Griffin isn't the first athlete expected to resurrect D.C. sports in the last two decades. Since 1991, when the Redskins won Super Bowl XXVI, a revolving door of supposed saviors has come and gone—and mostly left the city the worse for it.
The five-time All-Star signed a $65 million free-agent deal with the Orioles in 1999, making him MLB's highest-paid player. He lasted only two years of his five-year contract—the O's finished fourth in the AL East both seasons—before retiring with a degenerative hip. Owner Peter Angelos shelled out $11.7 million to cover the final three years; an insurance policy paid $27.3 million.
The six-time world champ bought into the Wizards' ownership group in January 2000, and two years later he decided to lace up again. But his Airness never took flight, averaging 21.5 points in two seasons, well below his 30.1 career average, and failing to make the playoffs—the only two times he missed them in his career.
BRUCE SMITH, DEION SANDERS
In 2000, Daniel Snyder's first year as owner, the Redskins bet the house (combined: $79 million over 12 years) that the aging duo (combined: 68) could save their D. Neither one saw out his contract. Prime Time retired in '01, earning $410,725 per pick, and in four seasons Smith only once had double-digit sacks. Neither reached the postseason as a Skin.
In 2000--01, the 29-year-old scored an NHL-high 121 points for the Penguins, winning his fourth Art Ross Trophy. But he forced his way out of town and, after a trade to the Capitals, inked what was then the NHL's biggest contract: seven years, $77 million. In three seasons he won two playoff games and never scored more than 79 points.
In 2001, before the Wiz made him the first high school player to be taken No. 1, the 6'11" Brown promised coach Doug Collins, "If you draft me, you'll never regret it." Jordan, the team prez, took the bait, but Brown's magic was all sleight of hand. He averaged 7.5 points in four years, during which the team's winning percentage was .439.
The Redskins lured away college football's most wanted coach in 2003, betting $25 million over five years that the Fun 'n' Gun offense he had used to bring a national title to Florida would work in the NFL. Instead, the Ol' Ball Coach resigned after going 12--20 in two seasons.
Hyped as the next Pelé, the 14-year-old Maryland native signed in 2004 with D.C. United (who'd made him the top pick in the draft), even though Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester United had pursued him. Adu never became a full-time starter, in part because of a perceived attitude problem, and after three years was traded to Real Salt Lake.
JOE GIZA/REUTERS (BELLE)
MARK J. TERRILL/AP (JORDAN)
ALLEN KEE/WIREIMAGE.COM (SMITH)
TOM MIHALEK/AFP (SANDERS)
MITCHELL LAYTON/NHLI/GETTY IMAGE (JAGR)
LISA BLUMENFELD/AFP/GETTY IMAGES (BROWN)
GRANT HALVERSON/GETTY IMAGES (SPURRIER)
TONY QUINN/WIREIMAGE.COM (ADU)