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Washington Redskins: Capital Success

The Washington Redskins are an NFL franchise that laid the groundwork for pro football in the nation's capital and made it work.

The Redskins reached out to a southern fan base, and through early successes, gained endearing support. That support has lasted through the years, and now the Redskins are among the most valuable NFL franchises.

Through 2019, the Redskins had made 24 playoff appearances, captured 14 division titles and six conference championships and won five NFL Championships covering the pre- and post-Super Bowl eras.

Redskins History

Owner George Preston Marshall brought the Redskins to Washington, D.C., after five mostly unsuccessful seasons as the Boston Braves and later, Redskins.

During those early years, the Redskins signed quarterback Sammy Baugh who is credited with helping revolutionize the game by deploying the forward pass. They also had halfback Cliff Battles, who led the league in rushing in his rookie year.

Those teams won six NFL East titles, two NFL Championships and struck up a fierce rivalry with the Chicago Bears. The Redskins and Bears met four times in the NFL title game during the late 1930s and early '40s.

With the successes in Washington, it wasn't long before early-morning trains were loading up on game day in North Carolina as well Virginia, full of fans ready to buy tickets to Redskins games.

The team shared Griffith Stadium with the Washington Senators baseball team in those days. It would be their home until 1960.

Down Years

But after the 8-2 season in 1945 under Coach Dudley DeGroot, the team went into a slump of more than two decades without a postseason appearance.

During those years, a number of changes were made, including Marshall working a deal in 1950 to make Washington the first NFL team to have an entire season of televised games. In 1961, the Redskins moved into their new stadium, called D.C. Stadium.

And in the early 1960s, the team collected a number of players who would be influential for years to come.  Running back Ernie Davis, wide receiver Charley Taylor, tight end Jerry Smith, safety Paul Krause, center Len Hauss, and linebacker Chris Hanburger were all added during those years, along with quarterback Sonny Jurgensen and linebacker Sam Huff.

Owner Marshall died in 1969, and minority shareholder Edward Bennett Williams was chosen to run the team, along with Jack Kent Cooke, who also had West Coast sports teams.

George Allen Revival

Williams signed former Los Angeles Rams head coach George Allen to rule the sidelines in 1971.

Allen’s Redskins would be competitive in the NFC East Division, winning it once and placing second four times.

The 1972 season was the most memorable of those years. The 'Skins went 11-3 that year, with running back Larry Brown winning the league MVP.

He had a supporting cast that earned the nickname "Over The Hill Gang" because of their veteran status. QBs Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer, receivers Taylor and Boyd Dowler, and a defense featuring linebackers Hanburger and Jack Pardee, were the core elements of their success.

In the playoffs, the Redskins overcame the powerful Green Bay Packers, and overwhelmed the Dallas Cowboys, 26-3, to win the NFC Championship.

But in Super Bowl VII, they ran into the team that would cap an historic undefeated season. The Miami Dolphins beat the Redskins, 14-6.

Allen finished his run with Washington with a 67-30-1 regular season record, and a 2-5 playoff mark.

Decade of Triumph

There was plenty of transition ahead. Joe Theismann came to the team in 1974 and in ‘78 succeeded Kilmer at QB. Running backs Mike Thomas and John Riggins also signed up. And defensive back Ken Houston and defensive end Coy Bacon supplemented a unit still anchored by Hanburger.

Also during that period, Cooke came from West Coast to oversee operations of the team.

The team hired former player Jack Pardee as head coach and the former linebacker had one winning season in three.

Then in 1981, Cooke brought in former San Diego Chargers assistant Joe Gibbs to take over. The next year, Gibbs teams would launch a reign of dominance over the league.

The 1982 season was strike shortened, but the Redskins stretched theirs into a full schedule. With Riggins rampaging through defenses and receiver Art Monk leading "Fun Bunch" celebrations in the end zone, Washington went 8-1 in the regular year. 

They then overwhelmed three foes, including rival Dallas, to win the NFC title and a trip to Super Bowl XVII.

There they faced off with Miami and shut down the Dolphins offense in the second half to preserve a 27-17 victory, the Redskins first championship in the Super Bowl era.

Gibbs's boys had double-digit-win seasons through 1986, including another trip to the Super Bowl, this time losing to the Oakland Raiders.

More Super Seasons

Then in 1987, with a largely new cast of characters, the Redskins put together another Super Bowl. With two QBs and a number of RBs leading the offense, Washington rolled to an 11-4 season, winning the NFC East.

After close wins over the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings to capture the NFC Championship, the Redskins faced off with the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII.

It was a memorable championship. Quarterback Doug Williams threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns as the Redskins came from behind to stomp the Broncos, 42-10. Williams was the MVP as the first black quarterback to start in an NFL title game. Rookie running back Timmy Smith broke long runs enough to collect a Super Bowl record 240 rushing yards.

Four years later, Gibbs and the Redskins went to the big game again, this time with QB Mark Rypien leading another set of players. 

That 1991 team was possibly the best Washington Redskins team ever. Scoring more than any other team in the league, the 'Skins won their first 11 games and finished the regular season 14-2. 

Then the team rolled through the playoffs, beating the Atlanta Falcons by 18 and the Detroit Lions by 31. The Buffalo Bills met with similar fortune in the Super Bowl, as the Redskins grabbed an early lead and never let up. Washington won, 37-24, with Rypien winning MVP.

The Redskins did not have another great season for nearly three decades after that.

Gibbs retired after the 1992 season, but would return for another four-year stint in the early 2000s.

Norv Turner coached the team to an NFC East championship on a 10-6 season in 1999. Mike Shanahan had another 10-6 NFC East champ in 2012, and the Redskins captured the division again in 2015 under Jay Gruden. But none of those teams made it to the NFC title game, and five other coaches had a hand with little success.

Washington Redskins Facts

  • Venue: FedExField
  • Location: Landover, Maryland
  • Opened: 1997
  • Capacity: 82,000
  • The Redskins were the first NFL franchise with an official marching band, the Redskins Band, formed in 1937. And they were the first with a fight song, "Hail to the Redskins," which debuted in 1938.
  • The Redskins name and logo have long drawn controversy, with many criticizing it as offensive to Native Americans.
  • In 1982 kicker Mark Moseley gained the distinction of being the only special teams player to earn the NFL Most Valuable Player award. He booted 20 field goals in 21 attempts in the strike-shortened season.   
  • Offensive line coach Joe Bugel nicknamed his 1982 unit “The Hogs,” because they “would root around in the mud.” The linemen were Jeff Bostic, Raleigh McKenzie, Russ Grimm, Joe Jacoby, Mark May and Jim Lachey.

Redskins Ring of Fame

  • George Allen Head coach 1971–1977
  • Cliff Battles RB 1932–1937
  • Sammy Baugh QB 1937–1952
  • Jeff Bostic C 1980–1993
  • Gene Brito DE 1951–1958
  • Larry Brown RB 1969–1976
  • Dave Butz DT 1975–1988
  • Gary Clark WR 1985–1992
  • Monte Coleman LB 1979–1994
  • Jack Kent Cooke Owner 1961–1997
  • Bill Dudley RB 1950–1953
  • Wayne Curry Prince George's County executive 1994–2002
  • Pat Fischer CB 1968–1977
  • London Fletcher LB 2007–2013
  • Joe Gibbs Head coach 1981–2007
  • Darrell Green CB 1983–2002
  • Russ Grimm G 1981–1991
  • Chris Hanburger LB 1965–1978
  • Ken Harvey LB 1994–1998
  • Len Hauss C 1964–1977
  • Phil Hochberg PA announcer 1963–2000
  • Ken Houston S 1973–1980
  • Sam Huff LB 1964–1969
  • Joe Jacoby T/G 1981–1993
  • Dick James RB 1956–1963
  • Sonny Jurgensen QB 1964–1974
  • Charlie Justice RB 1950–1954
  • Billy Kilmer QB 1971–1978
  • Eddie LeBaron QB 1952–1959
  • Vince Lombardi Head coach 1969
  • Dexter Manley DE 1981–1989
  • Charles Mann DE 1983–1993
  • George Preston Marshall Founder 1932–1969
  • Wayne Millner E 1936–1945
  • Bobby Mitchell WR 1962–1968
  • Brian Mitchell RB/RS 1990–1999
  • Art Monk WR 1980–1993
  • Mark Moseley PK 1974–1986
  • Brig Owens DB 1966–1977
  • Richie Petitbon S, Coach 1971–1993
  • Vince Promuto G 1960–1970
  • John Riggins RB 1976–1985
  • Chris Samuels T 2000–2009
  • Jerry Smith TE 1965–1977
  • Charley Taylor WR 1964–1977
  • Sean Taylor S 2004–2007
  • Joe Theismann QB 1974–1985
  • Lamar "Bubba" Tyer Trainer 1971–2008
  • Doug Williams QB 1986–1989