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So it has come to this. The 2-5 Redskins are going to Dallas to play the 6-1 Cowboys Monday night. They are 10-point underdogs and should be. Colt McCoy, who started the season as their third-string quarterback, will likely start. And if he does start, it will be the fourth time in the last 22 seasons that the Redskins will have started three different quarterbacks during a season. The previous ones ended at 4-12 (1993), 3-13 (1994) and 7-9 (2002). Not a good sign.
On the Sports Fix on ESPN 980 on Wednesday, Kevin Sheehan asked the question, “Is Dallas week dead?”
Given what we’re looking at for Monday night, THIS Dallas week certainly is. Will it ever be revived? It’s a good question, one that deserves an historical look.
The term “Dallas Week” was coined when George Allen arrived as coach of the Redskins in 1971. At that time, the Cowboys had only been in the league for a decade, but had sprinted ahead of the Skins. After a couple of losses to the Packers in the NFL Championship game in the late 60’s, Dallas had already been to a Super Bowl and looked like the team to beat in the NFC in ’71.
Allen knew it and made it clear to his team that beating Dallas was a key to becoming a winner. They would have to play the Cowboys at least twice a year and those games could very well decide the NFC East winner. Sure enough, in just his third game as coach of the Redskins, he won in Dallas and it was game on. That season and the following five seasons, the two teams split. Although the Redskins won the big one when they beat Dallas at RFK Stadium in the 1972 NFC Championship game, 26-3.
In 1977, Dallas swept the series and not coincidently, the Redskins missed the playoffs and Allen’s run in D.C. was over. In 1979, the Redskins lost that brutal season finale in Dallas where they blew a 13-point lead in the final minutes and lost 35-34. They never recovered and Dallas swept the series in 1980, which ended with Coach Jack Pardee fired.
New coach Joe Gibbs took his lumps in 1981, getting swept by the Cowboys, but he got his revenge a year later. The strike-shortened season meant only game against Dallas, which the Redskins lost. But in the NFC Championship game, the Skins knocked out Cowboys quarterback Danny White and rode John Riggins to a 31-17 win and a trip to the Super Bowl. The victory over Miami in Pasadena a week later is considered by many to be the greatest moment in modern Redskins history.
The Redskin sweep in 1984 was the first-ever in the series. However, in 1985, Dallas bounced back with a sweep of their own, including a 44-14 win in the opener. Again, not coincidently, the Redskins missed the playoffs.
In 1988, the great Tom Landry era in Dallas came to a sad ending with a 3-13 season, but wouldn’t you know it, the man with the hat got the last laugh. That third win, and the last of his Hall of Fame career, was a 24-17 win over the Redskins.
Even worse for the Redskins, the following year, the Cowboys won only one game all year. And that was a win over the Redskins at RFK. And of course, that win kept the 10-6 Redskins out of the playoffs.
In the 90’s, the Redskins won a Super Bowl and the Cowboys won three. Yet in three of those four seasons, they split. And get this – when the Cowboys won their last Super Bowl in 1995 – the Redskins swept for two of their six wins all year.
The last 20 years have seen a few big Redskin wins, including Mark Brunell’s midnight miracle at Cowboys Stadium in 2005, when he threw a pair of touchdown bombs to Santana Moss in the final six minutes for a 14-13 victory. But the series has been dominated by Dallas, which brings us back to the original question – is Dallas week dead?
There are a couple of other factors in the deadening of the series. One – Norv Turner was hired as head coach here in 1994 after a great run in Dallas as the Cowboys offensive coordinator on two Super Bowl championship teams. Darrell Green told me that Norv didn’t endear himself to his new team when he brought in several ex-Cowboys as free agents– none of whom were any good.
And two – free agency as a whole. When it entered the league in 1993, it was game-changer for all rivalries. Bringing in ex-Cowboys was no longer a big deal.
That’s a far cry from the way it used to be. I leave you with yet another Jean Fugett story. The tight end split his eight-year career between Dallas and Washington, finishing here in 1979.
Allen, who had instilled that Cowboy hatred in his players, surprised many of them by signing Fugett away from Dallas in 1976, a year that the NFL experimented with free agency. Tackle Diron Talbert, who Allen had sort of appointed as the chief Cowboy hater, made it clear he didn’t appreciate Fugett’s Cowboy background.
One game Talbert hurt his knee. As he was moaning in pain while being examined, Talbert whined, “Why couldn’t this have happened to Fugett?”
That’s when Dallas week was alive and well.
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Six games into a season where it was hoped the Redskins would return to their late season form of 2012 and become a playoff team, hope is essentially gone. It’s not just the 1-5 record, quarterback Kirk Cousins isn’t proving to be ready for the job and there are questions now about rookie coach Jay Gruden. He may not be the “young Joe Gibbs” that we’ve hoped for since Gibbs’ first retirement in 1993 – and that includes the old Joe Gibbs, who returned from 2004-2007.
So besides Robert Griffin III getting back on the field at some point this year, what’s left to see in this disappointing season? Playoffs aren’t even a long shot, they’re a no shot. However, we’ve seen some Redskin teams over the years produce entertaining finishes to horrible starts that at least have left us hopeful going into the following season. Here are six that stand out in reverse chronological order:
2001 – start: 0-5, finish: 8-8, record the following year: 7-9 – This was the one year of Marty Schottenheimer. After first saying on ESPN that he could never work for an owner like Dan Snyder, Marty did an about face and signed a four year deal worth $10 million. Changing the culture was his first order of business. Dumping player personnel director Vinny Cerrato and free agent bust Dana Stubblefield were among his first moves. He benched starting quarterback Jeff George in the opening day 30-3 loss in San Diego. And two days after losing at Green Bay, 37-0, George was cut. They went the rest of the way with waiver-wire quarterback Tony Banks, who played better than George, but dropped the next three. At 0-5, we started having discussions on the air over what was less likely to happen in the NFL – an 0-16 season or a 16-0. Since that time, both have occurred, but at that time those Skins appeared on their way to the first 0-16 ever. In their sixth game, they trailed Carolina 14-0 midway through the fourth quarter as the Panthers seemed on their way to a game-clinching field goal. But on third down at the Redskins 28, Chris Weinke threw a short pass in the flat that Lavar Arrington picked off and returned 68 yards for a touchdown. That proved to be the spark that jolted the Redskins back to life. They went on to win that game in overtime and rolled through their next four. Incredibly 0-5 had become 5-5 and the Skins were back in the playoff hunt. Division losses in December to Dallas and Philadelphia pretty much killed their postseason hopes. But they finished strong with a 40-10 win at New Orleans and a 20-17 win over the Cardinals to wind up 8-8. However, Marty’s ship had already sailed. Refusing to give up some of the control Snyder had given him when he was hired, he was fired a week after the season ended. Steve Spurrier was hired to take Schottenheimer’s place.
1998 – start: 0-7, finish: 6-10, record the following year: 10-6, NFC East Champs – After just missing the playoffs at 9-7 in ’96 and 8-7-1 in ’97, 1998 was supposed to be a playoff year. General manager Charley Casserly had addressed a big need on the defensive line by dealing for Dan “Big Daddy” Wilkinson and signing free agent Dana Stubblefield, who’d been the NFC defensive player of the year in San Francisco. They opened the season in New York and led the Giants 10-7, but the second half was the beginning of the end. After quarterback Gus Frerotte threw a pick six to Michael Strahan early in the second half, he was benched for Trent Green. With a couple of touchdown passes, Green made the loss a respectable 31-24 and earned the start the following week. But that game was a Monday nighter and the 49ers came to town and blew the Redskins doors off 45-10. Denver came in a couple of weeks later and didn’t even play John Elway. Bubby Brister quarterbacked the 38-16 debacle. They got to 0-6 by losing at winless Philadelphia and then played a putrid game in Minnesota, losing 41-7. At 0-7, what was supposed to be a playoff year looked like it would be an historically bad season. Had owner John Kent Cooke not been tied up trying to hang on to the team as it went up for sale, Norv Turner would likely have been fired. Somehow though, they turned it around. Green started to play well and the Redskins won six of their next eight. They finally ran out of gas in the season finale, losing at Dallas 23-7. But to go from 0-7 to 6-10 proved the team didn’t quit on Norv and he stayed on the job. Green wound up with a big free agent contract in St. Louis and under new owner Dan Snyder, the Redskins won the division in 1999.
1985 – start: 1-3, finish: 10-6, record the following year: 12-4, lost in the NFC Championship game – Coming off three straight division titles, with Super Bowl appearances after the first two, it was a cold slap in the face to lose the opener at Dallas, 44-14. They managed to hang on to a 16-0 lead in week two and beat Houston 16-13, but week three produced only two Mark Moseley field goals in a loss to Philadelphia. After a 45-10 loss in Chicago, it really looked bad. But they won four of the next five to get to 5-4. However, after another loss to Dallas, some thought it may be time to start thinking about benching the aging Joe Theismann. There would be no need for that. On November 18th, Theismann played his last game. That was the Monday night he suffered that gruesome broken leg playing against the Giants. The injury, however, seemed to shock the Giants more than the Redskins and Jay Schroeder stepped in to direct a 23-21 win. A victory in Pittsburgh put the Skins at 7-5 and there was playoff talk again. That ended with a 35-8 loss to San Francisco, but they won their last three. Had the league had more than one Wild Card team in each conference in those days, they would have made the playoffs. Instead, a 10-6 finish with a second-year quarterback would have to do.
1984 – start: 0-2, finish: 11-5, record the following year: 10-6 – An 0-2 start decreases your playoff chances, but it shouldn’t be reason for panic. That year it was. Realize the Redskins had just played in the two previous Super Bowls. They dropped the opener at home to Miami 35-17 as Dan Marino threw five touchdown passes and then lost at San Francisco 37-31. It looked much better at the end of the season when the Dolphins and 49ers met in the Super Bowl. Five straight wins followed before back to back losses on the road at St. Louis and at New York. At 5-4, they needed to make a run and they did. Except for a disappointing loss at Philadelphia, they won the rest of the games, including a pair of nail biters against Dallas and St. Louis. It earned the Redskins a playoff game at home, but they lost to the Bears 23-19, ending their season earlier than they had in three years.
1981 – start: 0-5, finish: 8-8, record the following year: 8-1, Super Bowl Champions – This is the year that all bad start seasons are compared to. It was Joe Gibbs first season on the job and he had plans to install the “Air Coryell” offense that he’d run under head coach Don Coryell in San Diego. After five games they were leading the league in offense, but were 0-5. Gibbs feared he might be fired. But owner Jack Kent Cooke said to the media, “Patience is the key.” That patience would pay off. Gibbs scrapped his offense and designed a new one with a run based attack. It worked. The Redskins went on to win five of their next six and headed to Dallas the week before Thanksgiving with high hopes. A 24-10 loss in that game followed by 21-14 loss at Buffalo ended their playoff dreams, but they won their last two to finish 8-8. The foundation was laid and the next year that team won it’s first Super Bowl.
1980 – start: 1-5, finish: 6-10, record the following year: 8-8 – When John Riggins walked out of training camp, saying he was retiring because his contract demands weren’t being met, the season was pretty much doomed. Part of it was money and part of it was Riggo was still in funk over losing the season finale in 1979 at Dallas 35-34. That loss knocked the Redskins out of the playoffs. Wouldn’t you know it, they opened the 1980 season at home against the same Dallas Cowboys. This time the Redskins were no match, losing 17-3. A win at Giants Stadium followed, but then the season started to unravel. After a 20-17 loss in Denver, speculation that coach Jack Pardee was coaching for his job, got louder. The Redskins were 1-5. Then the defense stepped up with six sacks and two interceptions of Cardinals quarterback Jim Hart in a 23-0 win over St. Louis in week seven which was followed by a win over New Orleans. But then it was back to more losing. A 10-6 loss in Atlanta dropped the season record to 3-10. Then just when it looked like time to pack it in, the Redskins played their best game of the year. They blasted those “Air Coryell” Chargers 40-17 and won their last two against the Giants and Cardinals to get to 6-10. However, the strong finish wasn’t enough to save Pardee’s job. He was fired and replaced by Joe Gibbs. And the rest is history.
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Beyond being a really bad player on really bad football teams at dear old Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in the 1970’s, my sports experience has consisted of being a fan. And in my teens, I was a passionate fan. It hurt when the Redskins lost. Sometimes it took days to get over a loss – and in the case of the Super Bowl VII loss to Miami – weeks. I always thought, geez, if it’s this bad for me as a fan, it must be so much worse for the players who actually played the game.
And then I started covering sports for a living.
My first time inside an NFL locker room was 1978. I was 20 years old – younger than all the players in there. The team was the Houston Oilers, the “Luv Ya Blue” Oilers. Bum Phillips was the coach and a rookie by the name of Earl Campbell was taking the league by storm as they became a winner for the first time in ages. From my first radio job in Beaumont, Texas, 90 miles away, I went to all the home games with a press pass. One of the first games I went to, they lost. “Uh oh,” I thought. There was no way these guys will be in the mood to talk to anybody.
To my surprise, nobody in there seemed to take the loss nearly as bad as I had just taken Redskin losses just a few years earlier. As time went on, I came to understand that this was their job. Most had felt they had done what they could on the field and there was nothing more that could be done about the game. By the time the media was allowed to come in to the locker room, they were ready to move on with their lives.
Which brings us to the recent Redskins brushfire - the perceived lack of concern by the players over the mounting losses. John Keim, who covers the team for ESPN.com and ESPN 980 had a note in his game story after the 27-17 loss to the Seahawks about players seeming to be lighthearted in the locker room after the game. Jason Reid of the Washington Post took it a step further by writing this on Wednesday:
“Veteran receiver Pierre Garcon acted out something while sharing laughs with offensive team captain Trent Williams. Other players also clearly were amused while retelling stories. But few if any seemed bothered by the Redskins’ third consecutive loss.”
That led to damage control on Wednesday, including safety Ryan Clark asking the media if they knew how to act after losing a game. He wondered how anybody in the media would know how to behave after losing an NFL game saying, “You haven’t been in that situation.”
Would have been interesting to hear what Doc Walker, Brian Mitchell , Chris Cooley or any other former NFL player would have said had they been in the media gathering around Clark’s locker. Either way, that’s an old players tactic, suggesting that a reporter can’t know anything because he or she never put on a jock.
More importantly, nearly halfway into a season after a 3-13 year with a 1-4 record, the Redskins are feeling the need to convince everybody that they actually care about winning. Shouldn’t that be assumed? You have to laugh when you read a headline in the Post that says:
“Redskins adamant they want to win”
Proof of that can only come on the field. Since beating Dallas in the 2012 regular season finale, the Redskins are 4-18, including the playoff loss to Seattle. As far as I’m concerned, what a player says or does after a game means little in the grand scheme of things. It’s what he does DURING the game. And from the record it doesn’t appear that there are enough players doing what they should be doing.
A little story to wrap it up. During out first year of Redskins coverage in 1992, I did the pregame show with Jean Fugett. He’d been a Pro Bowl tight end with the Cowboys and Redskins. With Dallas, Jean played in Super Bowl X, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I asked him once how he felt losing such a crucial game. “I was devastated,” he said.
“I can imagine,” I said.
“Yeah,” he replied, “the Steelers got $25 thousand for winning that game. We only got ten.”
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Winning windows don’t stay open for long. Very few teams in any sport sustain success for long periods of time. There are of course, exceptions like the Yankees in baseball, the Lakers in basketball and recently the Patriots in football. But even their windows close. The Yankees missed the playoffs this year, the Lakers were in the lottery and many are wondering after the way New England was clobbered in Kansas City, if their window has closed.
Now the Nationals are breathing in the sweet smell of an open winning window. They’re National League East champions for the second time in three years. But their first stay in the playoffs lasted only one round two years ago, and although they hold home field advantage until the World Series this year, there’s no guarantee of any more than three playoff games. The Nats could be playing baseball for the next month or they could be finished by Monday in San Francisco.
If it is a long postseason run for the Nats, it will buck the recent trend of the other local pro teams.
The Redskins 10-year run between 1982 and 91 is the exception. During those years, they played in four Super Bowls, five NFC Championship games and a total of 14 playoff games. They missed the playoffs only three times during that run, and two of the times they missed, they finished 10-6.
Consider, though, what’s happened since those glory years ended in the relatively few times they’ve made the playoffs:
1992 – lost to San Francisco in the divisional round after beating Minnesota in the Wild Card game.
1999 – lost to Tampa Bay in the divisional round after beating Detroit in the Wild Card game.
2005 – lost to Seattle in the divisional round after beating Tampa Bay in the Wild Card round.
2007 – lost to Seattle in the Wild Card round.
2012 – lost to Seattle in the divisional round.
Those Redskin teams all won 10 regular season games or fewer. They struggled just to make the playoffs. Take the Caps though. Following a first round playoff loss to Tampa Bay in 2003. They unloaded Jaromir Jagr and rebuilt with draft picks. After three playoff-less seasons and a lockout year, their winning window opened. Alexander Ovechkin had become their star and the Caps went on a six-year run of postseason appearances after big regular seasons. However, like the Nats two years ago, their playoff success didn’t match their regular season expectations:
2007-08, division finish, 1st – lost in the first round to Philadelphia
2008-09, division finish, 1st – beat Rangers in the first round, lost to Pittsburgh in the second round
2009-10, division finish, 1st – lost in first round to Montreal
2010-11, division finish, 1st, led the NHL with 121 pts – beat Rangers in first round, swept by Tampa Bay in second round
2011-12, division finish, 2nd – beat Boston in first round, lost to Rangers in second round
2012-13, division finish, 1st – lost to Rangers in first round
It’s pretty much the same story for the Wizards, who opened up their winning window last decade, but mirrored the Caps:
2004-05 – beat Chicago in the first round, swept by Miami in the second round
2005-06 – lost to Cleveland in the first round
2006-07 – lost to Cleveland in the first round
2007-08 – lost to Cleveland in the first round
Add it up, between the Redskins, Wizards, Caps and Nationals, that’s 16 combined playoff appearances with only seven trips past the first round. Not once in those 22 years have we had a team make it to the conference title round.
Back in the playoffs last year, after five years out, the Wizards did manage to get to the second round, before falling to Indiana. You hope it’s the first step towards being real contenders, rather than what they experienced last decade. We’ll see.
As for the Nats, it’s show time. Show us as D.C. sports fans that you can buck the trend. You have to go back 16 years to find the last time a D.C. team played in the finals. And those 1997-98 Caps were swept by Detroit. A deep October run would really be something new.
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New Yorks Giants quarterback Phil Simms throws for a first down during the third quarter of the game against the Washington Redskins, October 10, 1993, at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Joe Marquette)
The 45-14 loss to the Giants, described by Coach Jay Gruden as a, “total team debacle,” is just the latest in a lineage of dreadful losses to their longtime division rival on their home turf. With 12 games still to go, it may not be a season-killer, but it’s put the patient on life support.
The way I always like to differentiate the good old days from what we’ve lived with as Redskin fans for a generation, is post-Joe Gibbs I. When the Hall of Famer stepped down for the first time after the 1992 season, the fortunes of the franchise changed dramatically.
So, post Gibbs I, here are the fetid five games played at home against the Giants in reverse chronological order.
September 25, 2014, FedEx Field – Giants 45 – Redskins 14 – Kirk Cousins, who was gaining traction as the quarterback hope of the future, took a giant (no pun intended) leap backwards in this one. Cousins was flat out awful, throwing four interceptions and fumbling once. Tight end Logan Paulsen also fumbled, killing a big first half drive. The defense was a joke, with some guy named Larry Donnell catching three of Eli Manning’s four touchdown passes. The loss dropped the Redskins to 1-3 with an upcoming date against the defending champion Seattle Seahawks.
December 21, 2009, FedEx Field – Giants 45 – Redskins 12 - Coach Jim Zorn’s fate had been sealed before this game was played, but new team vice president Bruce Allen said he was “evaluating” Zorn for the following season. If Allen had any doubt whatsoever that Zorn had to go, it was probably erased by the now infamous “swinging gate” play. Down 24-0 with two seconds left in the first half, the Redskins lined up for a field goal attempt. Seeing an odd formation, Giants coach Tom Coughlin called timeout. After the timeout, Zorn called for the same gadget play with the same formation and – what do you know – the Giants were ready for it. Under pressure, holder Hunter Smith threw a pass into the end zone, but was intercepted by Bruce Johnson. Said John Gruden, broadcasting the game on ESPN, “I’ve never seen that play and I hope I never see it again.” Zorn explained, “I contemplated just having the field goal (after the timeout). The play was unique enough that I didn’t think they saw what we were trying to do. But they smelled it out pretty quickly. We didn’t really have a chance.” The loss dropped the Redskins to 4-10. Twelve days later, Zorn was fired.
December 3, 2000, FedEx Field – Giants 9 – Redskins 7 – This one came down to a field goal attempt in the final minute of the game, which was the last defiant act of coach Norv Turner. Setting up for a 49-yarder, holder Tommy Barnhardt called timeout to tell Turner that the Redskins 44 year old kicker, Eddie Murray, couldn’t kick it 49 yards. Turner said, “Kick it anyway.” Murray kicked it and it came up short. Aside from the 97-yard touchdown drive engineered by Jeff George, who Turner despised but had to play after Brad Johnson was injured, the Skins did nothing offensively. The loss dropped them to 7-6 with playoff hopes still alive. But hours after the game, Turner was fired, three games short of completing his seventh season. Under interim coach Terry Robiskie, the Redskins were blown out in their next two by Dallas and Pittsburgh, ending the Skins playoff hopes.
November 23, 1997 – Jack Kent Cooke Stadium – Giants 7 – Redskins 7 OT – Yet another prime time disaster. The Sunday night ESPN audience was treated to a disgusting display of football, which included Redskins starting quarterback Gus Frerotte knocking himself out of the game by head-butting the wall. Jeff Hostetler was ineffective as Frerotte’s replacement. He did get the Redskins in field goal range late in the overtime, but Michael Westbrook, enraged about a call, took his helmet off on the field. It cost the Redskins a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. It meant Scott Blanton game-winning attempt was from 54 yards instead of 39. And of course it missed. On losing Frerotte in the first half, Coach Norv Turner said, “I never thought to tell a guy not to bang his head into a wall.” The Redskins just missed the playoffs at 8-7-1. A win instead of the tie would have gotten them in.
October 10, 1993 – RFK Stadium – Giants 41 – Redskins 7 – It was only the fifth game of the season, but what coach Richie Petitbon had promised after replacing Gibbs – “Business as usual,” wasn’t going to happen. This was the Redskins worst home loss in 45 years. Petitbon declared the team as being at “rock bottom.” Included in New York’s 27-7 halftime lead was a 42 yard option pass from Dave Meggett to Mike Sherrard for a score. Darrell Green, then in his 11th year, said about the torching, “It was the most disappointing and embarrassing game I can remember since I’ve been a Redskin.” The Skins would go on to lose five of their next six and finished the season 4-12. Petitbon was fired after his one and only season as head coach.
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In his weekly appearance on my show, the Sports Reporters on Sportstalk 570, Mel Kiper suggested that the Robert Griffin III era may have already ended. Mel said that if Kirk Cousins is good, maybe comparable to the level that Andy Dalton has played at in Cincinnati, that Griffin may never regain the starting quarterback job.
There are of course, multiple variables, including an injury to Cousins, but it’s something to consider. Cousins is expected to have at least eight starts, while Griffin recovers from a dislocated ankle, to prove that he’s the right man to run Jay Gruden’s offense. And although Gruden has denied a report from Mike Wise in the Washington Post that he has preferred Cousins as his starter all along, there’s no denying that Cousins has looked smoother running that offense so far.
Yes it was against Jacksonville and Jacksonville is terrible, but the whispers out of Redskin Park are that Cousins is definitely more ready right now than RGIII. We should know a lot more after the upcoming games against the Eagles and Giants. As we like to say in the sportsradio business, “we’ll have to see how it all plays out.”
For whatever history is worth, we’ve seen a couple of similar scenarios over the years with the Redskins. One occurred in the 1980’s, the other in the 90’s. One produced a Super Bowl Championship, the other just produced more bad Redskin football.
Like Cousins, Jay Schroeder got his chance to start because of injury – and oh, what an injury it was. The infamous Joe Theismann broken leg in 1985 put Schroeder behind center and he proved to be up to the task. Schroeder not only beat the stunned New York Giants coming off the bench in that Monday nighter, he won four of the last five games of the season as the starter. With only one wild card team in each conference in those days, the Skins missed the playoffs at 10-6.
Theismann’s injury ended his career and it was Schroeder’s team in 1986. The folding of the USFL brought in Doug Williams as the backup, but Schroeder was the unquestioned starter. And he had a great year, throwing for over 4,000 yards and 22 touchdowns. The Redskins finished 12-4 and went all the way to the NFC Championship game before losing to the Giants. Then came the 1987 season.
During the offseason, Williams was nearly traded to the Raiders before coach Joe Gibbs changed his mind at the last minute. The season opened against Philadelphia, Schroeder started, but hurt his shoulder early. Williams came in and threw for 272 yards at the Skins won 34-24. But in week two with Williams starting, they lost at Atlanta. Then the players went on strike.
While they were out, the replacement players went 3-0. So when the season resumed with the regular players in late October, it all looked good for Schroeder and the Skins. He was healthy and taking over a 4-1 team. Schroeder was good enough to beat the Jets and Bills, but after going 16 for 46 with two interceptions in a loss at Philadelphia, he was on shaky ground.
Between injuries and poor play, Schroeder and Williams spent the next six games replacing one another. Finally in the second half of the season finale, Gibbs had enough. Williams was in, Schroeder was out. It worked out pretty well. The Redskins went to the Super Bowl and beat Denver 42-10. Williams was the MVP. And to top it off, the following season, with Schroeder now buried deep in the Gibbs doghouse, the Redskins dealt him to the Raiders for Jim Lachey. Three years later, with Lachey establishing himself as the best left tackle in football, the Redskins won another Super Bowl.
Fast forward to 1994. Gibbs has retired, Norv Turner is the new coach and his choice to be his quarterback is Heath Shuler. They used the third pick of the draft to take him. Just as a flyer in the same draft, they took Gus Frerotte, also a quarterback, in the seventh round.
Shuler held out of his first training camp and really never recovered. Not a quick learner to begin with, he clearly wasn’t ready for the regular season. Veteran John Friesz started the first few games of the season before Shuler got the nod. But after throwing five interceptions in a home loss to Arizona, with nothing to lose, Turner turned to Frerotte.
The result was stunning. Frerotte threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-27 upset at Indianapolis. He was named NFC offensive player of the week! He started the next three games and played fairly well, but lost all three and was benched. Shuler went the rest of the way as the Redskins finished 3-13.
The following year, 1995, Frerotte and Shuler battled for the job with each having his ups and downs. Shuler even quarterbacked a win at Super Bowl bound Dallas, but did nothing to cement the job.
Finally in 1996, Turner put his two third-year quarterbacks head to head in training camp in a winner take all battle. It wasn’t close. Frerotte won the job and played well enough to make the Pro Bowl. Shuler appeared in only one play all season as the Redskins narrowly missed the playoffs at 9-7. At the end of the season, Shuler was shipped to New Orleans.
Unlike Williams, however, there was no Super Bowl fairy tale ending for Frerotte. He never played in a playoff game for Washington and was benched and bounced out of town within two years. He spent the next decade bouncing around the league as a backup.
What happens with Griffin and Cousins? Will it unfold the way Mel thinks it might? Again, as we say in the sportsradio business, “We’ll have to see how it all plays out.”
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