Washington, DC Sports Franchises: Washington Redskins

As part of our coverage of the sports culture in our Nation’s Capitol, we look back at the histories of the sports franchises that call this city home.


NFL Titles: 1937, 1942 (NFL Championships pre-Super Bowl), 1982 (XVII), 1987 (XXII), 1991 (XXVI)

Retired Numbers: #33 Sammy Baugh

Numbers taken out of circulation: #7 Joe Theismann, #9 Sonny Jurgensen, #21 Sean Taylor, #28 Darrell Green, #42 Charley Taylor, #43 Larry Brown, #44 John Riggins, #49 Bobby Mitchell, #65 Dave Butz, #70 Sam Huff, #81 Art Monk

Rivals: Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles

Of the four major sports franchises that call Washington, DC home, the Redskins have been around the longest. The franchise started out based in Boston in 1932. But, in 1937, the team moved from Boston to DC and became known as the Washington Redskins. In their first year in DC, the ‘Skins took home the franchises first NFL Championship, and added their second title five years later in 1942. However, after the 1942 title and the formation of the modern day National Football League, the Redskins suffered through a significant struggle that saw the ‘Skins fail to reach post-season play from 1945 to 1970.

The 1970’s saw the rise of the Redskins from their previous duldrums. In 1971, the Redskins hired former Los Angeles Rams coach George Allen to guide their fledging squad. Under Allen, the Redskins reached the playoffs in 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1976. In 1972, Allen led the Redskins to their first modern-era Super Bowl, where they lost to the undefeated Miami Dolphins 14-7. During this time period, the Redskins often clashed with their in-conference rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys, led by Quaterback Roger Staubach and Head Coach Tom Landry, won two Super Bowls from 1971-1977, while the Redskins only appeared in the 1972 bowl.

After missing the playoffs for a second time in three years in 1977, all while the Cowboys took home the Lombardi Trophy, Allen’s contract wasn’t renewed and the team hired Jack Pardee. In his three years as head coach, Pardee wasn’t able to get his team to the playoffs. However, he was a successful in the NFL Draft, selecting the likes of  Don Warren, Monte Coleman and Art Monk.

After Pardee, the Redskins hired former San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Gibbs to run their team. It was Joe Gibbs who guided the Redskins through their most successful era of football. Gibbs was at the helm for all three Super Bowl titles the Redskins were able to capture, all while using three different starting quarterbacks. In 1982, Joe Theismann led the ‘Skins to the title. However, Theismann’s career was famously ended by a blindside hit from New York Giants Linebacker Lawrence Taylor. Taylor caused a compound fracture in Theismann’s leg that he was never able to overcome.

Doug Williams was lined up behind center in 1987, while Mark Rypien was in command in 1991. After 12 years as Head Coach, Joe Gibbs retired from coaching with a record of 140-65, 16-5 in the playoffs. The Redskins hovered in mediocrity for the next few seasons. But, in 1999, Dan Snyder buys the ‘Skins for a record $800 million. It is under Snyder where fans place the blame for the recent failures that have defined the Redskins franchise.

During the current Snyder Era, the Redskins have had six different head coaches. Norv Turner, Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, a second Joe Gibbs reign and Jim Zorn have all come and gone since 1999. Current head coach Mike Shanahan marks the sixth coach, going 6-10 in his first season. Coaching turmoil has been half of the story, the other half has been poor choices in where to spend their money on free agents. The Redskins have been criticized for trades such as Champ Bailey for Clinton Portis and the most recent acquisition of Donovan McNabb. But the brunt of the fan unrest comes from high-profile free agent signings that haven’t worked out, such as Albert Haynesworth, Antwaan Randle-El, Laveranues Coles, and Deion Sanders, among others.

Recently, most of the focus has been on the failures of Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth, two high-priced veterans not expected to be with the team next season. McNabb never did fit into the offensive scheme of Shanahan, highlighted by a late-season benching in favor of former Chicago Bears QB Rex Grossman. With Haynesworth, the problem was his outrageously pricy contract and his notorious lack of conditioning.  We will cover the current state of the Redskins in-depth in a post tomorrow.


About Home Field Advantage
We are two senior Sports Communication majors at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. We have launched this blog as part of our senior year capping project, with the goal of creating a comparative analysis and multimedia approach to the differing sports cultures in America.

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