While we are currently enjoying a thin ray of QB sunshine in Washington, DC, by and large, the nation’s capital has been a well-provisioned quarterback graveyard over the past 20 plus years. In fact, things have been so bad, that the above description is narrowly just a metaphor.
With ten coaches over two decades, there’s been plenty of turmoil. There have been defensive-minded coaches, offensive wizzes, a Hall of Famer, and multiple guys who never should have gotten the opportunity they did. But, through it all, there has been one constant, the team’s owner, Dan Snyder, and his perpetual meddling, undermining the team’s success at nearly every turn, at the sports’ most important position.
On the occasion of his favorite holiday, we’re going to take a trip down memory lane. Happy Thanksgiving, Washington fans!
— WASHINGTON FOOTBALL (@HogsHaven) January 3, 2020
Since 2000, the Washington Football teams have fielded 23 different QBs, some for only a game, others for several seasons. Throughout it all, the owner has screwed things up, starting from the beginning.
2000-2001 – Jeff George
With future Super Bowl winner, Brad Johnson, on the roster, Snyder took it upon himself to undermine his first full-time, head coaching hire, Marty Schottenheimer before even bringing him aboard:
At the 2000 NFL owners’ meetings, 35-year-old neophyte Dan Snyder was excited to run into Leigh Steinberg, then the NFL’s most prominent agent. Steinberg was seeking a new deal for journeyman quarterback Jeff George. “We’re interested,” Snyder told the agent at the time, according to Steinberg.
Steinberg was perplexed. Washington already had a starter in Pro Bowler Brad Johnson, who had led the team to a playoff berth and first-round victory the previous season. Still, Snyder—while never telling then-coach Norv Turner of his plans, according to Steinberg—persisted. Within weeks, George had signed a four-year, $18.25-million deal at age 32.
George would be a high-profile backup for one full season before his career ended and he became one of the most prominent free-agent busts in league history. Johnson left for Tampa Bay via free agency and would lead the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory—something our city hasn’t come close to since winning in 1992.
2002-2005 – Patrick Ramsey
After Marty Schottenheimer was quickly shown the door, Snyder hired the “Old Ball Coach,” Steve Spurrier, and promptly set about undermining him as well, taking Patrick Ramsey in the first round of the 2002 draft:
“I did a lousy job,” Spurrier told the Washington Post. “The G.M. did a lousy job. He happened to be the owner, so who needed to go?”
Spurrier disagreed with Snyder who “picked the quarterback” in reference to Patrick Ramsey. Ramsey completed 52.5 percent of his passes for 3,705 yards, 23 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in his two seasons under Spurrier. Ramsey played four seasons in Washington and went 10-14 as the team’s starter.
2010 – Donovan McNabb
Not even Super Bowl winning coach Mike Shanahan was immune from the whims of the dimwitted owner, drunk on a misplaced confidence in his own football acumen:
In an interview with ESPN 980’s The Sports Fix, Shanahan said the team had targeted potential free agent Marc Bulger of the St. Louis Rams during the 2010 offseason, and that the Redskins “thought that was gonna be a done deal.” Shanahan said he later talked about McNabb with both Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen, “and they knew the direction that I wanted to go,” but that it became less clear whether Bulger would actually be available. (Bulger wound up being released by the Rams the day after the Redskins acquired McNabb.)
“Didn’t want to give up the draft choices, but we wound up doing that,” Shanahan said. “And the decision was made, and I think mainly from Dan. Even though Bruce orchestrated the trade. I think Dan was the guy that really wanted Donovan the most.”
Then Kevin Sheehan asked Shanahan if he was okay with the parameters of that deal, including the draft picks given up and the salary owed McNabb.
“No, I wasn’t happy with that at all, to be honest with you,” Shanahan said. “But at that time, when they did make the decision to go with Donovan, Bruce had the leeway to orchestrate the deal, and I think he knew how much Dan wanted Donovan. And even though I wasn’t in favor of giving up any draft choices, once we got him, you know, you’ve got to try to make it work. And any time you give up a second or a third or a fourth, you want to make sure he’s going to be on your football team long term.”
2012-??? – Robert Griffin III
Not content to override Shanahan just a single time, Snyder swooped in again, two years later, to poison his well once and for all:
In that same feature on ESPN’s The Undefeated, former Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan revealed his opposition to the franchise trading a bevy of picks to the St. Louis Rams for the opportunity to draft Griffin second overall in 2012.
“[Redskins owner Dan Snyder] knew I wasn’t very happy about what we did, but he wanted everybody to celebrate how smart we were, so we jumped on his plane and met the other owners on his yacht,” Shanahan said. “Everyone was celebrating. I just didn’t think it was very smart to give up that much for a guy who we didn’t even know if he could drop back and throw.
“When I finally sat down with Dan, I said, ‘Hey, you own the team. We can work with him and do some things. But we haven’t seen anything on tape that warrants giving [up] this type of compensation.’ To me, it was absolutely crazy. But I told Dan that if that’s what he wanted to do, I’d make it work.”
The selection of RG3 was not only a singular failure. The loss of several high draft picks, and a stubborn commitment to trying to make RG3 work, crippled the organization for years after the initial move.
To add insult to injury, it came out years later that RG3 had major character red flags, and that the team – read “the owner” – knew about it and ignored them:
A recent very high draft pick was dinged by his college teammates. Check that. They flat-out hated him. They refused to attend his private workouts, for heaven’s sake. But the team that drafted him chose to ignore all that, and today most of the teammates he’s had feel exactly the same way his college teammates did. Trust me, injuries are not the only reason Robert Griffin III has had such a hard time finding a job.
2017 – Kirk Cousins
Cousins was drafted by the Shanahan’s the same year Washington took RG3 (2012), with a 4th round pick, too measly to draw the owner’s interest:
“We have to have depth to win,” said Shanahan, via Rapid Reporter John Keim. “Hopefully [an injury to Griffin] doesn’t happen but you want to be prepared. I thought it was a steal for us at that position.”
Of course, Cousins ended up being the far better QB selection in that draft, but when the time came to retain the young, homegrown QB – long after the Shanahan’s had left, and Kyle had gone onto greener pastures – the owner blew this QB’s departure as well:
“I don’t know exactly what we could have gotten, but I know it would have been more than just one No. 1 pick,” Gruden said on “The Kevin Sheehan Show” on Saturday. “I would imagine we could have got their No. 1 for at least two years, and maybe a couple No. 2s, in my opinion. You’re talking about a $100 million quarterback, you know. You’re talking about the starting quarterback for your franchise for the next five or 10 years, and obviously that’s what some teams were looking for.”
“Obviously, dealing with the Shanahans was something that they did not want to do,” Gruden added. “I don’t think they [Snyder and Allen] could stomach having Kirk Cousins be successful for Kyle Shanahan. I think that was probably, in my opinion, that’s probably why they didn’t want to do it with San Francisco. And I think there was still some hope that we could re-sign him.”
2019-2020 – Dwayne Haskins
Lest anyone think that the owner had reformed his meddling ways, shortly after the 2019 draft rumors began to leak out about Haskins being Snyder’s pick. As Dwayne melted down, and nearly everyone associated with the team in 2019 was purged, the sordid truth came out:
According to a new report from 106.7 The Fan’ Sports Illustrated’s Chris Russell, not only did the majority of the front office disagree with the idea of the franchise selecting Haskins, but Kyle Smith — then the director of college scouting and now the vice president of player personnel – vehemently opposed the idea of taking the OSU standout and pleaded his case for Washington to draft one of three other players.
What’s more is, Smith apparently waited and waited as the clock and picks started to inch closer to Washington’s choice … and then he started to take some command of the room.
Smith started to ask questions on what the choice was going to be. Sources described to us a tense silence. Smith asked the room specifically: Is the organization really thinking of taking Haskins?
At that point, one voice chimed in. It was the owner’s voice, confirming that Haskins was going to be the choice.
After the selection was made and Haskins was announced as the draft choice, Smith continued on.
“More silence ensued in the moments around the pick and with the pick made, Smith pushed himself up from the table and unloaded on the room – a speech that was described as “fiery and passionate’’ about the pick and how much he disagreed with the selection,” according to Russell.
Head Coach Jay Gruden didn’t want Haskins either.
On Thanksgiving, a day of reflection, we have a lot to be thankful for, but surely, this team’s odious owner is not one of those things. It’s important to remember the damage he’s done to this franchise both on and off the field and to occasionally memorialize his misdeeds. Happy Thanksgiving!