Only Dan Snyder can ruin what the Washington Football Team has going right now.
Take a picture, Washington Football Team fans. Timestamp this moment when the future looks bright for the Burgundy and Gold, so you’ll remember that if they go south from here, there’s only one person to blame.
For 20+ years, WFT fans have experienced long stretches of embarrassing futility with the occasional flash of momentary success. The second half of the 2020 season was another such high point. The difference is, this is the first time they have been positioned to build on that success going into the following season.
The division championship in 2015 came on the back of a quarterback who got hot and a tight end who reached the pinnacle of his career. But the defense was terrible, and the Team President, General Manager, and head coach were prepared to play contract hardball with the quarterback to the detriment of the entire team.
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The division championship in 2012 came on the back of two sensational rookies and a revolutionary offensive system designed by a coaching staff that would be shortly undermined by the quarterback they had made a star. And that quarterback finished the year with a mangled knee, never to be the same again, while the damage he inflicted on his head coach’s legacy was equally lasting.
The playoff runs in 1999, 2005, and 2007 were largely built on the backs of aging stars with unsustainable contracts and led to a variety of misguided attempts to prop open a window for sustained success that simply wasn’t there.
The common thread through each of those previous five playoff-producing seasons was the presence of an incompetent and disjointed front office intermittently enabled by and meddled with by one of the worst owners in professional sports. Couple that with a toxic culture, highlighted by numerous sexual harassment allegations, and it’s not surprising that sustained success never came to fruition in Washington.
All fan bases experience a degree of offseason optimism, but Washington fans have never had a reason for optimism in the immediate aftermath of a season under Daniel Snyder’s ownership. Until now.
Ron Rivera, Kyle Smith, and Jason Wright appear to have turned over a new leaf in Washington. For the first time this millennium, the franchise enters the offseason with a young, solid defensive core, a quality track record of talent evaluation, a stable coaching staff, an improving business, marketing, and PR reputation, a bunch of cap space, and a full complement of draft picks.
The quarterback situation is no worse than any offseason since 1992 and is much better if you consider how cheaply the team could have both Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen on their books.
Clearly, that combination is not among the upper echelon of QB rooms in the league, but it’s a pair of quality bridge quarterbacks that would, at worst, give this team a chance to win if the roster improves and a better QB doesn’t become available to them this offseason.
Everything turned around in one season in Washington. The future looks bright for this franchise for the first time in over two decades. They are even relatively healthy heading into the offseason for the first time I can remember.
Remember this moment. Enjoy this feeling. Take a picture and frame it. Because if things go sideways or downhill from here, there will be one person, one common denominator with past failures to blame for dashing hopes again.
Everything else has been swapped out. Everyone else is on the same page. The Washington Football Team is on the right track. The train is heading in the right direction. And only Daniel Snyder can derail them. His past failures could catch up to him and cost the team dearly. And his future choices could do the same.
Only time will tell if Snyder’s signature style of self-inflicted sabotage will once again turn hope to despair in Washington. But make no mistake. If Rivera and Wright manage to keep Snyder at bay, the sky’s the limit for this franchise. And it’s been a long time since that was the case.