When it comes to fan affection, the men’s reputations fall wide apart on the spectrum. But the two have developed a close friendship that might surprise fans. They share a lot more than their professional connection to the Redskins. Over the years, the companionship has spilled over into charity work and mentorship.
Joe Gibbs was coaching the Redskins before Daniel Snyder even dreamed he would one day become a team owner. Snyder has been a loyal fan since childhood, with roots in the Washington area. When Gibbs became the coach in 1981, he was relatively unknown in the industry. All of that changed rapidly as he propelled the team into success on the field. Under his leadership they brought home three Superbowl championships, earning the coach a huge amount of love and respect from Washington fans, a younger Snyder included.
The two first met in 1999, through Joe Gibbs’ organization called Youth for Tomorrow. Joe was holding a fundraising event at a group home for at-risk teens. He formed the institution in 1986. Snyder had recently gained a huge amount of wealth from the success of his marketing communications company. Rumors of his interest in the Redskins were starting to spread. He and his wife, Tanya, had already begun contributing their new money into various charitable causes. Most of the fundraiser attendees gave around $10,000. But Snyder showed up ready to make a sizeable donation of $25,000. Perhaps it was a move to show gratitude for everything Gibbs accomplished with his favorite team. Either way, it definitely put Snyder on Gibbs’ radar, landing him a meeting with the former coach. His donation was the first of many, and the two began to get to know each other better. Coach Gibbs said of Snyder, “I would see him with his wife and children and his mom. I saw how close he was to everybody. He was a family man. That’s how I got to know him.”
Soon after, Daniel Snyder’s goal of owning the Redskins was finalized in a record-shattering $750 million dollar sale. He began focusing on the charity foundation work early on in his NFL career. Snyder looked into what other teams were doing but he was not impressed. After witnessing Joe Gibb’s fundraising efforts, Dan was inspired to do more. Instead, used his business expertise and Gibb’s influence to come up with a better idea. Thus, the Leadership Council was born. For $10,000 various business leaders and executives could become members. Membership came with perks any fan would love. Council members got to spend a full day at the team’s training camp and get an exclusive behind the scenes experience. The club soon generated around $250,000 each year, which Snyder matched personally.
After Joe Gibbs left the NFL, he ventured on to NASCAR. Just like he did with football, he became a winning powerhouse in the racing sport. The man, which everyone still refers to as “Coach”, led his team members to win five NASCAR Xfinity Series titles. His motivational style has pushed drivers like Bobby Labonte, Kyle Busch, and Tony Stewart to win big with premier series titles. He was recently inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
When Dale Earnhardt Jr. left Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2007, everyone was leaping at the chance of signing him. It was presumed that any driver would sign with Gibbs without second-guessing it- but when it came to Dale Earnhardt Jr., Gibbs had to call on Snyder for help. Knowing that Dale Jr. was a Redskin’s fan, Snyder invited both men out to his personal home, in an effort to facilitate the deal. Gibbs offered him a huge contract, reminiscent of Snyder’s expensive run for the Redskins. Ultimately Dale Jr. did not accept the offer, but the friendly gesture was not forgotten. Gibbs recently returned the favor by successfully convincing Coach Ron Rivera to join Snyder’s team- a move that has sparked hope for Washington fans. Gibbs stated, “I felt like I could tell Ron what it was like. I tried to do that because I felt like it was really important for him.”
Since Snyder’s early days of ownership, he expressed his interest in bringing back the team’s beloved Coach Gibbs. “My dad really loved him,” Snyder was quoted saying back in 2003. At first, Gibbs dismissed the idea of returning to the NFL. He was already involved financially in other aspects of the organization. But somehow Snyder persuaded him to come on as Coach- which he did from 2004-2007. During those four years of working together, the friendship strengthened. Gibbs has publicly expressed his appreciation for Snyder, saying, “Dan and I are real friends … And he was so good to me in the four years I was there, so good to my family. He continued, “That develops a real relationship because you go through the highs and the lows and all the things that go on for a coach and an owner.”
While Gibbs remains a symbol of Washington Redskin’s golden era, fans do not hold the same sentiments for Snyder’s reign. But with a friendship that spans decades, the mutual support they have shown each other brings credit to Snyder’s character and under-recognized potential for growth. At a turning point for the Washington Football team, fans can hope that Snyder will continue to lean into the counsel of his esteemed confidant, the beloved Coach Gibbs.