Despite the continued controversy over the name and the offensive properties it may or may not carry, the Redskins have a rich and storied past worthy of one of the all-time great franchises. Claiming the ‘skins have taken a step back in the last 25 years would be a heavy understatement, but their present day troubles still do not define their past.
Here are the top ten pigskin plays from our nation’s capital.
10. Sean Taylor’s NFL Debut
55 games are all we have of Sean Taylor. Despite the brief career, there was still plenty to celebrate. Washington fans just didn’t know exactly what they were getting when they saw him step on to the field against the Denver Broncos.
It was his first preseason game and his first taste of the NFL. He finished the scrimmage with two interceptions and a touchdown. He started a culture change for Redskins defense, becoming the hardest hitting player in the NFL. Redskins fans knew after this moment they had a special player in their palms. They just didn’t know how long.
He became a fan favorite during his four-year career and will always be cherished in football lore.
9. RG3 Wins Rookie of the Year
Washington piled up just two playoff wins since Gibbs’ final Super Bowl win. 20 years is a long time to be mediocre. Then Robert Griffin III showed up at their doorstep.
He was praised as their savior, putting together one of the finest rookie seasons in history. He led the league in yards per attempt through the air and on the ground. 27 total touchdowns and the best interception percentage in the NFL highlighted his campaign all the way to an NFC East title.
The Redskins’ 7-game win streak to put them into the playoffs was memorable and it came on the shoulders of arguably the greatest rookie season a quarterback has ever put together.
8. 2007’s 4-0 run
Coach Joe Gibbs went out with a bang in his final month. Leading the Redskins to 171 total wins over 16 seasons; one of his more impressive moments was his 4-0 run to end his career. After the tragic death of Sean Taylor, the Redskins found themselves without starting quarterback Jason Campbell, lineman Randy Thomas and Jon Jansen, corner Carlos Rogers, and linebacker Rocky McIntosh.
But Gibbs’ magic never wore thin. He turned a 5-7 record into a 9-7 playoff team. Joe Gibbs’ second stint never fully captured the glory of his old days, but it surely inspired the team to outperform their fragile roster.
In the eve of Taylor’s death, and being riddled with injuries, it was a month to remember that meant so much more to the Redskins’ faithful than the quick one and done that followed.
7. Art Monk Enshrined In Canton
Look up reliable in the dictionary and Art Monk‘s photo will be staring back. One of the anchors during their run of three Super Bowls, he kept defenses honest despite the carousel of quarterbacks Gibbs and company used.
Far from the strongest, fastest and flashiest; Monk developed into one of the most consistent receivers of all time. He set the NFL record for receptions in a season (at the time) with 106 and career receptions (at the time) with 940. He had the most consecutive games with a catch and converted roughly two-thirds of his catches into first downs.
Redskins fans rejoiced when he finally was enshrined, giving him the standing ovation he well deserved.
6. Darrell Green Sets New Standard For Twilight Years
Arguably the fastest player to step foot on the turf, Darrell Green fought against Father Time like no other. Nicknamed the Ageless Wonder, he made consecutive pro bowls at age 36 and 37. Not only did he put in 295 games for his career (most all-time on defense), but he continued to dominate no matter what the calendar said.
His old man accomplishments are endless. Oldest player with an interception. Oldest player with an interception return touchdown in overtime. Oldest player with a 35-yard gain on special teams. Oldest player with an 80-yard interception return. And the biggest one; oldest defensive back to play an NFL game. He retired at 42 years old.
5. The “Over The Hill Gang” Reaches First Super Bowl
While the Redskins have claimed NFL titles in years past, this was their first appearance for the Lombardi trophy. And this old team of “has-beens” would never have found themselves there without Vince’s guidance.
Vince Lombardi spent a single campaign coaching the Redskins before his tragic death. But in 1969, the Redskins had their first winning record in 14 years and continued to build on that season. Three years later, they played in Super Bowl VII. The only problem; they had to face the 13-0 Dolphins. Four quarters later, the ‘fins became the only undefeated team in the Super Bowl era.
But the Redskins squad’s average age was 31. 38-year-old Redskins legend Sonny Jurgensen led the team as their quarterback but soon suffered an Achilles tendon injury. The rag-tag team went 11-3 with MVP running back Larry Brown and set the standard for Redskins football.
4. Sammy Baugh’s Marriage with Washington
The quarterback position wouldn’t exist today without Sammy Baugh. He was one of the NFL’s earliest stars. Setting the tone of stability, Baugh led the charge that gave the Redskins an NFL championship during his rookie year in 1937. He set the record for playoff passing yards for a rookie in the championship against Chicago, a record that Russell Wilson broke 75 years later.
The Redskins and the Bears would go back in forth trading titles. Chicago responded to their 1937 loss with the most lopsided win of all time, a 73-0 championship win over Baugh and co. But Sammy would win another against the Bears in 1942.
Baugh’s 1943 season cemented his legacy as the greatest Redskin ever. He led the league in passing yards, punting yard average and interceptions with 11. The most versatile season that has ever graced the NFL gave him a chance to compete for another NFL title. But the Bears got in the way, beating the Redskins again 41-21.
3. John Riggins Super Performance in Super Bowl XVII
The Joe Gibbs era started with a bang. In his second season, he gave Washington what they always wanted. A ring. And the cherry on top came with avenging their Super Bowl VII loss by defeating the Fins.
Running back John Riggins secured the win with a 43-yard touchdown on fourth and one to give Washington a 20-17 lead with 10 minutes to spare. Riggins ended the game with 166 rushing yards on 32 carries, both Super Bowl records. He was crowned with the Super Bowl MVP.
Overall, the Redskins dominated. Riggins’ 181 total yards of offense was more than the Dolphins entire team. Gibbs’ defense held Shula’s offense to just 34-yards in the second half. This monstrous victory propelled the Redskins into the dominant Gibbs’ era.
2. Doug Williams’ Wins Super Bowl With Five Starts
John Elway‘s 1987 MVP season was no match for Doug Williams. The backup QB posted a 0-2 record in the regular season before getting the nod to start in the playoffs. Williams then went 3-0 and was crowned Super Bowl MVP for his heroic performance.
Just like Riggins before him, he set a Super Bowl record in passing yards with 340 and tied the touchdown record with four. Running back Timmy Smith set the new record with 204 rushing yards and receiver Ricky Sanders set the record for receiving yards.
The offense came in a flurry for the Redskins. After trailing 10-0, Washington put up 42 unanswered points including four touchdown passes from Williams in the second quarter. They coasted through the game and Williams became the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl.
1. 1991 Redskins-The Greatest Team Put Together
According to Fox Sports, the ’91 Skins are the greatest gridiron unit of all time. Posting a 14-2 record doesn’t necessarily jump off the page when it comes to greatest ever, but their dominance was unprecedented. Losing the two games by a combined five measly points, they outscored their opponents by 261 total points. They had the highest scoring offense and gave up the second least amount of points on the defensive end.
But their true dominance didn’t show until January hit. The Redskins blew through their first two playoff opponents 65-17. Then the Super Bowl appeared and the Bills were no match. For the second straight time, Buffalo dropped the ball. Leading 24-0 at the half, the Redskins finally took their foot off the gas for the first time all season, winning 37-24.
Overall, the dominance of the Redskins has rarely been matched. They had the highest turnover differential and kept Mark Rypien up on his feet the entire season. He was sacked just seven times while the defense put opposing quarterbacks on the turf 50 times. That’s how you win a Super Bowl.