Washington Redskins Football
The Washington Redskins began as the Boston Braves in 1932. The ownership group wanted to locate the team in New York City, though NFL rules did not allow two teams in one city. They instead move operations in Boston and played in Fenway Park.
After the 1933 season, the Braves changed their name to Redskins. In a look ahead to the Daniel Snyder era, the Skins would have 4 coaches in their first 5 seasons in existence. After the 1936 season, the Redskins would move from Boston to Washington, citing poor attendance.
In fact, the Redskins won enough games to receive home-field advantage in the 1936 NFL title game, but elected to played it in Brooklyn’s Polo Grounds due to poor expected gate receipts. The Redskins lost this first appearance in the championship to the Green Bay Packers.
Slingin’ Sammy Baugh
The Washington Redskins made a big impression their first season in D.C. The Skins signed Slinging Sammy Baugh, who promptly led the team to its first championship win. The team defeated the Chicago Bears in this match up. The Skins would become a perennial title contender in the Sammy Baugh years.
The Washington Redskins would go on to play the Chicago Bears for the title 3 other times, winning a 1942 contest while losing to the Bears in 1940 (73-0) and 1943. In 1945, the Redskins would lose the title game 15-14 to the Cleveland Rams. After their loss in this title game, the Redskins would go through a long dry spell. From 1946 until 1968, the Washington Redskins had only three winning seasons. An entire generation of NFL fans would grow up perceiving the Redskins as league doormats.
Hail to the Redskins
Even during these years, though, the Georgetown fans embraced the Redskins. The Skins were one of the few NFL teams with their own college-style marching band, and their fight song "Hail to the Redskins" was already a standard at every Washington home game.
In fact, it is said that when the Redskins ownership opposed the admission of the Dallas Cowboys into the NFL in 1960, prospective Cowboys owner Clint Murchison bought rights to Hail To The Redskins, holding the song hostage until the Skins ownership agreed to the Cowboys inclusion.
One reason the Redskins lagged behind other NFL ball clubs was the decision by owner George Preston Marshall to limit his team’s talent pool by opposing integration. This remains a black stain on the Washington Redskins, who only integrated in 1962 when the U.S. Interior Secretary threatened to evict the team from their new stadium. Though the Redskins began to add African-American talent, they remained an also-ran throughout most of the remainder of the sixties.
Return to Prominence
In 1969, the Washington Redskins hired Vince Lombardi to turn them around. He would lead the team to a winning record, but died of cancer just prior to his second season as their coach.
Two years later, Skins management hired George Allen to lead the team. He would lead the to the playoffs 5 of the 7 years he was their head coach, taking them to the Superbowl after the 1972 season. Allen was one of the hardest-working coaches in the NFL.
Coach Allen devised elaborate playbooks, while also spending long hours scouting his opponents and also potentially talented additions to his team. George Allen also aggressively pursued trades to improve his team, helping to create a Redskins approach where veteran acquisitions often supercede talented draftees.
George Allen built his team around crusty veterans, and he did much to build the confidence of his Over-the-Hill Gang. Allen is largely responsible for the creation of the Cowboys-Redskins rivarly, which remains one of the best rivalries in the entire NFL. This rivalry pitted an east coast city versus a "western" city, cowboys versus indians and a longtime successful franchise against an upstart (though, ironically, much older) franchise. When the Redskins won the 1972 NFC Championship Game over the defending champion Cowboys, the rivarly was on.
Cowboys and Indians
The 1970′s would see several other storied matchups between the Cowboys and Redskins, and players from that era claim the teams really hated one another. Allen was a large part of the acrimony. Though the Cowboys won one of the more famous games in that rivarly, the 1974 Clint Longely Thanksgiving Day comeback, George Allen went 7-8 against Tom Landry’s Cowboys (which went to five Superbowls in that decade) and did much to restore the reputation of the Washington Redskins.
Joe Gibbs was the offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers during the heyday of the Air Coryell offense. On the strength of this work, the Redskins hired Joe Gibbs in 1981. Gibbs brought his own set of innovations to the offense in Washington, but they weren’t necessarily an air-it-out style. Instead, Gibbs gathered the largest offensive line in the history of NFL football (at the time) and ran the veteran rugged halfback, John Riggins, behind them.
In his passing game, Gibbs selected smaller wide receivers to work against the bigger, more physical cornerbacks who were then starting to become common in the NFL. These cornerbacks found it more difficult to keep up with Redskins receivers, who were known collectively as the Smurfs. To confuse defenses (especially that of arch-rival Bill Parcells of the New York Giants), Gibbs added many pre-snap shifts in his offensive alignments. He also developed the h-back position, mainly as a hybrid tight end/fullback to better block linebackers like Lawrence Taylor.
Three Titles in Nine Years
Though the Redskins continued to have trouble with the New York Giants, the Gibbs-led Washington Redskins would win 3 Superbowl titles in a 9-year period. Unlike his contemporary, Bill Walsh, who won his three titles with quarterback prodigy Joe Montana, Gibbs won his championships without a Hall-of-Fame passer. In fact, each Superbowl was won by a different quarterback: Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien. After his third Super Bowl victory, Joe Gibbs retired to become an owner on the Nascar circuit.
The Norv Turner Years
After Joe Gibbs left the team, the Redskins replaced Gibbs with his defensive coordinator, Richie Petibon. Petibon would last only one year as the head coach. The next year, the team hired Norv Turner to coach the team. Turner had been a Superbowl-winning offensive coordinator for the rival Dallas Cowboys. Turner would last part of seven years with the Redskins, though he led the team to only one playoff appearance. Turner’s term as Redskins head coach would be ended by the arrival of a new owner.
Enter: Daniel Snyder
Daniel Snyder bought the team two years after longtime owner, Jack Kent Cooke, died. Snyder would become a lightning rod for controversy. Little Danny Snyder, as some fans derisively called him, was a business wunderkind who has made the Redskins the second-most profitable franchise in the NFL. Unfortunately, fans believe that Snyder micromanages the franchise, often making decisions based more like a fan than a sound general manager of the franchise.
Snyder’s micromanaging reputation mainly is a product of his frequent hiring and firing of coaches. Within one 21 game period from late 2000 until early 2002, the Redskins had four different head coaches (Norv Turner, Terry Robiskie, Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier). None of these coaching moves brought success, so Snyder turned to the Skins legend, Joe Gibbs, to once again lead the team.
Return of a Legend
Joe Gibbs would coach the team for the next four years, from 2004 until 2007. Gibbs was not able to recapture the magic of his first tenure with the Washington Redskins, though, posting a record slightly below .500, though he did make the playoffs 2 of his last 3 years with the team.
In those years, Daniel Snyder continued to aggressively pursue free agents and trade, often at the expense of draft picks. The Skins trade Champ Bailey for star runner, Clinton Portis. The team traded Lavernues Coles for Santana Moss. In free agency, the Redskins brought in veterans like Mark Brunell and Antwaan Randle El, who never really panned out. The 2007 season saw a tragedy in the Redskins family, as star safety Sean Taylor was murdered in his own home during the season.
Gibbs retired after the Redskins loss in the 2007-2008 playoffs. The Redskins have replaced Gibbs with Jim Zorn, a former quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks. Zorn is the first Native American head coach in the National Football League.