Washington Redskins History
Brief History of the Washington Redskins
In July of 1932, the NFL awarded a team to the city of Boston. The ownership group for the new franchise was headed by a man with little football background, George Preston Marshall, who owned a chain of laundromats in Washington, DC. Marshall was known for his flair for promotion and his persuasive communication skills. The team would play at Braves Field, home of Boston's National League baseball team, and so they took the name 'Boston Braves'.
The team lost money in it's inaugural season prompting Marshall to take sole ownership of the team the following year, He moved the team to Fenway Park in July of 1933, and changed the team's official name to the 'Boston Redskins'.
The team's first success came in 1936 when they won the NFL's Eastern Division and earned the right to host Green Bay in the NFL championship game. Marshall was angry with Boston fans for their poor attendance in the team's final home game and in protest, he moved the game to the Polo Grounds in New York. The Redskins gave up their home field advantage and lost 21-6. The team would never play another game in Boston.
In 1937 Marshall moved the Redskins to Griffith stadium in Washington, D.C. Under the glow of floodlights, the Washington Redskins would become a resounding success story. Marshall's ingenuity and foresight would bring about many new innovations such as the first ever marching band and the first ever fight song 'Hail to the Redskins'. The band still plays to this day and are the only remaining commissioned marching band in the NFL. The song is still heard every time the Redskins score a touchdown. (Read more about the special 110-man band and the Redskins Fight Song in our special section.)
The 1937 season would also see the debut of Slinging Sammy Baugh from Texas Christian University. The Skins sixth overall draft pick would throw many passes that year, and for many years to come; in fact, Baugh revolutionized the look of pro football offenses forever. He would play 16 seasons, most of it going two ways and for 60 minutes a game, and he would pass for more than 22,000 yards.
Marshall's ingenuity coupled with Sammy's arm, would earn the Redskins their first NFL championship in 1937. In their first nine seasons together in Washington, they never had a losing season. In that time they won 5 NFL Eastern Division championships and the NFL championship again in 1942.
The Redskins drew a large following not only in the Washington, D.C. area but around the country. In 1944 they became the first NFL team to have a radio network, and in 1950 they made history again by unveiling its new television network. Fans in many states who didn't have a pro football team to call their own listened to or watched the Redskins at home.
The Redskins moved out of Griffith and into D.C. Stadium in 1961. The stadium would later have it's name changed to Robert F. Kennedy and would remain the Redskins home until 1996. At RFK stadium, the Redskins would start a string of unprecedented sold out games, that still continues today at Fed Ex Field.
1969 was a year juxtaposed with glory and tragedy. Washington hired legendary coach Vince Lombardi in February, and he would guide the Redskins to their first winning record in 15 years. But along the way they would lose George Preston Marshall, the man who had molded the Redskins. They would also lose Lombardi to cancer before the start of the 1970 season.
George Allen took over in 1971 and was named NFL coach of the year in his first season. The following season, the Redskins made it to the Super Bowl (VII) where they lost to the Miami Dolphins 14-7. The Redskins' best players of that era were quarterback Sonny Jurgensen and wide receiver Charley Taylor, who set a record for most passes caught in a career.
On October 12, 1981, the Redskins hired San Diego Chargers' mastermind offensive co-ordinator Joe Gibbs to take over for Jack Pardee. He became the 17th coach in Redskins history and would go on to become not only the most successful coach, but probably the most revered figure in the franchise's considerable history.
In 1982, the NFL Players Association announced the beginning of a union strike. It was the first work stoppage in league history. The regular season resumed on November 20 after eight weeks of games were not played. A total of 98 games were erased as a result of the 57 day strike. Because of the shortened season, the NFL adopted a format of 16 teams competing in a Super Bowl Tournament for the 1982 playoffs. The NFC's number-one seed, Washington, defeated the AFC's number-two seed, Miami, 27-17 in Super Bowl XVII at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, January 30.
The Redskins continued their dominance the following season, going an impressive 14-2 through the regular season, and advancing all the way to Super Bowl XVIII. Not only did they only lose two games, but those two losses were by a combined two points. The bookmakers favored Washington by three, and most expected the Redskins to peel off their second straight Lombardi trophy, but Los Angeles had other ideas. Marcus Allen and the Raiders stunned the burgundy and gold faithful, with a 38-9 thrashing of the Redskins. At the time, the 29-point margin of victory was the largest in Super Bowl history.
In 1985, Jack Kent Cooke took sole ownership of the Redskins; he had purchased a 25 percent share of the team in 1961, and had become majority owner in 1974.
Washington would not make it as far as the Super Bowl again until after the 1987 season. Ironically, it was a strike-shortened season again as a 24-day strike shrunk the regular season from 16 games to 15 games. Washington went 11-5, before beating the Chicago Bears 21-17 in the divisional playoff, and then the Minnesota Vikings 17-10 in the NFC Championship. The Redskins were actually three-point underdogs for Super Bowl XXII as many expected John Elway and the Denver Broncos, to be able to better Doug Williams and the Washington Redskins. Denver scored less than two minutes into the game and added a field goal on their second drive to stake out a 10-point early lead. What happened after that became widely recognized as the best quarter of football in Redskin history. Williams and his Washington teammates started the second quarter with an 80-yard bomb to Ricky Sanders; it would be the first of FIVE Redskin touchdowns in the quarter. When all was said and done, Williams had put up 228 yards and 4 touchdowns, Timmy Smith had run 5 times for 122 yards and a touchdown, and at 35-10, the game was ostensibly over by half-time. Williams secured a place in history as the first African-American quarterback to ever win the Super Bowl, and the Redskins had their second Lombardi trophy.
In 1991 the Redskins dominated competition going 14-2 in the regular season. With Mark Rypien at the helm and the Hogs smashing huge holes for Earnest Byner, Washington rolled right into Super Bowl XXVI. They outclassed the Buffalo Bills 37-24 in a game only made close by two late Buffalo TD's when the game was already out of reach. That game capped off a record breaking season for the offensive line who allowed an almost unbelievably low 9 sacks all season long (including playoffs). Washington had secured it's third Lombardi of the decade, with three different quarterbacks.
On October 12, 1992, Art Monk caught a 10 yard pass and stepped out of bounds. It wasn't a particularly notable catch, but it was extremely significant as it moved Monk into first place on the NFL's all time receptions list. He would go on to finish his career with 920 receptions (888 with the Redskins), although his record would eventually be broken by Jerry Rice.
On March 5, 1993 Joe Gibbs, who led the Washington Redskins to 3 Super Bowl victories and 8 playoff appearances in 12 NFL seasons, resigned and was replaced by his longtime assistant, Richie Petitbon. It was the end of an era... well, era one at least.
In 1997 the Redskins moved into a new state-of-the-art stadium in what is now Landover, Maryland; but originally, the community was called Raljon - a name devised by Cooke that combined the names of his sons Ralph and John. Cooke passed away of cardiac arrest at age 84 on April 6,1997, just before the stadium was to open, but posthumously the stadium was named Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in his honor. Cooke's son took over the team following his death, but there were instructions in JKC's will for the team and stadium to be left to his foundation, and with the instructions to sell it.
John Kent Cooke put in a competitive bid to keep the team in the family, but lost to local businessman Daniel Snyder and a team of investors, for a record-setting $800 million. The stadium was renamed Fed Ex Field after Fed Ex paid an astounding 200 million dollars for the naming rights.
On Nov. 27, 2007, Washington safety and young superstar Sean Taylor died as a result of a gun shot suffered in his home. He was just 24 years old. Please visit THN's tribute page to honor one of the most extraordinary athletes in Redskin history.