Lost NFL Etiquette: Player Curtain Calls

As the NFL is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl this year it causes you to look back at the NFL of yore. Many items changed due to knee jerk reactions instead of thinking the entire item through. One lost art is the player introductions before the Super Bowl. That moment of anticipation as you looked into players eyes as they came out before the big game. The intensity, inner desire, fear, and all the emotions you wanted to feel coming from that player at the moment of truth. Much like the camera that zooms in on boxers staring each other down when the referee gives the instructions.

John Riggins curtain call after the '82 playoff win over Minnesota.

John Riggins curtain call after the ’82 playoff win over Minnesota.

Another lost art is the curtain call for a quarterback who has just become league champion or a player after a great performance. Let the player come off the field alone to the applause of the crowd. This one is on the coaches.

I salute John Harbaugh for giving Ray Lewis his curtain call, platooning him for the Ravens’ last offensive play in the 2012 Wild Card win over Indy. The PSI Net crowd went nuts when he trotted on the field and were even louder after the kneel down and Lewis broke into his signature dance. How much did that emotional moment have to do with the Ravens winning Super Bowl XLVII 4 weeks later??

One of the greatest moments in NFL history happened in a 1982 NFC playoff as the Washington Redskins were putting the finishing touches on a 21- win over the Minnesota Vikings.

This curtain call along with John Riggins subsequent bow and the frenzied reaction by the RFK crowd propelled them through Dallas to Super Bowl XVII. The “We want Dallas!! We want Dallas!!” chant went on for the better part of 15 minutes. You just heard Russ Grimm talk about the moment being ‘electric’ and “brings the hair up.” That emotion and confidence set the tone for the NFC Championship to come for a town and a team. The next day Dexter Manley told the media he hated Dallas and the madness didn’t stop until an argument broke out in the House of Representatives the following Friday.

When it comes to great performances, coaches need to be aware of the moment and set it up for the player to hear the fans appreciation at the end of the game. Every moment may not be as catalytic as these moments were but these strengthen the bond between player, team, and fan. Today’s coaches shouldn’t lose sight of this.

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SUPER BOWL XVIII RUNNER UP 1983 WASHINGTON REDSKINS

A Dynasty Lost.  During the Super Bowl era, the measuring stick for a team to be considered a dynasty was winning back to back championships.  Poised to do that, were the 1983 Washington Redskins, fresh from their Super Bowl XVII win over the Miami Dolphins, had roared through the ’83 season on a high. Man, with Riggo, ‘The Hogs’ & ‘The Fun Bunch’ this team was fun to watch!

sbxviiimarbleAs I sit here and think about it…this could have been Joe Gibbs finest coaching job over a Hall of Fame career.  A coach of a defending champion normally has to fight off complacency within his team trying to keep them from becoming ‘fat cats’ and playing with the hunger that drove them to a title.  Most defending champions try to stay the course and hope other teams won’t catch up to them, yet the ’83 Redskins were better than the team that won it the year before.

00036203Let’s take you back to 1983…Ronald Reagan wanted to get re-elected…MASH aired its final episode (hated that show)…and the NFL had returned to its roots with the Redskins offense bludgeoning its way to the ’82 title with Hall of Famer John Riggins running “50 gut” right down team’s throats. Then a funny thing happened, the Redskins caught teams in a vice.  Gang up to stop Riggins and the “Fun Bunch” receivers were wide open behind the drawn up linebackers and points rang up all year long.

They set the NFL record for season scoring at 541.  Joe Theismann went from being a serviceable quarterback to league MVP throwing for 29 TDs.  Riggins went on to set the single season TD record at 24 while rushing for 1,347 yards.  Coming off the only time a kicker was named MVP, Mark Moseley in 1982, set the kicker record for scoring at 161.

00036202They marched to a 14-2 record with their 2 losses coming when they lost 31-30 to Dallas and 48-47 to the Green Bay Packers. These were the two teams that faced each other in the ’82 playoffs with the winner, Dallas, moving on to play Washington for the NFC Championship.  Each happened on a Monday night, yet the game against Lynn Dickey, John Jefferson, James Lofton of the Packers, was the highest scoring Monday Night game ever. Talk about a juggernaut…

Where this team was solid on defense was up front with big Dave Butz and Darryl Grant at DT swallowing opposing running attacks.  Dexter Manley was in his prime as a DE caving in the pocket from the QBs blindside.  Steady linebacker play came from Rich Milot, Neal Olkewicz, and Mel Kaufman.  The secondary was bolstered by sensational rookie Darrell Green.  The Redskins were never spectacular on defense but always ranked among the league’s best and 1983 was no different.

sbxviii5They marched into the ’83 playoffs as a powerful defending champion…so what happened??  They peaked 6 quarters too early.  After the 51-7 dismantling of the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round, they went back to basics and were grinding out a win in the NFC Championship over the 49ers. Looks can be deceiving. Although the Redskins had taken a 21-0 lead, a closer view and you saw Niners cornerbacks Ronnie Lott and Eric Wright were smothering Charlie Brown and Art Monk for the most part, allowing other 49er defenders to solely focus on Riggins.

They could cover them man for man.  This slowed Washington down and Joe Montana almost pulled off a spectacular comeback losing 24-21 with some dubious penalties called against them late in that game….yet I digress.  The point being, this served as the blueprint for what was to come 2 weeks later in Super Bowl XVIII when the Raiders, with even better cornerbacks in Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes, handled the Redskins receivers allowing the front 7 and safeties to attack Riggins.

00036201C’mon, 38-9??  Really??  I still can’t believe they were beaten that convincingly until I have to remind myself of an NFL truth:  The highest scoring teams in history: 1980-1981 Chargers, these ’83 Redskins, the ’84 Dolphins, My ’90 Buffalo Bills, the ’98 Vikings, the 2001 St. Louis Rams, and the 2007 Patriots all EVENTUALLY ran into a defense late in the playoffs and were all knocked off.  The lone exception is the ’99 Rams.

This was a team that right before Super Bowl XVIII were being called one of the best teams ever and all they had to do was win this one game.  This is the ring commemorating the NFC Championship for getting there.

Best team ever?  Not quite…  Best Redskins team ever??  I think this team would give the 91 team a run for its money.  If you think about the ’83 Redskins and the Super Bowl XXVI champion, they really looked alike.  Who would win between these two if we had a mythical match-up??

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SUPER BOWL XVII CHAMPION 1982 WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Hail to the Redskins:  Really?  David Woodley can’t complete ANY passes in the second half of Super Bowl XVII for Miami?? None??  Ok he completed two in the second half, 1 to his team and an interception to Redskins S (present Green Bay Packers President & CEO) Mark Murphy and wasted a decent effort by the “Killer B’s” defense.  However the Super Bowl win by Washington was a throwback to old fashioned grind it out football with Riggins for 4, Riggins for 3, Riggins for 5, and wearing down the defense.  However, when I see this ring it takes me back to two weeks prior.

xviiI can remember being fired up for the NFC Championship between Washington and Dallas and knew it was going to be a thing of beauty.  It actually started when the Redskins were putting the finishing touches on a 21-7 win over the Vikings to set up the NFC Conference final when the chant “We want Dallas!!  We want Dallas!!” resonated from the jam packed crowd at RFK.

Just moments before John Riggins, who had rushed for 185 yard was in the midst of a curtain, turned and gave a bow to the crowd sending them into a frenzy.  Those sights and sounds reverberated throughout the stadium and CBS chose instead of showing the final plays of the game, panoramic views of the raucous fans. It became a part of the story.

Then it really got started…

sbxvii4Beginning with Dexter Manley professing that he “hated Dallas” on Monday of championship week that got the ball rolling. It was all over ESPN…  Then came the back and forth in the newspaper from Danny White of the Cowboys, to Redskin owner Jack Kent Cooke, everyone was stoking the fire.  How bad did it get?  There was even a heated argument about the game within the House of Representatives the Friday before the game between Texas and Washington delegates where the late Thomas “Tip” O’Neill adjourned session an hour early.  It was on!!

Over a football game? Yes over a football game. The hating of Dallas really grew wings in the George Allen era in the early 70’s.  He preached it, lived it, and hated the treatment America’s Team received as a media darling. It kept breeding hatred within their division rivals.

Old time Redskin fans still talk with high regard of the fact that they beat Dallas in the ’72 NFC Championship when the Cowboys were defending champions.  So here we were some 10 years later and all that animosity was a thing of the past right?  After all new owner, new coach, new quarterback and cast of characters comprised the Redskins roster.  Right?

I still get chills thinking about that because kickoff was 30 minutes away and the crowd at RFK began another “We want Dallas!” chant. It wasn’t as boisterous as the one from a week prior but it stoked the fire. How must that have felt for the Cowboys to come out to shaking stands and all that noise during warm-ups let alone what would they hear on 3rd downs??  The Redskins weren’t a taunting team but they talked big before that game during the week and on the field pregame.  Near fights broke out….couldn’t have been better set up.

super-bowl-logo-1982So what happened? Remember Dexter Manley?  Well he knocked Danny White out of the game with a concussion very early and forced Gary Hogeboom to finish a championship game he was ill prepared for.  Then clinging to a 24-17 4th qtr lead and the Cowboys having seized momentum, Manley struck again.  On a screen pass the hard charging Manley blew by the Cowboy tackle and as Hogeboom tried to float a screen to Dorsett, Manley tipped the pass that DT Darryl Grant took back 20 yards for the final TD to seal Dallas’ fate 31-17.  The entire team was in the endzone celebrating that touchdown…hadn’t seen that before.

So Joe Gibbs, Theismann, Riggo, The Hogs, & The Fun Bunch played a spirited game and here is a video recount of it.

They were off to play Super Bowl XVII in Pasadena against Miami.  Of course it was a day for Hall of Famer John Riggins who rushed for a record 166 yards and his famous “70 Chip” touchdown run that gave the Redskins a 20-17 lead in the 4th quarter on their way to a 27-17 triumph.  Of course it was the brass ring that they won but even in remembering their actions (expressed joy) the win over the Cowboys for the NFC Championship, meant more.  Want further evidence?  When Charlie Brown scored the decisive touchdown that put the Super Bowl away the entire team wasn’t in the endzone celebrating it the way they had against Dallas.  That’s how we know…

You couldn’t tell me otherwise…

This article is dedicated in the memory of former Washington Redskin owner Jack Kent Cooke and the late George Allen.

For a more visceral look

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Dynasty Lost

SUPER BOWL XVIII RUNNER UP 1983 WASHINGTON REDSKINS <———- Click Link

Ahhh…Yes The NFL Playoffs

This is the most wonderful time of they year!! Spare me that Christmas talk…lol We were taught old lessons and had some performances remind us that the league is ever evolving and new stars will emerge.

How many of us really had Matt Hasselbeck outperforming Drew Brees and leading the  Seahawks to an upset win?  I didn’t for sure.  I thought the negative talk of reseeding the playoffs or the legitimacy of their being there would galvanize them, but not pull off an upset.  Like many of the scrappy teams that refused to go quietly in playoffs past, the Seahawks were on a respirator when Marshawn Lynch took us on that electrifying run.  Qwest Field was quiet as a tomb when that play first developed.  The Seahawks momentum had crested, the Saints had just roared downfield for a touchdown to narrow the lead to 34-30.  Mike Williams and the Seahawk receivers had dropped passes to short circuit two previous drives and a hushed nervousness hit the Pacific Northwest.  Can you say tenuous grasp?  Enter Marshawn Lynch…

Simply put, Lynch’s jaunt was the greatest postseason run in NFL History. It had significance, determination, and came at the most critical point of the game. It mirrored the Garrison Hearst 96 yd overtime run to lift the 49ers over the Jets in the 1998 season opener with 7 broken tackles. Yet Marshawn’s was in the playoffs.  Now John Riggins run in Super Bowl XVII (as ESPN showed) did give the Redskins the lead in the 4th quarter, but Riggo only broke 1 tackle.  On top of that, go back and view the footage; Riggins broke the tackle of Don McNeal, who was a cornerback he outweighed by some 40 lbs.  Furthermore Don McNeal couldn’t grab him because he had a cast over a broken wrist.  That run may be the spark to propel the Seahawks on a spirited run through these playoffs.  Food for thought; Weren’t we laughing at another NFC West Champion a few years ago? We woke up with 3 minutes left to go in the Super Bowl and Arizona had just taken the lead.  Remember that??  Yet we’ll have to wait and see…

As for the Jets and the Colts?  We knew this is who the Jets had retooled to beat and they won.  Peyton Manning needs more options.  I had said all along that their pedestrian receiving corp would come back to haunt them and they did.  Eventually those receivers would see better corner back play and teams were clamping down on them starting in last year’s playoffs.  The Jets came back with one more corner in Antonio Cromartie.  Who would have thought that his biggest contribution would be from forced kick return duty.  Lets face it, had that been a kick return to the 20, Sanchez would have had to complete 4-5 passes when there was already less than a minute to play.  With the way he’d been off with his passes up to that point???  Ehhhh… luckily he only had to complete a few.

From Ladanian Tomlinson’s 2nd half rebirth, to the offensive line taking control of the game, and Sanchez finding his rhythm late. What did they win? Respect? Yes they did achieve that avenging their championship loss to the Colts.  Their reward?? An all expenses paid trip to the worst battle for first place ass whoopin’s of all time. The 45-3 loss to New England.  However these are the playoffs where strange things can happen.  For the Jets to win there they need to do two things.  Burn the video from when they played New England and watch the game where Green Bay nearly beat them. They each run the same 3-4 defense and the players will hear enough from the media about the last trip.  Good luck with that Rex…

Which brings us to day two…and I’m already out of breath. So that will be another entry later today…

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