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This article details the history of the Washington Redskins a professional American football franchise. The Washington Redskins have played over one thousand games. In those games, the club has won five professional American football championships including two NFL Championships and three Super Bowls. The franchise captured ten NFL divisional titles and six NFL conference championships.
The Redskins won the 1937 and 1942 Championship games, as well as Super Bowl XVII, XXII, and XXVI. They also played in and lost the 1936, 1940, 1943, and 1945 Championship games, as well as Super Bowl VII and XVIII. They have made twenty-two postseason appearances, and have an overall postseason record of 23 wins and 17 losses. Only five teams have appeared in more Super Bowls than the Redskins: the Dallas Cowboys (eight), Pittsburgh Steelers (seven), Denver Broncos (six), New England Patriots (six), and the San Fransisco 49ers(6) ; the Redskins' five appearances are tied with the, Oakland Raiders, and Miami Dolphins.
All of the Redskins' league titles were attained during two ten-year spans. From 1936 to 1945, the Redskins went to the NFL Championship six times, winning two of them. The second period lasted between 1982 and 1991 where the Redskins appeared in the postseason seven times, captured four Conference titles, and won three Super Bowls out of five appearances.
The Redskins have also experienced failure in their history. The most notable period of failure was from 1946 to 1970, during which the Redskins did not have a single postseason appearance. During this period, the Redskins went without a single winning season between 1956 and 1968. In 1961, the franchise posted their worst regular season record with a 1–12–1 showing.
According to Forbes Magazine, the Redskins are the second most valuable franchise in the NFL, valued at approximately $1.467 billion, having been surpassed by the Dallas Cowboys. In 2007, they generated over $300 million in revenue and netted over $60 million. They have also broken the NFL's mark for single-season attendance six years in a row.
The city of Boston, Massachusetts, was awarded an NFL franchise on July 9, 1932, under the ownership of George Preston Marshall, Vincent Bendix, Jay O'Brien, and Dorland Doyle. They were given the nucleus of the defunct Newark Tornadoes which folded after the 1930 season and was sold back to the NFL; although none of the members of the 1930 Newark Tornadoes roster remained by the 1932 Boston Braves roster.
Initially, the new team took the same name as their landlords, the Boston Braves, one of the two local baseball teams at the time. The Braves played their first game on October 2, 1932, under the leadership of coach Lud Wray, against the Brooklyn Dodgers, to whom they lost 14–0. The next week, the Braves recorded their first win, beating the New York Giants, 14–6. Despite the presence of two rookies; halfback Cliff Battles and tackle Glen "Turk" Edwards — the new franchise's losses during the first season reached $46,000 and Bendix, O'Brien, and Doyle dropped out of the investment, leaving Marshall the sole owner of the Braves. The team moved to Fenway Park (home of the Boston Red Sox) the next year, and Marshall changed the name to the "Redskins" apparently in honor of then-coach Lone Star Dietz, a Native American (he claimed to be part Sioux, but his actual ancestry has been challenged).
Dietz's first year as coach in 1933 was unremarkable, and the Redskins finished the season with a 5–5–2 record. However, one impressive feat during the season was Cliff Battle's performance against the Giants on October 8, 1933, where he rushed 16 times for 215 yards (197 m), and scored one touchdown and became the first player ever to rush for more than 200 yards (180 m) in a game.
Dietz was fired after posting a 6–6 in 1934, and Eddie Casey was hired as his replacement. During the 1935 season, the Redskins split their first two games before going into a season long scoring slump, posting only 23 points during a seven-game losing streak. The Redskins posted a win and a tie in their final two games, finishing with a 2–8–1 record, while only scoring 65 points on the season. Casey was fired at the end of the season.
The Redskins most productive year in Boston came in 1936. It started with the first annual NFL Draft on February 8, 1936, where the Redskins had the second overall pick. Their first selection as an NFL team was Riley Smith, a blocking back from Alabama. The first player ever selected in the draft, Heisman Trophy winner Jay Berwanger, chose not to play pro football. Because of this, Smith holds the distinction of being the first drafted player to play in the NFL. Also in that draft, the Redskins chose Wayne Millner, who became a large part of their offense. The next big addition that came in 1936, when Marshall hired Ray Flaherty as head coach. In the following decade, Flaherty led the team to two NFL championships and four divisional titles.
After starting the season 4–5, the Redskins attained their first Eastern Division Championship by winning their last three games and finishing with a record of 7–5 (which was also their first winning season). However, during the final game of the regular season, a 30–0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, only 4,813 fans showed up to Fenway Park. An angry Marshall then decided to give up home field advantage for the 1936 NFL Championship Game. The game was then played on December 13, 1936, at New York's Polo Grounds, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers, 21–6.
Before leaving Boston, however, the Redskins made one more big addition that helped their franchise for years to come. The addition came after the 1937 NFL Draft on December 12, 1936, when they signed an innovative rookie quarterback from Texas Christian University: Sammy Baugh. In an era where the forward pass was relatively rare, the Redskins used it as their primary method of gaining yards. "Slingin' Sammy" Baugh also played numerous other positions, including cornerback and punter.
After the disappointing 1936 NFL title game, George Preston Marshall had the team moved to his home in Washington, D.C. on February 13, 1937, retaining the name "Redskins" although it was now out of context. They then shared Griffith Stadium with the Washington Senators baseball team.
Marshall sought to incorporate many elements of the college football atmosphere into Redskins games. At the time, the college game was far more popular than the NFL, which was still shaking off its barnstorming roots. On August 9, 1937, the Redskins marching band was founded. The all-volunteer ensemble formed when Marshall brought the Redskins to Washington, with the goal of entertaining fans from the moment they walked into the stadium until the time they left it. The Redskins are now one of only two teams in the NFL with an official marching band. The other is the Baltimore Ravens. The Redskins were also one of the first teams to have a fight song, "Hail to the Redskins," which made its debut on August 17, 1938, as the official fight song of the Redskins. The song was composed by band leader Barnee Breeskin and the lyrics were written by actress Corinne Griffith, the wife of Marshall.
The Redskins played their first game and had their first victory in Washington D.C. on September 16, 1937, against the Giants. The Thursday-night game drew nearly 25,000 fans to Griffith Stadium and culminated with Riley Smith scoring on a 60-yard (55 m) interception return, making the final score 13–3.
On December 5, 1937, the Redskins earned their first division title in Washington by beating the Giants 49–14, including two touchdown runs by Cliff Battles for 75 and 76 yards (69 m), for the Eastern Championship. The team then proceeded to win their first league championship, the 1937 NFL Championship Game, on December 12, 1937, against the Chicago Bears, their first year in D.C.
On October 15, 1939, the Redskins achieved an NFL first when Frank Filchock threw the first 99-yard (91 m) touchdown pass in NFL history, to Andy Farkas, in a game against his old team, the Pirates. This set a record for longest play from scrimmage, a record that can only be tied, not broken.
The Redskins won nine games in 1940 and finished on top of the Eastern Division. They met the Bears again in the 1940 NFL Championship Game on December 8, 1940 in Washington DC. The Redskins were annihilated by the Bears 73–0 for the most lopsided score in NFL history.
The other big loss for the Redskins that season occurred during a coin-tossing ceremony prior to a game against the Giants. After calling the coin toss and shaking hands with the opposing team captain, Turk Edwards attempted to pivot around to head back to his sideline. However, his cleats caught in the grass and his knee gave way, injuring him and bringing his season and career to an unusual end.
Though the Redskins failed to make the 1941 NFL Championship Game with a record of 6–5, the 1941 season is still worth mentioning because of one game. The Redskins won their last game of the season by beating the Philadelphia Eagles, 20–14. However few remember that day for the game, because it occurred on December 7, 1941, the same day as the Attack on Pearl Harbor, a surprise attack against the United States' naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by the Japanese Navy that resulted in the death of over 2,400 Americans and brought the United States into World War II. On a more personal note for the Redskins, this act ultimately drove two of the most popular Redskins players, Frankie Filchock and Wayne Millner, to enlist in the U.S. Navy.
In what became an early rivalry in the NFL, the Redskins and Bears met two more times in the NFL Championship. The third time was during the 1942 NFL Championship Game on December 13, 1942, where the Redskins won their second championship, 14–6. The final time the two met was the 1943 NFL Championship Game on December 26, 1943, during which the Bears won, 41–21. The most notable accomplishment achieved during the Redskin's 1943 season was Sammy Baugh leading the NFL in passing, punting, and interceptions.
The Redskins played in the NFL Championship one more time before a quarter-century drought that did not end until the 1972 season. With former Olympic gold medalist Dudley DeGroot as their new head coach, the Redskins went 8–2 during the 1945 season. One of the most impressive performances came from Sammy Baugh, who had a completion percentage of .703. They ended the season by losing to the Cleveland Rams in the 1945 NFL Championship Game on December 16, 1945, 15–14. The one-point margin of victory came under scrutiny because of a safety that occurred early in the game. In the first quarter, the Redskins had the ball at their own 5-yard (4.6 m) line. Dropping back into the end zone, quarterback Sammy Baugh threw to an open receiver, but the ball hit the goal post (which at the time were on the goal line instead of at the back of the end zone) and bounced back to the ground in the end zone. Under the rules at the time, this was ruled as a safety and thus gave the Rams a 2–0 lead. It was that safety that proved to be the margin of victory. Owner Marshall was so mad at the outcome that he became a major force in passing the following major rule change after the season: A forward pass that strikes the goal posts is automatically ruled incomplete. This later became known as the "Baugh/Marshall Rule".
The 1946 season began with the signing of former-player Turk Edwards as head coach. He was the coach until 1948 and finished with an unimpressive record of 16–18–1. The only highlight that occurred during his tenure was Sammy Baugh's 1947 season, where he threw 354 passes, completed 210 of them for 2,938 yards (2,687 m), setting three all-time NFL records in one season. A major blunder also occurred during his tenure. With the ninth overall pick in the 1946 NFL Draft, the Redskins chose Cal Rossi, a back out of UCLA. But Rossi was a junior, and was not eligible to be drafted at the time. After waiting a year, the Redskins drafted Rossi again in the first-round of the 1947 NFL Draft, but he never had intention to play football professionally.
After the end of Edwards' coaching career, the Redskins hired three different head coaches during the next three seasons. They were John Whelchel, Herman Ball, and former player Dick Todd, and none were successful.
But this did not stop George Preston Marshall from trying to make the Redskins the most successful franchise in the league. His first major alteration to the franchise in the 1950s happened on June 14, 1950, when it was announced that American Oil Company planned to televise all Redskins games, making Washington the first NFL team to have an entire season of televised games. Before that, in 1944, the Redskins formed a radio network to broadcast their games throughout the southern United States.
His next major change came in February 1952, when he hired former Green Bay Packers coach Earl "Curly" Lambeau. But, after two seasons, Marshall fired Lambeau following the Redskins loss in their exhibition opener to the Los Angeles Rams and hired Joe Kuharich. In 1955, Kuharich led the Redskins to their first winning season in ten years and was named both Sporting News Coach of the Year and UPI NFL Coach of the Year.
After Kuharich resigned as coach to accept the Notre Dame head coaching position, Marshall hired Mike Nixon before the 1959 season. Over the next two seasons, Nixon proved to be statistically the worst coach the Redskins have had in terms of winning percentage, with a record of 4-18-2. In the 1961 draft, the Redskins made another poor draft choice in QB Norm Snead and passing over Fran Tarkenton, who later became a Hall-of-Famer after his career with the Vikings and Giants. In 1961, the Redskins moved into their new stadium called D.C. Stadium (changed to Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in 1969). The first game in new D.C. Stadium occurred on October 1, 1961, in front of 37,767 fans. However, the Redskins failed to hold a 21–7 lead and lost to the New York Giants 24–21. Along with stadiums, Marshal decided to change head coaches again, this time choosing Bill McPeak. Though McPeaks' coaching record was nothing to be proud of (21–46–3 over five seasons), he is better known for helping the Redskins draft future stars such as wide receiver Charley Taylor, tight end Jerry Smith, safety Paul Krause, center Len Hauss, and linebacker Chris Hanburger. He also helped pull off two of the best trades of the 1960s, gaining quarterback Sonny Jurgensen from the Philadelphia Eagles and linebacker Sam Huff from the New York Giants. But even with these additions, the Redskins were still not performing up to expectations. While the team became more popular than ever, they struggled through the 1960s.
In 1961, the Redskins drafted their first African-American player, RB Ernie Davis, the first Black Heisman Trophy winner. Davis was subsequently traded to the Cleveland Browns for future Hall of Famer, Bobby Mitchell. They were the last NFL team to have had an all-white roster due to owner George Marshall's racist views. Pressure from the NFL and the government forced them to give in, and although Bobby Mitchell was only welcomed to the team begrudgingly he deliver a fine performance, racking up 1,384 yards and 11 TDs during the season. The Redskins still struggled with a 5-7-2 record. 1963 brought an even worse 3-11 showing where Norm Snead threw 27 interceptions. 1964-1965 saw two consecutive 6-8 seasons after which Bill McPeak was fired.
After McPeak, the Redskins hired Otto Graham on January 25, 1966, as head coach from 1966 to 1968, but whatever magic he had as an NFL player disappeared on the sidelines as the team saw records of 7-7, 5-6-3, and 5-9 in 1966-1968.
One reason for the team's struggles was disarray in the front office. Marshall, team owner and president, began a mental decline in 1962, and the team's other stockholders found it difficult to make decisions without their boss. Marshall died on August 9, 1969, and Edward Bennett Williams, a minority stockholder who was a Washington resident and one of America's most esteemed attorneys, was chosen to run the franchise while the majority stockholder, Jack Kent Cooke, lived in Los Angeles and ran his basketball team, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Also in 1969, the Redskins hired legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi after promising him part ownership of the franchise. Lombardi led the team to a 7–5–2 record, their best since 1955 (which kept Lombardi's record of never having coached a losing NFL team intact), but died of cancer on the eve of the 1970 season.
Assistant coach Bill Austin was chosen to replace Lombardi during 1970 and produced a record of 6–8. However, one highlight from the 1970 season occurred on December 13, 1970, against the Philadelphia Eagles, when running back Larry Brown broke off a 12-yard (11 m) run, and became the first Redskins player to rush for 1,000 yards (910 m). That season, Brown became the first Redskins player since Cliff Battles to win the NFL rushing title with totals of 1,125 yards (1,029 m) on 237 carries, a 4.7 rushing average.
During most this unsuccessful period, Marshall continued to refuse to integrate the team, despite pressure from The Washington Post and the federal government of the United States (a typical comment by Post writer Shirley Povich was "Jim Brown, born ineligible to play for the Redskins, integrated their end zone three times yesterday").
On March 24, 1961, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall warned Marshall to hire black players or face federal retribution. For the first time in history, the federal government had attempted to desegregate a professional sports team. Finally, under threat of civil rights legal action by the Kennedy administration, which would have prevented a segregated team from playing at the new District of Columbia Stadium, as it was owned by the U.S. Department of the Interior and thus federal government property, the Redskins became the final pro football franchise to integrate, in 1962, in their second season in the stadium. First, the team drafted Ernie Davis, the first black player to win the Heisman Trophy. Two days before, the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League had also drafted Davis and there was some doubt as to whether Marshall would offer enough money to sign him. For their second pick in the draft, the Redskins chose another black halfback, Joe Hernandez from Arizona. They also took black fullback Ron Hatcher in the eighth round, a player from Michigan State who became the first black football player to sign a contract with the Redskins.
But, in mid-December, Marshall (who once was infamously described by Povich as the man who kept the Redskins team colors "burgundy, gold, and Caucasian") announced that on the day of the NFL draft he had clandestinely traded the rights to Davis to the Cleveland Browns, who wanted Davis to join the league's leading rusher, Jim Brown, in their backfield. Davis was traded to the Browns for running back Bobby Mitchell (who became a wide receiver in Washington) and 1962 first-round draft choice Leroy Jackson. The move was made under unfortunate circumstances - as it turned out that Davis had leukemia, and died without ever playing a down in professional football.
Mitchell was joined by black stars like receiver Charley Taylor, running back Larry Brown (who had a hearing aid installed in his helmet due to near-total deafness in his right ear), defensive back Brig Owens, and guard John Nisby from the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Redskins ended the 1962 season with their best record in five years: 5–7–2. Mitchell led the league with eleven touchdowns, and caught 72 passes and was selected to the Pro Bowl. He was eventually elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and became assistant general manager of the Redskins. Nisby had three successful seasons with the team and then was released.
After the death of Lombardi and Austin's successful 1970 season, Williams signed former Los Angeles Rams head coach George Allen as head coach on January 6, 1971. Partial to seasoned veterans instead of highly touted young players, Allen's teams became known as the Over-the-Hill Gang. "The future is now" was his slogan, and his players soon proved him right.
Allen and players Billy Kilmer, running back Larry Brown, center Len Hauss, receiver Charley Taylor, linebacker Chris Hanburger and safety Pat Fischer helped the Redskins make the playoffs for the first time since 1945 with a 9–4–1 mark. However, they lost in the Divisional Playoffs to the San Francisco 49ers, 24–20.
The 1972 season began with the Redskins winning their first two games but then suffering an agonizing 24–23 loss to the New England Patriots. After the loss, Allen re-inserted Sonny Jurgensen as the starter, but Jurgensen's season ended three weeks later when he tore an Achilles tendon. Kilmer returned and led the Redskins to a 6–2 mark over the final eight weeks and an 11–3 overall record that brought an NFC East title.
The Redskins then hosted their first post-season game in Washington since 1942, where they beat the Green Bay Packers 16–3 in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, as the shrewd Allen resorted to a five-man defensive front that handcuffed the Packers' powerful running game. The Redskins reached the NFC Championship Game, defeating Dallas 26–3, only to lose to the undefeated Miami Dolphins 14–7 in Super Bowl VII.
Many had high hopes for the Redskins during the 1973 season, and by the end of the regular season, few were let down. The Redskins posted a 10–4 record, which made them tied with the Dallas Cowboys atop the NFC East. However, Dallas won the division crown based on better point differential with a net 13 points, which forced the Redskins to play in the Divisional playoffs at Minnesota one week later; Redskins lost 27–20.
The 1974 season ended quite similar to the 1973 season. The Redskins finished 10–4 and again, were forced to play in the Divisional playoffs. This time, they played against the Los Angeles Rams, and again fell short, 19–10. Then before the beginning of the next season, on May 1, 1975, Sonny Jurgensen retired from pro football after 18 seasons in the NFL, eleven of which were for the Redskins.
When the 1975 season was over, the Redskins had an 8–6 record and did not make the playoffs for the first time since Allen's tenure began. The highlight of the year came during the season finale on December 21, 1975, against the Philadelphia Eagles, when Charley Taylor became the NFL's all-time receptions leader with his 634th career catch.
The 1976 started with the Redskins going 6–4, but won the final four games to finish at 10–4 and earned a playoff berth for the fifth time in six years under George Allen. However, on December 18, 1976, the Vikings beat the Redskins in the Divisional playoffs, 35–20.
After his Redskins failed to make the playoffs in 1977 despite posting a 9–5 record, Allen was fired and was replaced by new head coach Jack Pardee, a star linebacker under Allen in Los Angeles and Washington. In his first year, his team started 6–0 but then lost 8 of the last 10 games. Then in the offseason, Redskins majority owner Jack Kent Cooke moved from Los Angeles to Virginia and took over the team's day-by-day operations from Edward Bennett Williams.
The Redskins chose well during the 1979 NFL Draft, where they drafted future stars Don Warren and Monte Coleman. They opened the 1979 season 6–2 and were 10–5 heading into the season finale at Dallas, against whom a win would assure a playoff spot and a possible NFC East title. Washington led 34–28 with time running out, but quarterback Roger Staubach then led the Cowboys in a fourth-quarter comeback with two touchdown passes. The 35–34 loss knocked the 10–6 Redskins out of playoff contention. Pardee's quick success with the team did not go unnoticed, however, and he was named Associated Press Coach of the Year and UPI NFC Coach of the Year.
On January 13, 1981, owner Jack Kent Cooke signed the offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers, Joe Gibbs, as their head coach. Also during the off-season, the Redskins acquired Mark May, Russ Grimm, and Dexter Manley in the 1981 NFL Draft, all of whom became significant contributors to the team for the next few years. After starting the 1981 season 0–5, the Redskins won eight out of their next eleven games and finished the season 8–8.
The 1982 season started with two road wins and high hopes in Washington. Then starting on September 21, 1982, the NFL faced a 57–day long players' strike, which reduced the 1982 season from a 16-game schedule per team to nine. Because of the shortened season, the NFL adopted a special 16-team playoff tournament, in which eight teams from each conference were seeded 1–8 based on their regular season records. After the strike was settled, the Redskins dominated, winning six out of the seven remaining games to make the playoffs for the first time since 1976. Mark Moseley also got some attention on December 19, 1982, when he kicked his 21st consecutive field goal against the Giants, breaking Garo Yepremian's NFL record of 20.
During 1982, players like quarterback Joe Theismann, running back John Riggins, and receiver Art Monk got most of the publicity, but the Redskins were one of the few teams ever to have a famous offensive line. Line coach Joe Bugel, who later went on to be the head coach of the Phoenix Cardinals, nicknamed them "The Hogs," not because they were big and fat, but because they would "root around in the mud" on the field. Among the regular Hogs were center Jeff Bostic, guards Raleigh McKenzie and Russ Grimm, and tackles Joe Jacoby, Mark May and Jim Lachey. Tight ends Don Warren and Clint Didier, as well as Riggins, were known as "Honorary Hogs." Also during the early 80s', the Redskins had a group of wide receivers and tight ends called the Fun Bunch, who were known for their choreographed group celebrations in the end zone (usually a group high-five) following a touchdown. The members included wide receivers Monk, Virgil Seay, Charlie Brown, and Alvin Garrett, and tight ends Rick Walker, and Don Warren. Every single one of these players won a Super Bowl with the Redskins, and three were chosen for the Pro Bowl. The Fun Bunch's actions eventually resulted in a league-wide ban of "excessive celebration" in 1984. The Redskins had another group of wide receivers with a nickname in the 80s. The players were known as the Smurfs, which consisted of Gary Clark, Alvin Garrett, and Charlie Brown. The three were given the nickname because of their diminutive size (Garrett was 5'7”, Clark was 5'9”, and Brown the tallest at 5'10”), comparing them to the tiny blue comic and cartoon characters in The Smurfs.
On January 15, 1983, during the second round of the playoffs against the Minnesota Vikings, Riggins rushed for a Redskins playoff record 185 yards (169 m), leading Washington to a 21–7 win and a place in the NFC Championship Game against Dallas, whom they beat 31–17. The Redskins' first Super Bowl win, and their first NFL Championship in 40 years, was in Super Bowl XVII, where the Redskins defeated the Miami Dolphins 27–17 on January 30, 1983. Riggins provided the game's signature play when, on 4th and inches, with the Redskins down 17–13, the coaches called "70 Chip" a play designed for short yardage. Riggins instead gained 43 yards (39 m) by running through would-be tackler Don McNeal and getting the go-ahead touchdown. The Redskins ended up winning by a 27–17 score.
The 1983 season started off with a loss to the Dallas Cowboys 31–30 on the Monday Night Football season opener. The game also marked the rookie debut of Darrell Green, selected in the 1983 NFL Draft along with Charles Mann, who played for twenty more seasons. They lost only one more time in the regular season, which was filled with extraordinary individual and team achievements. On October 1, 1983, the Redskins lost to the Green Bay Packers 48–47 in the highest scoring Monday Night football game in history, in which both teams combine for more than 1,000 yards (910 m) of total offense. Then on November 20, 1983, Riggins set a NFL record by scoring a touchdown in his 12th consecutive game during a 42–20 win over the Los Angeles Rams. His streak ended at 13 consecutive games. Then during the regular-season finale on December 17, 1983, Moseley set an NFL scoring record with 161 points while Riggins' total of 144 points was second. This marked the first time since 1951 that the top two scorers in a season played on the same team. They dominated the NFL with a 14-win season which included scoring a then NFL record 541 points, many of which came from Riggins, who scored 24 touchdowns.
In the postseason, the Redskins beat the Los Angeles Rams 51–7. The next week, Washington beat the San Francisco 49ers 24–21. It was their final win of the season because two weeks later, the Raiders beat the Redskins 38–9 in Super Bowl XVIII.
During the offseason, the Redskins signed future standout Gary Clark in the second round of the 1984 NFL Supplemental Draft. The Redskins finished the 1984 season with an 11–5 record, and won the NFC East for the third consecutive season. However, they lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Chicago Bears, 23–19.
The 1985 season was disappointing to the franchise. Week 1 opened as usual with a trip to Texas Stadium. The game proved a disaster as Joe Theismann threw five interceptions and was taunted by Cowboys fans singing "Happy Birthday" en route to a 44-14 beatdown. On November 18, while playing against the Giants, Theismann broke his leg during a sack by Lawrence Taylor. The compound fracture forced him to retire after a 12-year career, during which he became the Redskins' all-time leader in pass attempts and completions. Though the Redskins finished the season with a 10–6 record, they finished only third in the NFC East and failed to make the playoffs for only the second time in Gibb's tenure.
In 1986, the road to the playoffs was even harder, with the Redskins making the postseason as a wild-card team despite having a regular season record of 12–4. They won the Wild Card playoff against the Rams, and then again in the Divisional playoffs against the Bears. This game was Gibbs 70th career victory, which made him the winningest head coach in Redskins history. The season ended next week, however, when the Redskins lost to the Giants 17–0 in the NFC Championship game. As the Cowboys sank into irrelevance during the second half of the '80s, New York would become Washington's main rival in the NFC East.
The 1987 season began with a 24-day players' strike, reducing the 16-game season to 15. The games for weeks 4–6 were won with all replacement players. The Redskins have the distinction of being the only team with no players crossing the picket line. Those three victories are often credited with getting the team into the playoffs and the basis for the 2000 movie The Replacements. The Redskins won their second championship in Super Bowl XXII on January 31, 1988, in San Diego, California. The Redskins routed the Denver Broncos 42–10 after starting the game in a 10–0 deficit, the largest come-from-behind victory in Super Bowl history. This game is more famous for the stellar performance by quarterback Doug Williams who passed for four touchdowns in the second quarter en route to becoming the first black quarterback to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory. Rookie running back Timmy Smith had a great performance as well, running for a Super Bowl record 203 yards (186 m).
The following two seasons, the Redskins did not live up to the expectations of a former Super Bowl team by not making the playoffs in either the 1988 or 1989 seasons. One bright note that came from 1989, however, when Gerald Riggs set the Redskins' all-time single-game rushing record with a 221-yard (202 m) performance in a 42–37 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Redskins returned to the playoffs in 1990 as a Wild Card team, but lost in the Divisional playoffs to the 49ers, 28–10.
The 1991 season started with a franchise-record with 11 straight victories. Also during the season, the Hogs allowed a league low and club record nine sacks — the third lowest total in NFL history. After posting a 14–2 record, the Redskins made and dominated the playoffs, beating the Falcons and Lions by a combined score of 64–17. On January 26, 1992, the Redskins won Super Bowl XXVI by defeating the Buffalo Bills 37–24. After the Super Bowl, the Redskins set another club record by sending eight players to the Pro Bowl. Helping the Redskins accomplish this achievement was a trio of wide receivers known as the Posse: Art Monk, Gary Clark, and Ricky Sanders. The trio averaged 210 catches for 3,043 yards (2,783 m) per season in the late 80s' and early 90s'. Super Bowl XXVI showcased the receivers' talents, with Clark recording seven catches for 114 yards (104 m) and a touchdown and Monk with seven catches for 113 yards (103 m).
The Redskins success in 1992 came close, but did not equal, their success the previous year. They finished with a record of 9–7 and earn a trip to the playoffs as a Wild Card team, but lost in the Divisional playoffs to the 49ers, 20–13. The most impressive feat during the season occurred on October 12, 1992, when Art Monk became the NFL's all-time leading pass receiver against the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football by catching his 820th career reception.
The era ended on March 5, 1993, when Joe Gibbs retired after twelve years of coaching with the Redskins. In what proved to be a temporary retirement, Gibbs pursued an interest in NASCAR by founding Joe Gibbs Racing.
After the end of Gibb's first tenure, the Redskins hired former Redskins player Richie Petitbon for the 1993 season. However, his first and only year as head coach, the Redskins finished with a record of 4–12. Petitbon was fired at the end of the season and on February 2, 1994, Norv Turner was hired as head coach after being the offensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys.
Turner's first two years as head coach were unimpressive, going 9–23 during the 1994 and 1995 season. One individual achievement that happened during these season occurred on October 9, 1994, when linebacker Monte Coleman played in his 206th career game with the Redskins, which broke Art Monk's team record for games played (Coleman retired at season's end with 216 games played).
In hope of inspiring the team, on March 13, 1996, Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, Maryland Governor Parris Glendening, and Prince George's County executive Wayne K. Curry signed a contract that paved the way for the immediate start of construction for the new home of the Redskins (now FedExField). The 1996 season was an improvement, with the Redskins going 9–7, but they were still unable to make the playoffs. However, in December 1996, two important events occurred. On December 16, 1996, the Redskins played their final game at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium against the Dallas Cowboys. The Redskins defeated the Cowboys 37–10, finished their tenure at the stadium with a 173–102–3 record, including 11–1 in the playoffs. The second achievement was on December 22, 1996, when Terry Allen rushed past Riggins' single-season rushing record, gaining 1,353 yards (1,237 m). He also led the NFL with 21 touchdowns.
On April 6, 1997, Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke died of congestive heart failure at the age of 84. In his will, Cooke left the Redskins to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, with instructions that the foundation sell the team. His estate, headed by son John Kent Cooke, took over ownership of the Redskins and at his memorial service, John Kent Cooke announced that the new stadium in Landover, Maryland will be named Jack Kent Cooke Stadium. Also during the 1997 offseason, two Redskins players became the focus of media attention when Michael Westbrook, 1995 first-round draft pick, punched Stephen Davis, an incident caught by local TV news cameras. The Redskins fined Westbrook $50,000. On September 14, 1997, the Redskins played in their new stadium for the first time, and beat the Arizona Cardinals, 19–13 in overtime. On November 23, 1997, they played the New York Giants and the result was a 7–7 tie, the Redskins first tie game since the 1971 season. The result was a 8–7–1 record, and the Redskins missed the playoffs for a fifth season in a row. One bright spot during the season, however, occurred on December 13, 1997, when Darrell Green played in his 217th career game as a Redskin, breaking Monte Coleman's record for games played.
The 1998 season started with a seven-game losing streak, and the Redskins finished with a 6–10 record, their first losing record in two seasons. On December 27, 1998, however, Brian Mitchell finished the season leading the NFL in total combined net yards for the fourth time. By doing so, he joined Jim Brown as the only players in league history to lead the league in the category four times.
After two seasons, John Kent Cooke was unable to raise sufficient funds to permanently purchase the Redskins, and on May 25, 1999, Daniel Snyder gained unanimous approval (31-0) from league owners and bought the franchise for $800 million, a deal that was the most expensive team-purchasing deal in sporting history. One of his first acts as team owner occurred on November 21, 1999, when he sold the naming-rights to Jack Kent Cooke Stadium to the highest bidder, Federal Express, who renamed the stadium FedExField.
In Snyder's first season as owner, the Redskins went 10–6, including a four-game winning streak early in the season, and made it to the playoffs for the first time in Norv Turner's career, and the first time for the Redskins since 1992. One of the most important games of the regular season occurred on December 26, 1999, when the Redskins overcame a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to defeat the San Francisco 49ers 26–20, to give the Redskins their first NFC East crown since 1991. The final game of the season, on January 2, 2000, against the Dolphins, running back Stephen Davis rushed for a club-record 1,405 yards (1,285 m) and quarterback Brad Johnson completed a club-record 316 passes and threw for more than 4,000 yards (3,700 m). They then beat the Detroit Lions in the first round of the playoffs, but lost to the Buccaneers, 14–13. The Redskins had a chance to win the game with a 52-yard (48 m) field goal attempt in the final seconds of the game, but the snap from center Dan Turk to Brad Johnson, the holder, was off and the Bucs won. This was Dan Turk's last game in the NFL, as he died later that year of cancer.
The 2000 season started with the selection of future Pro Bowlers LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels in the 2000 NFL Draft and included five consecutive wins in the first half of the season. However, they ended up going 7–6 through 14 weeks (counting their bye-week), and on December 4, 2000, Norv Turner was fired after almost seven seasons as head coach. Terry Robiskie was named interim coach to finish out the season, which ended with an 8–8 record. During the final game of the season on December 24, 2000, Larry Centers became the NFL's all-time leader in catches by a running back with 685 receptions.
On January 3, 2001, the Redskins hired former Browns and Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer as the 24th Redskins head coach. The 2001 season began with a loss to the San Diego Chargers, 30–3. Though this was not the way they wanted to began the season, two days later it seemed like a minute detail. On September 11, 2001, 19 terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners. The hijackers intentionally crashed two airliners into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, and a third airliner into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. Passengers and members of the flight crew on the fourth aircraft attempted to retake control of their plane from the hijackers; that plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The total number of victims is said to be 2,998, the majority of whom were civilians. On September 13, 2001, the Redskins announced the establishment of the Redskins Relief Fund to help families of the victims of the attack at the Pentagon. During the course of the season, the Redskins raised more than $700,000.
In light of the attacks, the NFL re-scheduled the game from the weekend of September 16–17 to the weekend of January 6–7. The rest of the Redskins' season was filled with highs and lows. They started 0–5, but then went on to win five consecutive games, to bring their record to 5–5. Despite the turnaround, they finished the season with an 8–8 record. However on January 6, 2002, Stephen Davis became the first Redskin in team history to rush for 1,000-plus yards for three consecutive seasons. He finished the 2001 campaign with 1,432 yards (1,309 m) on 356 carries, which were both franchise single-season records.
On January 14, 2002, Snyder hired former Heisman winner and University of Florida coach Steve Spurrier, the Redskins' fifth new head coach in ten years. During the offseason, he acquired Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel and Shane Matthews, who were both quarterbacks under Spurrier at Florida. He continued signing Florida players during his tenure with the Redskins, including using the Redskins' second-round draft pick during the 2003 NFL Draft to select Taylor Jacobs, a wide receiver who was largely considered a bust for the Redskins. Spurrier made his Redskins pre-season debut on August 3, 2002, against the 49ers in the 2002 American Bowl in Osaka, Japan, where the Redskins won 38–7. But it did not go as well in the regular season, and they finished with a 7–9 record, their first losing season since 1998. A bittersweet moment during the season occurred on December 29, 2002, when Darrell Green concluded his 20th and final season as the Redskins defeated the Cowboys 20–14 at FedExField. During his twenty seasons, he set a NFL record for consecutive seasons with at least one interception (19) and a Redskins team record for regular season games played (295) and started (258).
Hoping for a turnaround from the year before, the Redskins started the 2003 season on September 4, 2003, when they hosted the NFL kickoff game at FedExField, defeating the Jets 16–13, thanks to a last-minute field goal by ex-Jets kicker John Hall. The week's festivities included a concert on the National Mall before the game with special guests, Britney Spears, Aerosmith, Mary J. Blige, and Aretha Franklin, who concluded the concert by singing the national anthem from the Mall leading up to kickoff. Despite such a spectacular beginning to the season, the Redskins finished with a 5–11 record, their worst since 1994. The one bright note of the season was on December 7, 2003, when defensive end Bruce Smith sacked Giants quarterback Jesse Palmer in the fourth quarter. With his 199th career sack, broke Reggie White's all-time NFL mark (Smith finished the season with 200 career sacks). After two mediocre years, Spurrier resigned after the 2003 season with three years left on his contract.
The 2004 off-season began with three major changes. The first came on January 7, 2004, when Snyder successfully lured former coach Joe Gibbs away from NASCAR to return as head coach and team president. Snyder also expanded FedExField to a league-high capacity of 91,665 seats. The final big change in the off-season occurred on March 3, 2004, when the Redskins agreed to a trade with the Broncos, sending cornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round draft choice to Denver for running back Clinton Portis.
The 2004 season started on a high note on September 12, 2004, during Gibbs' first game back as head coach, when the Redskins defeated the Buccaneers 16–10. The win was the 500th regular season win in franchise history. It was also Gibbs' 125th regular season win as Redskins head coach, making him responsible for a full one-quarter of the franchise's 500 wins. However, Gibbs' return to the franchise did not pay instant dividends as the Redskins finished the season with a 6–10 record.
Despite an impressive defense, the team struggled offensively. Newly acquired quarterback Mark Brunell struggled during the season, and was replaced midway by backup Patrick Ramsey. However, some of Gibbs' other new signings, such as cornerback Shawn Springs and linebacker Marcus Washington did very well. The Redskins also picked Sean Taylor and Chris Cooley during the 2004 NFL Draft, who both quickly emerged as talented players.
The Redskins made only one major move at the beginning the 2005 off-season, acquiring wide receiver Santana Moss from the New York Jets for Laveranues Coles. Other signings included center Casey Rabach and wide receiver David Patten. The Redskins made their biggest off-season moves at the 2005 NFL Draft, where they drafted cornerback Carlos Rogers in the first round, from Auburn. The team then traded away multiple picks to select again in the first round, with which drafted quarterback Jason Campbell, also from Auburn. The team also added to the coaching roster with the hiring of former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave as the quarterbacks coach. Having coached quarterback Mark Brunell when they both were in Jacksonville, they quickly formed a rapport. Musgrave's input allowed the Redskins to utilize the shotgun formation, a first under Gibbs.
The beginning of the 2005 season started with three wins, including a Monday Night Football game on September 19, 2005, against the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas led 13–0 with less than four minutes left when Brunell threw a 39-yard (36 m) touchdown pass to Moss on a fourth-down play. Then, with 2:44 left, Brunell connected with Moss again on a 70-yard (64 m) touchdown pass and Nick Novak kicked the game-winning extra point. It was the Redskins' first victory at Texas Stadium since 1995. They then fell into a slump, losing six of the next eight games which included three straight losses in November, and their playoffs chances looked bleak.
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However, the Redskins then went on to record five consecutive victories at the end of the season, which concluded with the Redskins winning three games in a row against division rivals. On December 18, 2005, they beat Cowboys, 35–7, which marked the first time since 1995 that the Redskins were able to sweep the season series with Dallas. The Redskins then avenged the earlier loss to the Giants with a 35–20 victory in their last regular-season home game. They finished out the season against the Philadelphia Eagles on January 1, 2006, where they won with a 31–20, with Taylor returning a fumble 39 yards (36 m) for a touchdown to seal the victory. The win clinched their first playoff berth since 1999. The game also culminated impressive season performances by individuals. Portis set a team mark for most rushing yards in a single season with 1,516 yards (1,386 m), and Moss set a team record for most receiving yards in a single season with 1,483 yards (1,356 m), breaking Bobby Mitchell's previous record set in 1963. Also, Chris Cooley's 71 receptions broke Jerry Smith's season record for a Redskins tight end.
Finishing the season 10–6, they qualified for the playoffs as a wild card team. Their first game was against the NFC South Champion Buccaneers on January 7, 2006. The Redskins won 17–10, after taking an early 14–0 lead, which they thought they lost until replay showed that a touchdown, which would have tied the game, was an incomplete pass. In that game, the Redskins broke the record for fewest offensive yards (120) gained in a playoff victory, with one of their two touchdowns being from a defensive run after a fumble recovery. The following weekend, they played the Seahawks, who defeated the Redskins 20–10, ending their hopes of reaching their first NFC Championship Game since 1991.
The first major move of the 2006 off-season was the hiring of Kansas City Chiefs' offensive coordinator Al Saunders as Associate Head Coach, Offense. Gibbs also added former Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Jerry Gray to his staff as Secondary/Cornerbacks coach and lost quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave to the Falcons. The Redskins also picked up future starters Rocky McIntosh, Anthony Montgomery, Reed Doughty, and Kedric Golston in the 2006 NFL Draft.
After winning only three of the first nine games of the 2006 season, Gibbs benched quarterback Brunell for former first-round draft pick Jason Campbell. After losing his first game as a starter to Tampa Bay, Campbell got his first NFL victory against the Carolina Panthers, bringing the Redskins out of a three-game losing streak. The highlight of the season happened on November 5, 2006, and concluded with one the most exciting endings in the history of the Cowboys–Redskins rivalry. Tied 19–19, Troy Vincent blocked a last-second field goal attempt by Dallas that would have given them the win. Sean Taylor picked up the ball and ran 30 yards (27 m), breaking tackles along the way. It was thought that the game would then go in overtime, however because of a defensive 15-yard (14 m) face mask penalty, the Redskins would get a field goal chance with no time on the clock. Novak kicked a 47-yard (43 m) field goal, giving Washington a 22–19 victory.
They finished the year with a 5–11 record, which resulted in them being last in the NFC East, and the only team in the division to fail to make the playoffs. This marked the second losing season of Joe Gibbs' second term as head coach with the Redskins, compared to the one losing season he had in his first 12-year tenure as head coach. Despite the failures of the 2006 season, including free agent disasters Adam Archuleta and Brandon Lloyd, the year did see improvement in running back Ladell Betts and Campbell as quarterback.
The 2007 season was one of the most emotional years the team and its fans have ever faced. The 2007 off-season started with the signing of linebacker London Fletcher and the return cornerback Fred Smoot, as well as the selection on LaRon Landry in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft. However, they lost Derrick Dockery, a major part of Washington's offensive line, to the Buffalo Bills during free agency.
The 2007 season began with the Redskins posting a 5–3 record through nine weeks. The following week the Redskins started a four-game losing streak that did not end until week 14. The first lost came against the Eagles, with a score of 33–25. Also lost during the game was Sean Taylor, who had to leave early with a knee injury. The Redskins lost the next two games to the Cowboys and Buccaneers. Though this was thought of as bad, the Redskins did not know just how bad it would get.
Two days after the Buccaneers game, on November 26, 2007, Sean Taylor was shot in the upper leg by an armed intruder at his Palmetto Bay, Florida home while he was resting an injury that had kept him sidelined for the previous two games, critically wounding him by severing his femoral artery. After undergoing surgery, Taylor remained unconscious and in a coma. On November 27, at 3:30 a.m., Taylor died at the hospital.
On November 30, 2007, law enforcement officials detained four people in the Fort Myers area for questioning in connection with Taylor's death. Later that night, a Miami-Dade police spokeswoman announced that the four men: Venjah Hunte, 20; Eric Rivera, Jr., 17; Jason Mitchell, 19; and Charles Wardlow, 18; were arrested and charged with Taylor's murder. All four men were charged on December 1, 2007, with felony second-degree murder, armed burglary, and home invasion with a firearm or another deadly weapon. The charges could result in life imprisonment for the perpetrators.
|Wikinews has related news: NFL: Redskins' Sean Taylor dies|
The NFL recognized the death of Taylor by placing a black #21 sticker on the back of NFL players' helmets, as well as having a moment of silence before each game played that week. The Redskins had the number 21 painted on the field, a parking lot entrance and the Redskins Hall of Fame, all three of which became makeshift memorials. In addition to the #21 sticker on the back of every helmet, the Redskins wore it as a patch on player uniforms, warm-up shirts and coaching staff jackets, as well as unveiling a banner bearing his name and number. His locker at Redskin Park was encased in plexi-glass and left as Taylor left it. The organization also established a trust fund for Taylor's daughter, Jackie. At the University of Miami, a giant banner honoring Taylor and signed by students and alumni was displayed in the student union breezway, and a candlelight vigil was held on the campus in his honor the evening of December 2, 2007.
Just five days after Taylor's death, the Redskins tried to snap their losing streak at home against the Buffalo Bills. Before the kickoff, the stadium held a memorial service for Taylor. For the team's first defensive play, the Redskins came out with only ten players on the field (as opposed to eleven) to honor to Taylor. The game ended with the Bills getting into position to kick a game-winning 51-yard (47 m) field goal. The original field goal was good, however Gibbs called timeout right before the snap to "ice the kicker" (a common practice). However, when Buffalo tried to kick again, Gibbs again called timeout. A coach is not allowed to call two timeouts in a row without the ball being in play. This unintentional call got his team an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which not only moved the Bills 15 yards (14 m) closer to their end zone, but reduced Lindell's field goal attempt to 36 yards (33 m). Rian Lindell made the kick, and the Bills won 17–16. With their fourth-straight loss, Washington fell to 5–7.
On December 3, a day after the loss, the entire Redskins organization flew to Florida and attended Taylor's funeral, along with 4,000 other people, in the Pharmed Arena at Florida International University. Speakers at the funeral, which was nationally televised, included NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, coach Gibbs, and former professional and collegiate teammates LaVar Arrington, Clinton Portis, and Buck Ortega. The Reverend Jesse Jackson and O. J. Simpson were also in attendance. Taylor was buried near his Palmetto Bay, Florida home.
Three days later, the Redskins played the Chicago Bears on a Thursday night, hoping to stop the losing-streak and to honor Taylor properly with a victory. The beginning of the game did not go as planned, with a scoreless first quarter and the loss of starter Jason Campbell, who left early in the second quarter with a dislocated knee. However, backup quarterback Todd Collins led the team to a 24–16 victory, thus ending the losing streak. Collins proved to be more than just a one-game solution, despite not having started a game in 10 years, and led the Redskins to three more straight victories to finish the season with a 9–7 record and secured a Wild Card spot in the players. They secured that playoff berth on December 30, 2007, with a 27–6 win over the Dallas Cowboys in front of a record-setting FedExField crowd. For many players, the Redskins' 21-point victory margin called to mind the late Taylor, who wore jersey No. 21.
The Redskins' season came to end a week later, with a loss in the Wild Card round of the playoffs against the Seahawks, 35–14. However, the season was not over for three players, Chris Cooley, Chris Samuels, and long snapper Ethan Albright, who were all named to the 2008 Pro Bowl. During the game, all three players wore No. 21 to honor Taylor one last time before the end of the season. Taylor was coming off a Pro Bowl season in 2006, and was the leading vote getter for the NFC Free Safety in 2007 when his untimely death occurred. Taylor then became the first player to be posthumously elected to a Pro Bowl.
Although Sean Taylor's murder trial was originally scheduled for April 7, it was postponed until August 25 because both the defense attorneys and prosecutors were not properly prepared to begin by the initial trial date. On May 12, 2008, it was announced the suspects, if convicted, would not face the death penalty, but may be subjected to life imprisonment. On May 13, 2008, a fifth suspect in the murder of Taylor, Timothy Brown, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and armed burglary of an occupied dwelling. Also on May 13, suspect Venjah Hunte signed a plea agreement and will serve 29 years in prison and cooperate with prosecutors.
On January 7, 2008, Joe Gibbs announced his retirement for a second time, citing a need to spend more time with his family, in particular his grandson Taylor, who was diagnosed with leukemia in January 2007. Being former head coaches themselves, Assistant Head Coach (Defense) Gregg Williams and Associate Head Coach (Offense) Al Saunders were considered to be the top candidates for replacing Gibbs. This changed, however, on January 26, 2008, when both were fired and Greg Blache was promoted to defensive coordinator. The day before, Jim Zorn was hired as offensive coordinator. The hunt for a new coach lasted two more weeks with numerous coaches mentioned as a possible replacement, including former Giants coach Jim Fassel, Giants' defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Patriots' offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Colts defensive coordinator Ron Meeks, and Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, but nothing was finalized. The biggest surprise came on February 10, 2008, when the Redskins promoted newly hired offensive coordinator Zorn as Head coach instead of hiring someone else outside the franchise. On February 15, 2008, Sherman Smith, former running backs coach for the Tennessee Titans, was hired as an offensive coordinator.
The franchise and fans alike expressed great pride on February 2, 2008, when the Pro Football Hall of Fame voted in former players Darrell Green and Art Monk, as well as former defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas. They were inducted on August 2, 2008, during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game (the preseason opener), in which the Redskins played the Colts. The Redskins also played in the NFL Kickoff game on September 4, 2008, against the Giants.
On April 5, 2008, the Redskins signed Pro Bowl kickoff returner and wide receiver Jerome Mathis from the Houston Texans, their only free agent signing during the 2008 offseason. However, he was waived by the team on May 15, 2008. The Redskins also lost players to free agency, including Mark Brunell, Reche Caldwell, David Macklin, and Pierson Prioleau. In the 2008 NFL Draft, the Redskins selected standout wide receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, John Mackey Award winning tight end Fred Davis, Ray Guy Award winning punter Durant Brooks, and Sammy Baugh Trophy winning quarterback Colt Brennan.
The Redskins' fortunes continued to slide in 2009, as they lost two of the first four matches, one of which was a 19-14 defeat at the hands of the Lions, a team that had not won a game since December 2007. After that, they lost to Carolina on the road and Kansas City at home, the latter match handing another victory to a winless team. On Monday Night Football, the Redskins lost to Philadelphia in a game where Jim Zorn was temporarily relieved of his duties by offensive coordinator Sherman Lewis. In Week 10, they inflicted a surprise defeat on the Denver Broncos before losing two divisional matches to Dallas and Philadelphia. The Week 13 game against an undefeated Saints team proved another surprise. The Redskins managed to tie at the end of regulation, and in overtime had a chance to break New Orleans' winning streak. However, kicker Shaun Suisham missed a field goal that would have given them the victory. On their next possession, the Saints scored a FG and won the game 33-30. Suisham was cut after the game and signed with Dallas (his original team). The Redskins then routed Oakland in Week 14 before losing their last three games to finish 4-12. The second match with the Cowboys ended in a 16-0 shutout, making for only the second season since 1970 where Washington lost all of its divisional matches. Jim Zorn was fired and replaced by Mike Shanahan afterwards.
The 2010 off-season would bring a surprise when on April 4, Eagles QB Donovan McNabb forced his team to trade him to the Redskins and was also marred by contract disputes with Albert Haynesworth. Washington continued an old tradition of playing its arch-rival Cowboys on the first week of the season. Both teams were unimpressive and the Redskins' offense sputtered throughout the game, but they finally won 13-10 after a touchdown pass by Tony Romo was nullified after a holding call. They hosted the Texans in Week 2, but good all-around offensive performance (especially by McNabb, who passed for 426 yards and a touchdown) failed to secure a win. The game tied at 27-27 and went into overtime where Houston kicker Neil Rackers made a 37-yard FG, ending the match at 30-27. After this, the Redskins lost to St. Louis 30-16 before McNabb's return to Philadelphia. Although Washington did not deliver a particularly strong performance, they won 16-12 after Eagles QB Michael Vick was injured and replaced by Kevin Kolb. In Week 5, they hosted Green Bay for only the second time since 1979 (the first was in 2004) and beat them 16-13. After losing a Sunday Night match to the Colts, Washington beat Chicago in Week 7. Although McNabb threw two interceptions, the team took advantage of their opponent's porous O-line to sack and pick off Jay Cutler four times, winning 17-14. After losing a 37-25 trap game in Detroit, the Redskins went on their bye week and returned to host Philadelphia on MNF for the second straight year. As rain fell on Fedex Field, the Eagles proceeded to crush Washington 59-28 with eight touchdowns. In contrast to the huge numbers put up by Michael Vick, McNabb looked decidedly unimpressive, with two touchdown passes and three interceptions (one returned for a TD). Just before the game, he had finalized his contract with the Redskins, who gave him a 5-year, $78 million deal and allowing him to (barring unforeseen circumstances) finish out his career in Washington. After beating Tennessee, the Redskins lost four straight games and were removed from playoff contention before beating Jacksonville in Week 16. After losing to New York at home, the Redskins finished the year at 6-10 and once again 4th place in the division.
The McNabb era came to an abrupt end when he was traded to Minnesota in August 2011. The troublesome Albert Haynesworth also headed to New England. After cutting the injury-rattled Clinton Portis, the Redskins had no important offensive players left except for Santana Moss. Mike Shanahan surprised most observers by his decision to name John Beck, an obscure free agent QB, as the starter.
However, Shanahan suddenly reversed direction by naming veteran backup Rex Grossman to the starting position. In Week 1, Grossman threw for 305 yards and two TD passes as the Redskins crushed the Giants 28-14, ending a six-game losing streak against that team. After beating the Cardinals in Week 2, the Redskins got off to a surprise 2-0 start. In Week 3, they played the Cowboys on MNF and lost a poorly played game where the latter edged them out with six field goals to win 18-16.
After beating the Rams in Week 4, the Redskins disintegrated from injuries and didn't win another game until Seattle in Week 12. They finished 5-11 following a second win over the eventual champion Giants.
The Redskins traded all their high level draft picks to St. Louis for taking Baylor QB Robert Griffin III #2 in the 2012 draft. Although the need for a franchise QB was obvious, many football experts doubted the wisdom of such a trade for one player. Griffin silenced his critics in Week 1 as Washington won a surprise upset over the Saints in New Orleans. The rookie QB threw for 320 yards and two TD passes in a 40-32 victory for the Redskins' highest scoring game since 2005.
In Week 2, the team traveled to St. Louis where they lost 24-22. A major defensive loss was suffered when Brian Orakpo went down from a tear to his left pectoral muscle. Despite widespread complaints from Redskins fans and players about the Rams playing dirty, there was nothing to do but move on to the home opener against Cincinnati. The game started on a bad omen when the Bengals threw a 76-yard TD pass on the opening drive. Although the Redskins responded furiously and played another close match, they lost and injuries continued to pile up as CB Josh Wilson and WR Pierre Garcon went down.
However, the Redskins rebounded and won their division championship with a record of 10-6 under the able leadership of quarterback RGIII.
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