SNIDER: 30 years later, Washington's titles are a fading memory


A third Super Bowl championship in nine years sealed Washington as a dynasty. But 30 years since the final victory in Minneapolis, talk of titles seems almost a lost fable to current fans.

What happened to the former Redskins-turned-Football Team-turned-something new on Feb. 2? The demise started long before owner Dan Snyder’s arrival, though he continued its demise.

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Coach Joe Gibbs' sudden retirement in March 1993 was the first crippling blow. Twelve years of 100-hour weeks left Gibbs too exhausted to continue and frankly, there were no more goals aside from adding to a great career. But, leaving in March allowed defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon and staff to take over for one year with more severance to come. It was a golden parachute to coaches who built the team, but an anchor to reviving the franchise.

By coach Norv Turner’s 1994 arrival, the roster was old. The Hogs were done. So were stars like Mark Rypien, Art Monk and Charles Mann. Suddenly, it was a rebuild with Turner going 3-13 just three seasons after a title.

Two things continued the malaise – the team didn’t handle free agency well with poor signings and Jack Kent Cooke died in 1997. The latter left the team in limbo for two seasons before being sold to Snyder in June 1999.

Snyder’s biggest mistake was thinking he bought a marketing company to be exploited rather than a football team. Twenty-two years later, I’m still not sure he understands that.

Snyder’s early years were spent overpaying aging stars that often played poorly. At times, it seemed players were an inconvenience in the building and barred from the upper level of Redskins Park aside from meeting rooms.

Snyder made the same mistake many owners did when buying a team. The rich guys thought they understood football after playing or watching it. Instead, it was like a chemistry teacher buying Dow Chemical and taking over the lab. Things went boom.

That Snyder lacked patience doomed the franchise to turnover and chaos for two decades. Finally, he has shown patience with the last three hires. Too bad two weren’t good ones. Neither were past general managers Vinny Cerrato and Bruce Allen, who made things worse.

Finally, attendance was down to 40,000 per game last season with visiting fans comprising at least half. That’s one-fourth of 14 years ago. Thirty years has shed the older fan base with the younger ones no longer caring about glory days. They want enhanced experiences that begin with winning and require a new stadium with pricey perks.

Now a new name is days away, cooler uniforms will be marketed and Snyder is once more trying to sell, sell, sell. Meanwhile, the team is still nowhere close to a playoff contender. The past 30 years was a collection of problems and they're still no closer to adding a fourth Lombardi Trophy.

It feels like forever.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks.

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