Three weeks after a post game news conference that had some of us believing that Mike Shanahan had thrown in the towell on the season, the Monday night victory over the Giants not only put the Redskins back in the playoff race, it put them in position to possibly even win the division. You might call that a transformational win. If you were a Shanahan supporter, it may have confirmed what you already believed. If you were a Shanahan doubter, maybe the win changed your mind. The win may someday be seen as the one that turned the tide of the Shanahan regime. Since George Allen arrived in 1971 and turned decades of futility in to success, transformational wins have been a part of all the coaching changes, including Joe Gibbs' second go round. Here now are the transformational victories for Allen and the coaches who have followed him:
October 3, 1971, Redskins 20 - Cowboys 16, coach: George Allen - The man who coined the phrase, "the future is now," knew that the future would have to include toppling the Cowboys. After opening the season with wins at St. Louis and over the Giants in New York, excitement was building as the Skins went to Dallas for what would be their last game at the Cotton Bowl. Texas Stadium was still being completed for opening later in the season. Dallas had a streak of six straight wins over the Skins and was favored to make it seven straight on this rainy Sunday afternoon. But the Redskins delivered the first punch with a pitch to Charley Harraway on the second play from scrimmage. Harraway, mostly a blocker for Larry Brown, took the pitch 57 yards for a touchdown. By early in the second quarter, the Skins led 14-3 as Roy Jefferson caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from Billy Kilmer. From there, Allen's "Over the Hill Gang" defense did most of the rest, holding Dallas to two more Mike Clark field goals. Calvin Hill pulled Dallas within four by scoring from a yard out, but the Harraway-Brown combo was able to pick up first downs and kill the clock for the victory. When the Redskins plane landed at Dulles that night, a crowd estimated at more than 5,000 was there to greet the plane. The Redskins would go on to finish 9-4-1 and make the playoffs for the first time in a quarter of a century. A year later they played in the Super Bowl.
December 2, 1979, Redskins 38 - Packers 21, coach: Jack Pardee - After replacing the fired George Allen before the 1978 season, Pardee won his first six games of the season. But after winning two of his last eight, there were doubts that Pardee could be a closer in Washington and get the Skins back to the playoffs. In 1979, when a 6-2 start turned into a 6-4 record, there were again collapse questions. They responded with home division wins over St. Louis and Dallas, but got run over by the Giants on the road. New York rushed for 193 yards and held the Skins to just a pair of Mark Moseley field goals. That made the Packers visit to RFK Stadium, a must win. At halftime it wasn't looking good. Lynn Dickey, after missing two years with a broken leg threw touchdown bombs to Walter Tullis and Aundra Thompson as Green Bay led 21-7. But with a 24-point fourth quarter, the Redskins turned the game into a 17-point blowout. The win made the Redskins 9-5 and in control of the division. Wins over the Bengals and Cowboys would give the Skins the NFC East title. They beat the Bengals, but the 35-34 heartbreaking loss at Dallas two weeks later turned out to be a transformational loss for Pardee. The Redskins missed the playoffs at 10-6. A year later, they wound up 6-10 and Pardee was fired.
September 12, 1982, Redskins 37 - Eagles 34 (OT), coach: Joe Gibbs - After an 0-5 start in his first year, Gibbs scrapped his "Air Coryell" offense for one that was run-based and finished the season 8-8. There was hope that the momentum of the finish would carry over in year two, but the hope quickly turned in to doubt, when Philadelphia seemed on the verge of making it 17-0 in the first quarter. Down 10-0, Mike Nelms fumbled a kickoff, giving the Eagles possession deep into Redskins territory. But Wilbert Montgomery fumbled at the 15 and the Skins took over, getting touchdown passes from Joe Theismann to Art Monk and Charlie Brown. But the back and forth game, seemed to be in the Eagles hands when Ron Jaworski threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Harold Carmichael to give the Eagles a three-point lead with less than two minutes left. But Theismann got Mark Moseley in position to kick a 48-yard field goal to tie it at the regulation gun. In overtime, Moseley kicked the 26-yard game winner. Several players, including John Riggins, have said over the years that this win in Philadelphia was the blast the Redskins needed to get them to the Super Bowl that season and the season that followed.
September 6, 1993, Redskins 34 - Cowboys 16, coach: Richie Petitbon - Gibbs' stunning retirement six months earlier had given Petitbon the head coaching job he'd deserved for many years. He promised, "business at usual," and certainly lived up to his promise in this one. After Troy Aikman threw an 80-yard touchdown bomb to Alvin Harper in the first quarter, it was all Redskins the rest of the way. Touchdown passes to Ricky Sanders and Ron Middleton sandwiched around a one-yard touchdown run from Brian Mitchell, put the Skins in control 21-7. Fourth quarter touchdowns from Art Monk and Mitchell turned it in to a laugher. The real transition for Petitbon was what would follow after this Monday nighter. The Skins would lose the next six, finish 4-12 and cost Petitbon his job at the end of the season.
December 26, 1999, Redskins 26 - 49ers 20 (OT), coach: Norv Turner - In his sixth season as head coach, Turner had survived a 7-1 collapse in 1996 and an 0-7 start in 1998 and was still in place when Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999. Snyder said Turner would be on a short leash and needed to prove himself in 1999. Needing to win this Sunday nighter to stay in the playoff hunt, things again looked bleak for Turner when the Redskins trailed by 10 at the start of the fourth quarter. But veteran Brad Johnson was able to lead the comeback, capping it off with a one yard sneak to send the game in to overtime. After winning the toss, on the fourth play, Johnson threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Larry Centers for the game winner. The victory wound up clinching the Redskins last division title and enabled them to host the only playoff game ever held at FedEx Field two weeks later. The Skins beat the Lions 27-13 and finished their season by blowing a 13-0 lead and falling in Tampa 14-13 the following week. Turner was fired 13 games into the following season after the Redskins lost at home to the Giants to fall to 7-6.
October 21, 2001, Redskins 17 - Panthers 14 (OT), coach: Marty Schottenheimer - After an 0-5 start, it's likely that Dan Snyder had already made up his mind to get rid of his first-year coach. But with this win, it became clear that while Marty may have lost Snyder, he hadn't lost the team. With Carolina in postion to put the game out of reach at 17-0 in the fourth quarter, LaVar Arrington picked off a Chris Weinke pass that bounced off the hands of Chris Hetherington and took it 68 yards the other way for a touchdown. That was followed by an 85 yard touchdown bomb from Tony Banks to Rod Gardner to send the game into overtime. A 23-yard field goal from Brett Conway gave the Skins their first victory and ignited a five-game win streak. But despite winning eight of his last 11 games, Marty was fired at the end of the season. However, this shocking win turned the Redskins from being considered a possible 0-16 to back in the playoff race by December.
November 24, 2002, Redskins 20 - Rams 17, coach: Steve Spurrier - We're stretching a bit on this one, but it's the only game we can come up with for the Spurrier era. Incredibly Danny Wuerffel outplayed two time former MVP Kurt Warner. Wuerffel completed 16 of 23 for 235 yards with no interceptions and no sacks. The win made the Redskins 5-6, but division losses to Dallas, New York and Philadelphia killed any slim playoff hopes. With wins in their last two games over the Cowboys and Texans, Spurrier finished 7-9 in his first year. The following year Wuerffel was wacked by Snyder in training camp and the Redskins finished 5-11. Not too good. Spurrier resigned from the golf course a few days later, never to coach in the NFL again.
September 19, 2005, Redskins 14 - Cowboys 13, coach: Joe Gibbs - With three Super Bowl trophies that he put on display at Redskins Park and his bust in Canton, Gibbs didn't need to prove himself as a coach, but doubts were creeping in whether he could still get it done in his second go round. In his first year back, Gibbs had gone 6-10. It wasn't what fans were hoping for, but certainly Coach Joe deserved the benefit of the doubt. Maybe a year like that was needed to get back on track. But entering the fourth quarter of what was the second game of the season, the Redskins had not scored a touchdown (they won the opener over Chicago 9-7). And with less than four minutes to play, it looked like old Coach Joe was a shadow of the Coach Joe of the Camelot years. That's when the midnight miracle occurred. Mark Brunell threw a pair of touchdown bombs to Santana Moss and the Skins escaped with a one point win. Despite a midseason slump, the Redskins sprinted to the playoffs with a 5-0 December. Gibbs would have his worst year the following season at 5-11, but got the Redskins in to the playoffs for the last time in what turned out to be his last year with another December sprint in 2007.
October 5, 2008, Redskins 23 - Eagles 17, coach: Jim Zorn - We were barely over the shock of Zorn actually being the coach when we suddenly looked up and saw the Skins at 4-1 after an NFC East road two step. The week before, the men of Zorn had handed the Cowboys their first loss of the season, winning 26-24 at Texas Stadium. It seemed like a tough spot, having to back on the road to Philadelphia the following week. It really looked tough when the Redskins fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter. But three Sean Suisham field goals of 41, 48 and 50 yards pulled the Skins to within five at the half. Chris Cooley caught an 18-yard option pass for a score from Antwaan Randle El and Clinton Portis iced it with a four yard touchdown run to get the Skins to 4-1. It should have been the start of something big, but the Zorn magic ran out the following week at home with an loss to the winless Rams coached by Jim Haslett. They did get to 6-2 by beating Detroit, but losses in six of their last eight resulted in another playoff-less season. Zorn was fired the following season after a 4-12 finish.
December 3, 2012, Redskins 17 - Giants 16, coach: Mike Shanahan - Transformational? Time will tell.