The 2006 season marks the 15th anniversary of the Super Bowl XXVI champion Washington Redskins team. It is a happy time to reflect on a team that steamrolled thru the season and the playoffs to dominate the Buffalo Bills in the championship game.
It also is a time to reflect on what has gone wrong since then.
That 1991 team was awesome....in it's own way. This wasn't a historically great team. A kind of one-and-done season. The Skins went 14-2 that season....with the only two losses coming to Dallas [in a game where the Boys had a few lucky plays and won by 3] and in the finale against the Eagles which the Washington starters rested and still lost by just 2 points. So 5 points seperated that team with a perfect record.
Quarterback Mark Rypien threw for 3,500+ yards and was the MVP of the Super Bowl. In that season, Washington beat the Lions 45-0 on opening day.....beat Phoenix 34-0.....beat Philly 23-0....beat Cleveland 42-17....beat Atlanta 56-17... and beat Pittsburgh 41-14. Only six games were decided by less than a touchdown....and two were Redskin losses. The Redskins scored 485 points that year....an average of 30.3 per game....and allowed only 224. That means the average score of a Redskins game that year was 30-14. Wow. The team bulldozed Atlanta and Detroit before running the Bills out of the Metrodome in the Super Bowl. Everything was good.
But Joe Gibbs coached just one more season after that title team before going the NASCAR route. In the 14 seasons since that Super Bowl team, the Redskins have been to the playoffs just three times.....with just three wins and just one NFC East title. As just a reminder, from 1982-1991 [just one decade], the Redskins won the NFC East four times [five, if you count the 8-1 Redskins in the strike shortened 1982 season], went to the playoffs seven times, with a 15-4 playoff record in that span, with three Super Bowl championships in four Super Bowl appearances. They had just one losing season in that span....a 7-9 team in 1988.
It is easy to blame current owner Daniel Snyder....but he's owned the team since 1999, and the team won it's only NFC East title over the past 15 years that season. The Redskins were 26-59-1 in the six seasons prior to Snyder coming aboard....and has been 54-58 since his arrival.
The team also moved from loved RFK Stadium to Jack Kent Cooke Stadium [now FedEx Field] in 1997. FedExField currently is the largest stadium in the NFL.
Well, a lot of it had to do with those great Redskins of that era leaving. Russ Grimm departed in 1991. Gary Clark, Don Warren and Wilbur Marshall left in 1992. Art Monk, Mark Rypien, Charles Mann, Ricky Sanders, Ed Simmons and Jeff Bostic left in 1993. Chip Lohmiller, Raliegh McKenzie and Monte Coleman in 1994. Jim Lachey in 1995. Really, only Darrell Green stuck around for a while, retiring in 2002. To Redskin fans, these players made up the heart and soul of the franchise in the late 1980s and early 90s.
Add to that fact that the Redskins failed to replentish the roster well via the draft. Guys like Andre Collins, Bobby Wilson, Desmond Howard, Tom Carter, Heath Shuler, Michael Westbrook, Andre Johnson and Stephen Alexander didn't really pan out well. Also, the Skins have had haphazard leadership as well. Richie Pettibone wasn't ready. Norv Turner, though semi sucessful, wasn't respected. Marty Schottenheimer was thrown under the bus by Snyder. Steve Spurrier was a monumental mistake. Then the Skins had to go back to Gibbs again.
Not that it is all bad. The Redskins are the most valuable franchise in North America....with an estimated value over a billion dollars. Again, the team plays in the NFL's largest stadium and isn't struggling to sell tickets. It is also one of the most loved franchises in the league.
Maybe that's what makes it tough.
At least hopes are high now.....but they've been that way for 5 years or so. Every year, the Redskins tinker a bit in the offseason by being major players in free agent movement. This year is no different. But only once has it payed off...and that was last year.
Still, if there is anyone the Redskins trust, it is Joe Gibbs. And he is the only holdover to that great era that ended on that field in the Metrodome...15 seasons ago.