The 2000 Redskins: The first super team that wasn’t
By Kyle Hundley
Redskins 1999 season
After Redskins’ longtime owner Jack Kent Cooke died in 1997, the ownership status of the team was up in the air for a while. Dan Snyder eventually purchased the team shortly after the draft in 1999. Snyder, who made his money in communications, was just 34 when he bought the team.
One of the first things Snyder did was keep Norv Turner on. Things had not gone quite as they hoped for when they originally hired him, but there was hope that they were heading in the right direction.
The 1999 NFL Draft provided the opportunity to build a foundation that would last for years to come. The Redskins picked at No. 5 and No. 11, and general manager Charlie Casserly coveted Champ Bailey, the shutdown cornerback out of Georgia. New Orleans Saints head coach Mike Ditka liked Texas running back Ricky Williams, a lot, and was willing to do whatever it took to get him. After the Indianapolis Colts picked running back Edgerrin James at No. 4, over Williams, Casserly pulled off arguably the most lopsided trade in NFL history, when he traded their No. 5 pick for every Saints’ pick in that draft, plus a first-round and third-rounder the next year.
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Casserly had just committed a highway robbery. It might have been the second one he performed, as he turned disgruntled defensive tackle Sean Gilbert into two first-round picks from the Carolina Panthers a year prior. He then traded back up to No. 7 to acquire the coveted Bailey, then traded the team’s No. 11 pick for Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson. The Redskins now had a franchise quarterback and a real shutdown cornerback, arguably the two most important positions in football. They also drafted Jon Jansen to help upgrade the offensive line.
Not long after Snyder purchased the team, however, Casserly resigned as general manager, and Vinny Cerrato was promoted to fill the void he left. Cerrato had been with San Francisco the previous eight years and helped build a championship roster in 1994 with them. With a proven track record, he appeared to be a good hire. He also starred in Kindergarten Ninja, so what could go wrong?
With a solid draft and a lot of talent returning on a team that underachieved the last couple years by going 8-7-1 in 1997 and 6-10 a year before, they were poised to make some real noise again.
The 1999 season was a memorable one for Redskins fans, as they won their first division title since Joe Gibbs retired, going 10-6. Upon winning the division, they hosted the Detroit Lions in the wildcard round. In front of the home fans at FedExField, the Redskins got out to a 27-0 lead by halftime before winning 27-13. The score might have been even more lopsided, had a missed Brett Conway field goal not been returned 94-yards for a touchdown.
With all the excitement from the week prior, the following week brought a crushing end to the season for Washington. In the divisional round against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Redskins got out to a 13-0 lead. They eventually fell behind, but had a chance to win and go to the NFC Championship. However, the hold on the game-winning field goal attempt was botched, and the Redskins lost 14-13.
The 1999 season seemed like just the beginning, as Casserly had put into place what appeared to be an excellent foundation before he left, and Washington had three first-round picks in the upcoming draft, one of them being the second overall selection. When was the last time you remember a division winner having three first round picks? They had the ammunition to put a team that was close over the top.