Be careful what you wish for – you just might get it. Fortunately, some Bears fans didn’t get their wish.
About this time 20 years ago, Daniel Snyder was taking over as owner of the Washington Redskins. This came several months after then-Chairman Michael McCaskey had made the Bears an NFL laughingstock with the cataclysmic mishandling of hiring Dave McGinnis as head coach (and no, the real story had nothing to do with that premature press release). McCaskey was “demoted” to chairman only and Ted Phillips succeeded him as president.
The two events occasioned some intense civic longing for “an owner like Snyder,” who breezed in and began throwing money around at major free-agency names while Chicago was mucking about after the McGinnis fiasco for several years, making multiple mistakes in free agency and living down to their rep of operating on the cheap.
But those laments of “Chicago needs an owner like Dan Snyder?” Really?
Washington’s record for the Snyder era is 139-182-1, and that includes a 10-6 mark in 1999 when Snyder took over the team after free agency and the draft were already behind them. The Bears during these same 20 years were slightly better – 156-166 – but have authored nothing close to the organizational humiliations wrought by Snyder on Washington.
Those include suing season ticketholders who couldn’t come up with funds during the 2008-09 recession, despite Snyder claiming to have a waiting list of more than 200,000; creating a firestorm around use of “Redskins,” just to cite a couple.
The Bears could feature Virginia McCaskey as the centerpiece of their 100th anniversary fan lovefest. Washington didn’t come into existence until 1932, and then as the Boston Braves (that at least explains the “Redskins” thing a little). But whenever the franchise turns 100, Daniel Snyder may not get an invite.
Both the Bears and Redskins have made the postseason five times over the past 20 years. But Washington has never advanced beyond the divisional round while the Bears at least reached a conference championship (2010) and a Super Bowl (2006).
Matt Nagy is the Bears’ fifth coach since 1999. Jay Gruden is Washington’s eighth. Snyder fired Marty Schottenheimer after one year and Steve Spurrier and Jim Zorn after two years each.
But the allure for some of BearNation was Snyder’s apparent willingness to spend money. The phrase “false god” comes to mind, however, with Snyder missteps having ripple effects in the salary-cap era that the Bears have mercifully avoided.
Snyder signed Deion Sanders in 2000 for $55 million and got one season and four interceptions out of Prime Time, who then retired. Not stopping there, Snyder then signed Jeff George for $19 million over years, which shortened to two after George went 1-7 in his Washington starts.
Continuing in 2000 to binge on big-name, near-the-end veterans, Snyder gave defensive end Bruce Smith a five-year deal topping out at $23 million. Smith, well past his Buffalo Bills prime, was gone in three years.
Snyder’s big strike (in more ways than one) was defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth, signed in 2009 to a seven-year, $100 million contract, with Snyder guaranteeing $41 million. Washington got two years, 20 games, 53 tackles and 6.5 sacks from Haynesworth for the money.
Snyder also lavished capital on safety Adam Archuleta and receiver Brandon Lloyd, but Chicago can’t scoff too hard at those since both became Bears for one years after their abysmal (but brief) stops in Washington.
The capstone – there were so many, both on- and off-field – may have something to do with Snyder essentially empowering quarterback Robert Griffin III in situations with head coach Mike Shanahan, which led to egomania for RGIII and an exit for Shanahan after going from a wild card appearance to last place in Shanahan’s two years with Griffin.
Washington may upset the Bears this weekend. But the good news is that come Tuesday, Daniel Snyder will still be in Washington, not Chicago.