The black cloud draped over the Commanders’ recent success

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 30: Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder before the game between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles at FedExField on December 30, 2018 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 30: Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder before the game between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles at FedExField on December 30, 2018 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

Who here remembers “The Adventures of Gulliver?” The animated cartoon series ran for one glorious season back in 1968, and then in various syndicated guises for years afterward. And it gave us the iconic character of Glum – a pint-sized Lilliputian with a monotone drone who was forever undercutting his colleagues’ plans with his famous quote “It’ll never work. We’re dooooooomed.” Imagine Eeyore on Lorazepam and you’ve got Glum. Forgive me for playing Glum in this morning’s thoughts about the future of the Washington Commanders.

The current streak of success – 6-1-1 over the last eight games and in playoff contention – makes it less likely that Daniel Snyder will sell a controlling interest in the team by next season.

There I said it. I didn’t want to say, but I did. Sorry for peeing in your punch bowl.

Truth is, I had this thought a few weeks ago. But I wanted to wait until the bye week to see where things stood. And I decided that if the Commanders lost to the Giants, I wouldn’t have to write it because the central premise would be moot. And if the Commanders won, I decided I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to write such a sad story in the wake of so much joy.

And then they tied.

They freaking tied, and if that isn’t a sign of joyous interruptus, I don’t what is. That’s almost as if George Preston Marshall is looking down from above (or up from below) and laughing his ass off.

So here’s the idea, spelled out a little more fully…

Dan Snyder is the black cloud

When news broke a month ago that Daniel Snyder had engaged representatives to explore a potential sale, the floodgates opened.  Within a few days, a narrative had developed that the Commanders would be under new ownership by the end of 2023. I guarantee you that 98% percent of anything you read on that topic was written by people (like me) with zero inside knowledge of Snyder’s thinking or the state of any legal or business proceedings that might be influencing his decisions. A much hoped-for possibility had gotten some oxygen and we were all going to run with it as far and as fast as we could.

It is entirely possible that Daniel and Tanya Snyder have decided that they no longer wish to be owners of the Washington Commanders and that a sale is in the works. I personally do not believe that to be the case, but I obviously don’t know.

I think it is far more likely that Snyder is looking to re-create the structure he had in place when Fred Smith, Robert Rothman, and Dwight Schar owned minority stakes in the franchise. Snyder acquired the 40% interest owned by those three men in April, 2021, after some ugly public in-fighting.

The primary reason, aside from death, that an NFL team is sold is financial trouble on the part of the owner. Snyder could be looking at some hefty legal expenses and liability in myriad upcoming lawsuits and investigations. Selling the team might alleviate some of that pressure and it would certainly give him a huge pile of money to use to fight and/or settle legal issues.

However, selling a sizable minority interest achieves the same goal without relinquishing the team.

Up until now, one of the counters to this line of reasoning has been to point out that no one would want to buy into a Dan Snyder-owned property. But I suspect that those concerns become relatively less important when the team is on a playoff run with folk heroes like Taylor Heinicke and Brian Robinson making national news. Suddenly, the narrative flips from being a dysfunctional franchise with a leper for an owner to a feel-good story of resurrection.

With each win, the focus, and therefore the pressure, shifts away from Dan Snyder. As Terry McLaurin and Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne achieve more and more richly deserved attention beyond the DMV, the think pieces about potential owners dwindle.

I am not saying “Snyder is selling” is done. There could be serious negotiations going on as we speak. But the cancerous lining of this otherwise beautiful story is that recent success may be convincing Daniel Snyder and potential minority stakeholders in this team that owning the Washington Commanders is a lot of fun. He may be thinking that he can weather the current storm and salvage the tiny grain of respectability required of NFL owners.

If only he had Glum in his office, whispering in his ears. “It’ll never work, Danny. If you remain, we’re all doomed.”

Snyder burning bridges (hopefully) on his way out of DC. dark. Next