit Lions in the first round of the playoffs but blew a 13-0 second-half lead to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a week later.
Snyder, who wasn’t shy about criticizing Turner during the regular season, gave an upbeat message after the loss. There was reason to be optimistic about the future under new ownership, or so it seemed.
Head coach: Norv Turner (7-6), Terry Robiskie (1-2)
Starting QB: Brad Johnson (7-4), Jeff George (1-4)
Key additions: Deion Sanders (free agent), Bruce Smith (free agent), George (free agent), LaVar Arrington (draft), Chris Samuels (draft)
Key departures: Brian Mitchell
Snyder opened his wallet during the offseason, signing future Hall of Famers Sanders and Smith, as well as George and veteran safety Mark Carrier. Perhaps to offset the cost of a roster owed more than $100 million in salaries and bonuses, Snyder charged fans $10 to attend training camp, which he moved from Frostburg State University to Ashburn.
The defense improved under first-year coordinator Ray Rhodes, but the offense sputtered. Snyder fired Turner with no plan to replace him one day after a 9-7 loss to the Giants in Week 14 dropped Washington to 7-6. Under interim coach Robiskie, the Redskins finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs.
Head coach: Marty Schottenheimer
Starting QB: Tony Banks (8-6), Jeff George (0-2)
Key additions: Rod Gardner (draft), Fred Smoot (draft)
Key departures: Deion Sanders, Brad Johnson, Mark Carrier, Dana Stubblefield, Larry Centers, Albert Connell, Tre’ Johnson
Snyder’s first of many handpicked head coaches? Schottenheimer, who signed a four-year, $10 million deal after spending the previous season as a TV analyst and fired Cerrato three weeks later. Snyder promised to leave football decisions to the 57-year-old former head coach of the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs, but after the Redskins started 0-5, reports emerged that Schottenheimer would probably be fired if the team did not improve significantly over the season’s final 11 games.
Washington won five straight and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated but missed the playoffs for a second straight year. Snyder fired Schottenheimer soon after, saying, “It became clear that the Redskins and Marty had irreconcilable differences.”
Head coach: Steve Spurrier
Starting QB: Shane Matthews (3-4), Patrick Ramsey (2-3), Danny Wuerffel (2-2)
Key additions: Renaldo Wynn (free agent), Jeremiah Trotter (free agent), Ramsey (draft), Ladell Betts (draft)
Key departures: Kenard Lang
After rehiring Cerrato, Snyder took a big gamble on his next head coach, convincing Florida’s Spurrier to make the jump from college to the pros. Snyder “sold me by his passion and love of the team,” the Head Ball Coach said. A five-year, $25 million deal that made him the NFL’s highest-paid coach probably didn’t hurt.
With a roster featuring five former Florida quarterbacks and wide receivers in Spurrier’s first season, the “Gatorskins” went 4-1 while averaging more than 30 points per game in the preseason. The honeymoon lasted through Week 1, as Matthews passed for 327 yards and three touchdowns in a win over the Arizona Cardinals. The Redskins eclipsed 30 points in only one other game and missed the playoffs.
Head coach: Steve Spurrier
Starting QB: Patrick Ramsey (4-7), Tim Hasselbeck (1-4)
Key additions: Laveranues Coles (free agent), Trung Canidate (trade), Chad Morton (free agent)
Key departures: Darrell Green, Dan Wilkinson
Spurrier’s second season in Washington was worse than his first. Despite the addition of wide receiver Coles, the Redskins averaged only 17.9 points per game and, after starting the season 3-1, lost 10 of their final 12 games.
“Okay, we wound up 5-11,” Spurrier said at what would be his final news conference with Washington. “Not very good! But there was some worse than us. I guess that’s one positive way to look at it, we weren’t the worst team in the league.” Spurrier, who would later say he didn’t have the power to pick his own quarterback in Washington, resigned a week later, and Snyder began his search for the Redskins’ fifth head coach since he bought the team.
Starting QB: Patrick Ramsey (3-4), Mark Brunell (3-6)
Key additions: Clinton Portis (trade), Brunell (free agent), Sean Taylor (draft), Chris Cooley (draft)
Key departures: Champ Bailey, Bruce Smith
Snyder bought himself some goodwill with an increasingly disgruntled fan base by hiring Gibbs 11 years after the three-time Super Bowl champion retired. While Cerrato remained Washington’s VP of football operations, Gibbs was given final say over roster decisions.
“Joe Gibbs helped define what the Washington Redskins stand for — integrity, hard work, determination, winning and championships,” Snyder said. “Who better to set our strategy and lead the Redskins back to championship glory?"
The following month, the Redskins traded Bailey and a second-round pick to Denver for running back Portis. With Larry Michael calling the action from the Redskins’ radio broadcast booth after replacing fan favorite Frank Herzog, Portis ran for a 64-yard touchdown on his first carry — a rare highlight in a 6-10 year.
Starting QB: Mark Brunell (9-6), Patrick Ramsey (1-0)
Key additions: Santana Moss (trade), Carlos Rogers (draft), Jason Campbell (draft)
Key departures: Fred Smoot, Antonio Pierce, Laveranues Coles
The Redskins traded Coles to the New York Jets for Moss and drafted Rogers and Campbell in the first round during what was, by Snyder’s standards, a quiet offseason. Snyder added more seats to FedEx Field to increase its capacity to 91,704, the largest in the league.
After falling to 5-6 with an overtime loss to the San Diego Chargers at home in Week 12, the Redskins won five straight, including the regular season finale at the Philadelphia Eagles, to clinch a wild-card berth.
The Redskins defeated the Buccaneers in the first round of the playoffs but lost at the Seattle Seahawks a week later. Washington hasn’t won a playoff game since.
Starting QB: Mark Brunell (3-6), Jason Campbell (2-5)
Key additions: Brandon Lloyd (trade), Antwaan Randle El (free agent), Adam Archuleta (free agent), Andre Carter (free agent)
Key departures: LaVar Arrington
In hopes of improving the offense, the Redskins hired former Chiefs assistant Al Saunders to call plays from his 700-page playbook and acquired wide receivers Lloyd and Randle El. Meanwhile, Snyder expanded his portfolio with the purchase of three radio stations. “If The Washington Post were for sale, I’d buy it right now,” he said at the time. “I don’t buy companies at their peak. I sell them at their peak.”
During training camp, Brunell proclaimed that “anything short of going all the way would be a disappointment,” but Portis injured his shoulder in the preseason and was limited to eight games, safety Archuleta was a bust and Gregg Williams’s defense finished 27th in the league in scoring defense.
Starting QB: Jason Campbell (6-7), Todd Collins (3-0)
Key additions: London Fletcher (free agent), Fred Smoot (free agent), LaRon Landry (draft)
Key departures: Derrick Dockery
After Sean Taylor was murdered in his home in November, Snyder chartered a flight for players, coaches and other team employees to attend the Pro Bowl safety’s funeral. Washington lost an emotional game to the Buffalo Bills that week to fall to 5-7, at which point a playoff push seemed unlikely.
Journeyman Collins replaced an injured Campbell in the next game and led a comeback win. Washington wouldn’t lose again during the regular season and sneaked into the playoffs as a wild card. The surprising run ended with a first-round loss to the Seahawks, after which Gibbs retired for a second time.
Starting QB: Jason Campbell
Key additions: Jason Taylor (trade)
Key departures: Brandon Lloyd
The Redskins were set to hire former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel to replace Gibbs, but they reversed course in the wake of fan backlash and tapped quirky Seahawks quarterbacks coach Zorn for the job instead. While Zorn had no previous head coaching experience, the Redskins started 6-2 in his first season, including a Week 4 win over the Dallas Cowboys that ended with Snyder joining the postgame celebration inside the Texas Stadium locker room.
The good times of Zorn leading chants of “Hip hip hooray!” wouldn’t last, as Washington lost six of eight to end the season. During the team’s late-season slide, Portis went on a local radio station and openly mocked Zorn by saying, “We got a genius for a head coach.”
Starting QB: Jason Campbell
Key additions: Albert Haynesworth (free agent), Brian Orakpo (draft)
Key departures: Jon Jansen, Marcus Washington, Shawn Springs
The Redskins made a splash in free agency by signing defensive tackle Haynesworth to a seven-year deal with a maximum value of $115 million. “It’s a lot of money, but honestly, I put more pressure on myself than what the contract will do,” Haynesworth said. Pressure or not, Haynesworth was a flop.
Zorn’s days were numbered after the Redskins became the first team to lose to the Detroit Lions since December 2007 in Week 3, and late in the season, Snyder fired Cerrato and hired Bruce Allen as general manager.
Snyder, who was becoming increasingly unpopular with fans after a report that he had sued 125 season-ticket holders asking to be released from their multiyear contracts over the past five years, called his new GM, the son of former Redskins coaching legend George Allen, a “proven winner.”
Head coach: Mike Shanahan
Starting QB: Donovan McNabb (5-8), Rex Grossman (1-2)
Key additions: McNabb (trade), Trent Williams (draft)
Key departures: Jason Campbell, Chris Samuels, Antwaan Randle El, Fred Smoot
With Zorn gone, Snyder turned to a veteran coach with a proven track record by signing Shanahan to a five-year contract. When the Redskins traded for aging McNabb to replace Campbell three months later, Snyder cut short a family vacation to greet his new quarterback.
“It was necessary,” Snyder said of his team’s offseason changes at head coach, GM and quarterback. “We were 4-12 and going in the wrong direction. All of the changes are to get us going in the right direction. Obviously, the pedigree and the success of the people that I've brought in, you could tell we're going in the right direction."
McNabb was benched for Grossman in December after a three-game losing streak.
Head coach: Mike Shanahan
Starting QB: Rex Grossman (5-8), John Beck (0-3)
Key additions: O.J. Atogwe (free agent), Ryan Kerrigan (draft)
Key departures: Donovan McNabb, Carlos Rogers, Clinton Portis
McNabb lasted all of one ugly season in Washington and was shipped to the Minnesota Vikings for a late-round draft pick in July. The Redskins went into the season with Grossman and Beck as their quarterbacks. Predictably, that didn’t end well. Both had their turns as the starter during a miserable year. Shanahan preached patience, something Snyder hadn’t shown much of over the previous decade.
“Like I talked to him about when I first got here, I said, ‘Dan, if you don’t plan on me coaching here five years and doing it the right way, you’re hiring the wrong guy.’ ” Shanahan said at the end of his second season. “It’s going to take some time to do it right.”
Head coach: Mike Shanahan
Starting QB: Robert Griffin III (9-6), Kirk Cousins (1-0)
Key additions: Griffin (draft), Cousins (draft), Alfred Morris (draft), Pierre Garcon (free agent)
Key departures: Rocky McIntosh, LaRon Landry
At Snyder’s urging, Washington traded four draft picks, including three first-rounders, to the St. Louis Rams to move up to select Baylor’s Heisman Trophy-winning Griffin with the second overall pick in the 2012 draft. In a somewhat surprising move that would have major repercussions in the coming years, the Redskins took Michigan State’s Cousins in the fourth round.
Griffin won the starting job in training camp and led Washington to a surprising 40-32 win at the New Orleans Saints in his debut. The Redskins were 3-6 entering their bye week but won seven straight games to end the regular season, clinching the Redskins’ first division title since the first year Snyder owned the team. Griffin tore his ACL in Washington’s playoff loss to Seattle and has not been the same since then.
Head coach: Mike Shanahan
Starting QB: Robert Griffin III (3-10), Kirk Cousins (0-3)
Key additions: Jordan Reed (draft), Chris Thompson (draft)
Key departures: Lorenzo Alexander
In May, Snyder gave his most definitive answer to date about his franchise’s nickname. “We’ll never change the name,” Snyder told USA Today. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”
Meanwhile, a rehabbing Griffin was determined to be the Redskins’ starter in Week 1, and he was, but he failed to recreate his magical rookie year as defenses adapted to Washington’s zone-read option. With three games remaining in the regular season, Shanahan benched Griffin in favor of Cousins. After Washington finished 3-13, Shanahan got the ax with a year remaining on his contract. “Redskins fans deserve a better result,” Snyder said in a written statement.
Starting QB: Robert Griffin III (2-5), Kirk Cousins (1-4), Colt McCoy (1-3)
Key additions: Ryan Clark (free agent), Jason Hatcher (free agent), DeSean Jackson (free agent), Colt McCoy (free agent), Morgan Moses (draft)
Key departures: London Fletcher, Reed Doughty
Snyder signed former Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Gruden, who worked with Allen in Tampa Bay, to a five-year contract as head coach. Gruden expressed excitement about working with Griffin, who dislocated his ankle in Week 2 and struggled to develop as a drop-back passer upon his return.
Cousins and McCoy both saw action as the starting quarterback in Gruden’s first season, which ended with seven losses over Washington’s final eight games. Snyder didn’t speak at an end-of-season news conference, but Allen assured fans that the Redskins were “winning off the field.”
Starting QB: Kirk Cousins
Key additions: Terrance Knighton (free agent), Junior Galette (free agent), Brandon Scherff (draft), Preston Smith (draft)
Key departures: Brian Orakpo
In January, Snyder hired well-respected talent evaluator Scot McCloughan to serve as general manager. The move, which drew praise from fans and pundits alike, stripped Allen of his GM duties, though he remained team president.
Before Washington’s regular season opener, McCloughan and Gruden persuaded Snyder and Allen to bench Griffin in favor of Cousins, who rewrote several single-season franchise passing records while leading the Redskins to the NFC East title. The Redskins lost their wild-card playoff game to the Green Bay Packers at FedEx Field, where capacity had dipped to less than 82,000 following the removal of seats for the third time in five years.
Starting QB: Kirk Cousins
Key additions: Josh Norman (free agent), Vernon Davis (free agent)
Key departures: Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris
After several years of avoiding the “offseason champs” label by laying low in free agency, the Redskins signed Norman to a record contract after the Carolina Panthers rescinded their franchise tag on the young cornerback. Made with McCloughan’s blessing, the move wasn’t met with as much skepticism as it probably would’ve been in previous years.
Playing on the one-year franchise tag, Cousins put up big numbers for a second straight season. But a home loss to the New York Giants in the final game of the regular season prevented Washington from clinching a second straight playoff berth for the first time since 1992.
Starting QB: Kirk Cousins
Key additions: Zach Brown (free agent), Terrelle Pryor Sr. (free agent), D.J. Swearinger (free agent), Jonathan Allen (draft)
Key departures: DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon
In February, Cousins became the first quarterback to be franchise-tagged in consecutive years. The next month, a few days after giving Gruden a two-year contract extension in a signal of continuity, the Redskins fired McCloughan, with an official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, attributing the decision to the GM’s ongoing problems with alcohol.
On the field, Cousins struggled at times without wide receivers Jackson and Garcon, who departed via free agency. The Redskins ultimately couldn’t overcome 26 players being placed on injured reserve. Despite the disappointing season, Gruden became the first Redskins coach to be brought back for a fifth year under Snyder.
Starting QB: Alex Smith (6-4), Colt McCoy (0-2), Mark Sanchez (0-1), Josh Johnson (1-2)
Key additions: Alex Smith (trade), Adrian Peterson (free agent), Paul Richardson Jr. (free agent)
Key departures: Kendall Fuller, Kirk Cousins
During Super Bowl week, the Redskins traded for Kansas City veteran Smith, which allowed them to let Cousins walk in free agency. In May, Snyder hired Brian Lafemina from the league office to head business operations, and one of his first moves was acknowledging that the team’s season-ticket waiting list no longer existed. The Redskins drew 57,013 fans for their Week 2 game against the Indianapolis Colts, the smallest crowd for a home opener in FedEx Field’s 21-year history.
Washington got off to a 6-4 start before Smith broke his leg in a loss to the Houston Texans. McCoy, Sanchez and Johnson would all start games before another injury-marred season ended without a playoff berth. Snyder got rid of Lafemina and his key lieutenants before the year was over.