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Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024
The Observer

Hoonhout: D.C.’s sports failures start with ownership

Well surprise, surprise, another Washington D.C. sports team shot itself in the foot.

When I first saw the breaking news of the Redskins trading for Alex Smith and simultaneously ending the Kirk Cousins era in Washington, I laughed.

Decide to move on from your longest tenured quarterback since 1991 for a guy four years older and marginally better? Sounds like a Washington move.

After all, Smith isn’t the first 33-year-old quarterback the Redskins have ever traded for (shout out to Donovan McNabb). But also sending a third-round pick and up-and-coming corner Kendall Fuller as well? Must be a Dan Snyder idea.

Growing up in D.C., you get used to be getting let down by the hometown ball clubs. It makes fans wary, but at this point, I have to admit I’m not surprised in the slightest. The Redskins have struggled tremendously to get back to the glory days of old. In 19 seasons under Synder, they have yet to win a Super Bowl, haven’t even made it to the NFC championship game and have a 132-171-1 record. So what is Dan’s solution? Every couple years, just shake things up with a new coach or quarterback.

Look how well that’s worked.

Sure, I understand the NFL is a business where people need to deliver results in order to keep a job — coaches and quarterbacks for Washington haven’t done that. But Synder’s overreach and insistence on micromanaging his team has been a downright disaster. The Redskins haven’t been a team to shy away from the bold move, but it has yet to pay off.

Remember Robert Griffin III? Synder basically mortgaged his team’s future on the fact that this quarterback would be the answer when he traded up to draft him and, for one spectacular year, it looked like he had actually made a good move. But then Griffin got cocky, because Synder had handed him the keys to the kingdom. From there, it all came tumbling down.

When I think of the failings of my hometown sports teams, I can’t help but wonder if there is a real problem, because the runaway train doesn’t stop with the Redskins.

While the Capitals, Wizards and Nationals unquestionably have had more regular season success than Dan Snyder’s team, there still seems to be a unanswerable lack of postseason success. Just take a look at Ted Leonsis’ teams in the capital.

The Capitals have arguably the most talented player in the NHL in Alex Ovechkin. The forward is one of three players in NHL history to score 30 or more goals in each of his first 13 seasons, and is also among the elite number of those still actively playing with 500 goals and 500 assists. They’ve been a consistent playoff team over his career and yet they have yet to make a conference final.

The Wizards, with four top-10 picks since 2010, have certainly had opportunities to build a future. Now, I don’t doubt the difficulties of drafting successfully in the NBA, and the Wizards have seemingly made solid decisions with a corps of John Wall (No. 1 overall), Bradley Beal and Otto Porter (both No. 3 overall). But the recent exorbitant contracts the team has given all three has certainly left the future in doubt, and with no team yet to challenge LeBron for the title of the Eastern conference, I wonder if the front office has been concerned more with playing it safe and being content with simply making the playoffs than actually going all in and trying to get a shot at a championship.

Even the Nationals, who have been the perennial NL East powers behind the efforts of homegrown stars like Bryce Harper and Steven Strasburg, have yet to even win a playoff series in their brief but bright career.

There seems to be an issue in Washington. Like my colleague Tom Naatz, who also made the case last semester of the problems with Washington sports, I can’t help but wonder if the 25-plus year drought is simply a curse.

But with moves like the Smith trade?

I think Washington fans can start with holding ownership accountable.