SUPER BOWL XXVI CHAMPION 1991 WASHINGTON REDSKINS

When it comes to the strongest single season NFL champions, they rarely come from dynasties that rule a decade. Most are borne from the ashes of a playoff loss the previous season. Whether the team hadn’t quite peaked despite being in the playoffs, or an effort that comes up short against the eventual champion provides the motivation fueling the season to come.

wash26Washington Redskins best team…1991 Super Bowl XXVI champions 37-24 over MY Buffalo Bills!! Congratulations Wilber Marshall, Darryl Green, and Earnest Byner formerly of the Cleveland Browns. It was good to see him get a ring.

This team had no weaknesses. Mark Rypien also had RB Gerald Riggs and a prolific receiving corps in Gary Clark (70 rec / 1,340 TDs /10 TDs)  Ricky Sanders (45 rec / 580 yds / 5 TDs) and Hall of Famer Art Monk (71 rec / 1,049 yds / 8TDs). Byner was a 1,000 yard rusher while Riggs was the battering ram at the goal line, evidenced by his 11 touchdowns with just 248 yards rushing. Washington finished 4th offensively and 3rd in defense despite yardage gained in garbage time in 9 blowouts. This might have been Coach Joe Gibbs’ masterpiece.

After winning Super Bowl XXII, the Redskins slipped down to a team that was just under the league’s elite. Gone was Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams, Timmy Smith and the aging vets that carried the team through the late 80’s. With the signing of LB Wilber Marshall in ’88, they pulled a coup as he became the first free agent to switch teams in a decade. They retooled with middle round draft picks and trades as they stayed competitive 1988-1990. In ’91 Marshall had arguably the best season for a non Pro Bowl player with 135 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 5 interceptions and 4 forced fumbles. It was Marshall who also changed the way players were voted to the Pro Bowl. Pundits and writers argued players couldn’t leave their animosities before entering the voting booth. A few years later the fan vote was included.

wash26.2They were close in 1990 but weren’t quite ready for primetime.  They upset the Eagles in the wildcard (Buddy Ryan’s last game) 20-3 then tried to upend the 49ers in the divisional round but Rypien was intercepted twice in the endzone to thwart drives and lose 21-10.  Rypien was a steady veteran QB but could he win in the postseason?? However the 2 best NFC teams in 1990 were the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers, who was trying to three-peat. However both had peaked and would need to retool. The Redskins along with the experts thought 1991 was going to be different.

super-bowl-logo-1991In starting out 11-0, the ‘Skins outscored opponents 361-139 which included 3 shutouts. This team was stronger than any of Gibb’s other Redskin teams.  The 83 squad scored on everyone but everyone was scoring on them too…as evidenced by losing a game 48-47 to Green Bay and losing to Dallas 31-30 in the opener and allowing 38 in the Super Bowl loss to the Raiders.  The 82 team was more smash mouth and the ’87 squad was good but benefitted from the strongest 49er team in history being upset in the playoffs that cleared the path.

This team finished 14-2 as Gibbs utilized the full roster through situational substitutions. Every player had a designated role and they hit the playoffs running. Knocking off Atlanta 24-7 before clobbering the Detroit Lions 41-10 in the NFC Championship Game.  In Super Bowl XXVI they overpowered Buffalo 37-24 in a game that wasn’t that close. They led at halftime 17-0 and after 3 plays of the 3rd quarter were up 24-0 before Buffalo scored.

Joe Gibbs’ charges only had 1 more playoff season the following year before the team slid into obscurity. The team became a step too slow with many of their players aging. The Redskins wouldn’t make the playoffs in the next 7 years. By then Gibbs Hall of Fame career would be over as well as this championship era in Washington. Yet 1991 saw one of the strongest champions in league history.

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SUPER BOWL XXIV CHAMPION 1989 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Want to hear something interesting?  Going into Super Bowl XXIV, the Denver Broncos were the ONLY team in the NFL the 49ers hadn’t defeated during the 1980s.  So in the last game of the decade…what happened??  Yikes 55-10 in a Super Bowl!!!  Joe Montana and company could have scored 80 if they wanted to…As crisp as the 49ers played, what did their practices look like??  Damn!

49.24The craziest thing was when Terry Bradshaw skirmished with John Elway that week about how Elway had been coddled…etc (remember Terry was roughed up by press and such as a young player) and after a back and forth, they sit down to talk about Super Bowl XXIV in a round table discussion and Bradshaw blurted out “I just don’t see Denver having a chance. This sucker could be as bad as 55-3!” Much to the chagrin of CBS brass trying to drum up interest for a game the press was touting as a blowout. Why 55? Eight tds, and a missed p.a.t.? Only 3 for the Broncos?

xxivIf Bill Romanowski hadn’t faceguarded (form of pass interference) Orson Mobley in the endzone to give the Broncos 1st and goal at the 1, Terry Bradshaw would have NAILED IT!! The Broncos needed 4 plays to score from their touhdown also…Terry Bradshaw is a dummy? Not on this prediction! Final score 55-10.

49.24aHas there been a better or more dominant run in a single postseason?? In dispatching the Vikings 41-13, Montana carved up the #1 defense that ranked 1st in sacks with 71.  Joe was 17 of 24 for 241 yds and 4 touchdowns. In the NFC Championship, they faced their NFC West rival Los Angeles Rams. The Rams had been the scourge of the playoffs with their “Eagle Defense” with 2 D Linemen and 5 Linebackers.

No one could figure out Los Angeles hybrid defense as they befuddled Randall Cunningham’s Eagles and Phil Simms Giants. Well… Montana shredded them going 26 of 30 for 262 yds and 2 scores. Thanks to Craig, Rice, Taylor, and Rathman, San Francisco set a post season record with 29 first downs in a 30-3 slaughter. Don’t forget they split their games with them in the regular season. San Fran taught them the difference between post season and regular season play.

As for Super Bowl XXIV, Montana had his best ever game when it counted most. It almost seemed like a choreographed fight scene from a movie. Every move was countered perfectly. No matter what defense the Broncos were in Montana had an answer. The 1989 Denver Broncos were ranked 3rd in defense and had given up the fewest points in the NFL. Montana was 22 of 29 for 297 yards and 5 touchdowns and sat most of the 4th quarter.

super-bowl-logo-1989The perfect game Bill Walsh had Montana strive for from the quarterback position he watched in a booth next to Eddie DeBartolo. George Seifert was the coach who witnessed it up close as the Head Coach. He riddled the #1 and #3 ranked defenses with 9 touchdowns and no interceptions. This was a coronation, not just the 49ers becoming team of the ’80s, but Montana unseasting Johnny Unitas as the NFL’s greatest ever quarterback.

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SUPER BOWL XXIII CHAMPION 1988 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Super Bowl XXIII was a game for the ages, 49ers 20-16 over the Cincinnati Bengals in Joe Robbie Stadium. When I think of this Super Bowl I think of the moments that take place in a game that could have altered the course of history. If only David Fulcher could have knocked down a couple passes on that last drive…. What if the late Pete Rozelle had allowed the Bengals to use their “Sugar Huddle”?? All banter for historians now since Joe Montana did his thing!!

xxiiiWith the Bengals leading 13-6 early in the 4th quarter, Stanford Jennings had just returned a kickoff 93 yards to put the Bengals up by a touchdown. The 49ers were driving for the tying touchdown when the late Lewis Billups cut in front of Mike Wilson and had a clear endzone interception, then dropped the ball.

The Bengals had shut down the 49er offense all game long but now the 49er offense was clicking. Rice scored on the next play to tie it at 13 . What would have happened had Billups held on for that interception? Would that have been the demoralizing play that would have deflated the 49ers for good in a defensive struggle?

Montana went on to lead that famous last second drive that cemented his legacy…however there are some interesting points to this team. Did you know this 49er team had the worst record of any Super Bowl champion at the time with a 10-6 record? Did you know that the ’88 49ers were 6-5 during the season after back to back losses in Candlestick including a 9-3 loss to the LA Raiders with no touchdowns scored? The first set of back to back losses at home in almost a decade. This was a team that had to overcome the psychological damage that was inflicted a year before that nearly sunk the ’88 season.

xxiii2The 1987 season was the best 49er team in history (up to that time) in The Chancellor of Football’s opinion. This was the first team since the 1977 Dallas Cowboys to finish #1 on both offense and defense in the same season. So prolific was this team in a strike shortened year of 15 games, Montana led the NFL with 31 TDs in only 12 games played with the regulars and Steve Young throwing for 10 more. It was the most prolific season of Montana’s career. Projected over a 16 game season, he would have thrown for 45 TDs at a time when only Dan Marino had surpassed the 40 mark.

 

Jerry Rice was league MVP with 23 TDs (22 receiving) in only 12 games that broke the single season TD reception record of Mark Clayton’s 18. Rice was so dominant he had 17TDs in the final 7 games alone. The overall touchdown record at the time was 24 by John Riggins. At the pace that Rice was going he would have had 30 TDs had they played 16 games. So Emmitt, Marshall Faulk, Priest Holmes, and Shawn Alexander NEVER would have touched the record.

 

The draft class of ’86 came to fruition with Charles Haley, John Taylor, Don Griffin, Tim McKyer, Kevin Fagan (The U), Brent Jones, Tom Rathman, and Harris Barton, who would anchor the team for years to come. This mixed youth with the experience of the Joe Montanas, Ronnie Lotts, Randy Cross’, and Dwight Clarks to form a team that rolled to a 13-2 record finishing on a 6 game winning streak. They scored the most points and gave up the 3rd fewest.

Ronnie Lott 49ersThey outscored their last 3 opponents 124-7 including a 41-0 trouncing of the NFC Central Champion Bears on a Monday Night in front of the nation. So what happened?? Two things…the flu and Anthony Carter got hot and did a Larry Fitzgerald thru the 1987 playoffs with this being the centerpiece game of that run and his career.

The Minnesota Vikings were 8-7 and backed into the playoffs with losses in 3 of their last 4 games and had to have someone else lose just to get in. They upset the Cinderella Saints 44-10 in the Wildcard round then boarded a flight to take on a team many thought was about to be crowned “Team of the Decade”…. and then:

 

Joe wasn’t himself in that divisional playoff game and even though he was weakened with the flu he was getting’ hounded by the Vikings pass rush. He did throw a down and out to Dwight Clark that was late and Reggie Rutland returned for a touchdown that put San Fran down 17-7. Bill Walsh benched Joe Montana for Steve Young, who had been acquired that year in a trade, who did lead a few TD drives that ultimately led to QB controversy to start the ’88 season.

That 36-24 loss along with Anthony Carter’s 227 yards receiving haunted that team to the midway point of the 88 season. This team clearly should have won Super Bowl XXII. I remember the shock that the Bears & Redskins took into their divisional playoff game the next day, realizing whoever won would host the Vikings in the NFC Championship game when they clearly were dreading a trip to San Francisco. Especially the Bears who in a matchup for home field advantage were trounced 41-0 just 4 weeks prior… and who did the ’88 49ers beat in the NFC Championship game to get to Super Bowl XXIII? The Chicago Bears 28-3 in Soldier Field in 28 below zero weather.

However the upset playoff loss to the Vikings caused tensions throughout the organization. Embarrassed by the biggest upset since Super Bowl III, it was rumored Eddie DeBartolo nearly parted ways with Head Coach Bill Walsh. This led to changes within the organization and corporate pressure was one of the reasons Walsh stepped down after Super Bowl XXIII a year later.

The 49ers did get revenge on the Vikings over the next two years in the playoffs. The ’88 postseason began with a 34-9 beat down of Minnesota puncutated by an 80 yard touchdown run by Roger Craig in the 4th quarter.

super-bowl-logo-1988However when I look at the Super Bowl XXIII ring, the ’88 season doesn’t come to mind. The turmoil that took place from the previous postseason and subsequent retirement of Bill Walsh dimmed the luster of their coronation. With this win, the 49ers had become The Team of the 80’s. It wasn’t a pyrrhic victory but…

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Dedicated to the late Bill Walsh

SUPER BOWL XXII CHAMPION 1987 WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Hail to the Redskins…we heard that song so much in the 2nd quarter it was ridiculous!! Somewhere Tony Lilly (#22 Broncos) is still having nightmares. I remember tellin’ my boy Tommy Walker he may never play again in the NFL after this performance. Yet we’re here to celebrate accomplishment.

ringXXIIThe first Black quarterback to start a Super Bowl was one that carried significant weight for all those that were “coerced” into playing other positions throughout the years. Prejudice kept blacks from playing the thinking positions throughout the 50’s, 60’s,’70’s, & 80’s with the last bastion being that of the quarterback. Now to have Doug Williams about to face media darling John Elway, pundits wondered if Washington could stay on the field with them.

To think that we were about to see the greatest offensive performance in the history of the NFL in Super Bowl XXII just didn’t seem plausible.

Consider the fact that Doug Williams had begun the season as backup to incumbent Jay Schroeder and the on again, off again, nature of being the 2nd stringer being replaced by the starter. Schroeder had led the Redskins to the 1986 NFC Championship the year before which included a big playoff win over the defending champion Chicago Bears. He couldn’t come up big against the NY Giants in that championship game but neither had any other QB that season. So in ’87 after another Schroeder benching, Gibbs went with Williams as the starter in the playoffs. He played ok when the Redskins beat the Bears 21-17 in Walter Payton & Gary Fencik’s last game.

Super-Bowl-22-ringWilliams only completed 9 of 19 passes in a lackluster NFC Championship (17-10) win over the Minnesota Vikings. There was still speculation over who would start at quarterback as the Redskins made their way to San Diego for SuperBowl XXII. After going down to Denver 10-0 and Elway’s first pass being a touchdown to Ricky Nattiel, Williams hurt his knee yet came back to start the 2nd quarter.

 

 

Now get this, the famous Elway drive in Cleveland took a little over 5 minutes the year before. Well in the 2nd qarter of SuperBowl XXII, Doug Williams led Washington’s offense to 356 yds of offense, 5TDs with 4 of them being TD passes in only 18 plays and 5:54 seconds of possession!! Yikes!! Talk about the “Greatest Show on Turf”…to finish the game with 602yds when they clearly stopped trying to score after halftime was ridiculous. Joe Montana, in his win over the Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV, threw for 297 yards and 5 touchdowns in a 55-10 rout.

Or to put it to you another way – Of the previous 21 Super Bowls, only 5 of the 42 teams gained more yards in their complete game than the Redskins had in the 2nd quarter alone.

A few of the Super Bowl records set:

  • Doug Williams most yds passing game 340 and for a half with 306.
  • Tim Smith most yds rushing game 204 and for a half with 136
  • Ricky Sanders most yards receiving game 193 and for a half with 177.
  • 35 points were most in a quarter and a half of a Super Bowl.
  • Total yardage for a Super Bowl game with 602 yards of offense.
  • Longest touchdown pass tied 80 yards – Williams to Sanders

This was one quarter we’re talking about!! Steve Foley had been Denver’s safety for many years, retired before the season and was replaced by Tony Lilly. Who spent Super Sunday chasing Redskins into the endzone and was subsequently let go after the game. He did not resign with another team.

super-bowl-logo-1987This was the ring for winning SuperBowl XXII and ushered in the era where black quarterbacks were able to gain their due…with the Warren Moon’s & Randall Cunningham’s soon to follow. I can remember my Mom being in tears as we watched and I kept telling her what record had just fallen and which ones were coming up.

His MVP announcement

 

 

Ironically the first modern black quarterback who held almost all significant Denver Bronco rookie passing records (even over John Elway) was Marlin Briscoe. He ironically was “coerced” into playing receiver later in his career winning two Super Bowls with the Dolphins. Full circle to have this feat happen to the Denver Broncos who gave up on Briscoe playing QB?? Not yet…

Try the fact the Washington Redskins are in a battle against Native Americans to keep their team name. What this generation doesn’t know is the Redskins under George Preston Marshall was the last NFL team to integrate. Before 1960, the Redskins were the NFL’s most southern team whose games were broadcast to the south regionally. In fact at their welcome back luncheon to kickoff the season, the Marshall owned Redskins actually sung “Dixie.” Something Hall of Fame Redskin Bobby Mitchell recounted in NFL Films’ Black Star Rising. Now Robert Griffin III sporting dreadlocks is the Washington incumbent starting quarterback.

If the Seattle Seahawks win it all here in the next 3 weeks, we’ll have the NFL’s first dynasty with a black quarterback at the helm in Russell Wilson.

Life works in mysterious ways…. now you’ve come full circle.

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This article is dedicated to Doug Williams for his transcendent performance in San Diego in 1988.

I also dedicate this article to my mother Mrytle Taylor who shared this moment with me. Her tears that day brought me to mine as we watched this performance obliterate an old stereotype. i know she’s looking down from heaven right now…

SUPER BOWL XXI CHAMPION 1986 NEW YORK GIANTS

Super Bowl XXI Giants 39-20 over the Broncos.  I was one of those that was all set for the Bears to repeat as champions …yada yada yada….who’s got the ring?  On the way out to Pasadena, they blew out The Team of the 80s 49ers 49-3 in the divisional playoff. The NFL’s worst playoff beating of the decade. Then shut out division rival Washington 17-0 for the NFC Championship. Are you kidding?? They came through the playoffs with a combined score of 66-3. Talk about dominant.

So they were off to Super Bowl XXI in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl. There is something about the Super Bowl being played in the Rose Bowl. It just has a regal look and feel to it.

sbxxiWhen the Giants mauled (dont know if thats a strong enough adjective) the 49ers 49-3 in the NFC Divisional Playoff, you knew the Washington Redskins were going to be in deep trouble in the championship round. Sure they had upset the Bears but that was with 3rd or 4th string QB Doug Flutie.  I don’t ever like to say in sports that it was over but you would have had to field an all star team to stop them because they were comin’!!

Hosting the NFC Championship, a fierce swirling wind became the story of the game. The Giants won the coin toss and took the wind. The Redskins couldn’t run and came out to 3 straight 3 and outs. Subesquently they had 23, 27, and 28 yard punts into the wind which led to the Giants playing on a short field. They took a 17-0 first half lead and the game was over.

Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor,was not only the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, he was league MVP also. In his prime and comin’ off the corner, he just terrorized opponents. It was only the second time a defender was NFL MVP. The first?? Alan Page of the Minnesota Vikings in 1971. He had his greatest season with 20.5 sacks and countless plays where he ran down runners from behind on the line of scrimmage. The play he chased Reuben Mayes of the Saints from behind… yet I digress

Other hatchet men on that defense?? All Pro Leonard Marshall at DE had 12 sacks that year & nearly beheaded Jay Schroeder on one sack in the NFC Championship.  Pro Bowl NT Jim Burt held down the middle and knocked Joe Montana out cold in the divisional playoff.  Carl Banks totally owned the strong side dominating opposing TEs.

super-bowl-logo-1986Crafty George Martin, Harry Carson, Gary Reasons formed a formidable defense and get this:  With all this talent and being the leagues #2 defense in 1985, they drafted LB Pepper Johnson (5 rings player and coach) CB Greg Lasker, DE Eric Dorsey, NT Erik Howard, and CB Mark Collins in the draft!  Collins was the reason the Giants could handle the 49ers for the next 7 years because he shut down Jerry Rice better than any corner over Rice’s career.

This is before we even get to Phil Simms or Joe Morris who ran for 1,516 yards and 14TDs that year…but really that defense at its peak was just frightening.

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SUPER BOWL XX CHAMPIONS 1985 CHICAGO BEARS

Walter Payton and the ’85 Bears defense got this championship ring for routing New England 46-10 in Super Bowl XX.

In The Chancellor of Football’s estimation, this is still the #1 team in history over 1 season.  Yes I was a ridiculous fan of the 46 defense, which they screw up on Madden, see the two lineback…..yet I digress.

chicago_bears_superbowl_ring_1985_chicago_bears_Cr0eY1ll.sizedBefore we get into Sweetness, Jimmy Mac, “Danimal”, Singletary, “Mongo” McMichael, Wilber, Otis, Dent, Hilgenberg, VanHorne, Moorehead, Suhey, Gault, Fencik, Duerson, Head Coach Mike Ditka, and the beat goes on…let’s show you why I think they were the strongest team ever. Did you know they did this while 1984 All Pro Safety Todd Bell held out??

Look at the competition they faced and look what they did to them. In 1985 the NFC East champion Cowboys were trounced 44-0, wildcard Giants 21-0 in the playoffs, and the 10-6 Redskins slaughtered 45-10. That’s 110-10 against the “best division in football” yikes!!

Then you have the NFC West Champion LA Rams killed 24-0 in the NFC Championship, and the last wildcard team? The defending champion San Francisco 49ers, who were pounded 26-10 in Candlestick.  Funny thing was the 49er touchdown was a Carlton Williamson interception, so the 49er offense scored 3 at home.

Super-Bowl-Trophy-Size* So the Bears gave up 20 points combined to the 5 best teams in their conference and avg. more than 4TDs margin of victory (31-4 avg. score)…damn!

Then of course each division faces another division in the other conference which in the 85 Bears case was the AFC East.  Thank God they didn’t play my Bills… The AFC East Dolphins won 38-24, but both wildcards in the AFC went to the Jets and Patriots.  What happened to those teams you ask?  The Jets were clobbered in the Meadowlands 20-6 and the Patriots twice. The Bears beat the Patriots 20-7 in week 2, then the 46-10 smashing in Super Bowl XX.

Copy (2) of Copy of sbRoundhouseSuperBowlRing*So the only loss was to defending AFC Champion Miami & where did the Dolphins season conclude?  They lost the AFC Championship at home to the Patriots where had they won, there would have been a rematch with the Bears in the Super Bowl…so u could say that they were a pretty strong team…fair to say?

The Bears beat EVERY playoff team in 1985 from the NFC, and faced three from the AFC…all teams had 10 wins or more and the Bears basically laughed at ’em.  This is what a heavyweight champion should look like!!

When comparing the best ever teams none come close to this for beating strong competition none.  In fact the ’72 Miami Dolphins who went undefeated only faced 3 teams with winning records during the season.  That’s not their fault but it has to be a factor in deciding who was stronger as a team.

In 2000 when the Ravens gave up 165 points and the question was raised- “Were they better than Buddy Ryan & the ’85 Bear’s 46 defense?”  HELL NO!!! A group that finished ranked #1 in 9 of 14 defensive categories?? The Ravens didn’t face 1984 MVP Dan Marino, 3-time Super Bowl MVP Joe Montana, Super Bowl MVP Phil Simms, 1983 MVP Joe Theismann, and Danny White had been a pro bowl quarterback as Ken O’Brien of the Jets had been in 1985. All were in their prime!

super-bowl-logo-1985Had the 2000 Ravens seen these quarterbacks they give up another 150 points easy and wouldn’t make the mythical Super Bowl if they played the 85 Bears schedule!! Spurgeon Wynn. Who? Spurgeon Wynn, Tim Couch, Anthony Wright, Kent Graham, Gus Frerotte, Brian Griese, Ryan Leaf, Scott Mitchell, and Akili Smith were some of the QBs those Ravens faced so….no way do they get this nod. I loved those Ravens don’t get me wrong, but what would the ’85 Bears have given up against the 2000 Ravens schedule? That’s frightening to think about.

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