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!
As 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.
Let’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.
They 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.
They 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.
C’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??
Thanks for reading and please share the article.