- The Washington Times - Monday, December 25, 2006

The 1991 Washington Redskins were, by all accounts, one of the great teams in NFL history.

Now that the current team has dissolved into mediocrity, the Redskins of 15 years ago look even better.

Back in 1991, just like this season, big expectations followed a winning season. Unlike the present-day team, those Redskins delivered.

Did they ever. Nine players were selected to the Pro Bowl, a team record. The season began with a 45-0 demolition of Detroit, and not much changed after that. The Redskins won their first 11 games, a franchise record, and finished 14-2. They blasted through the postseason, outscoring their three opponents 102-41, including a 37-24 victory over Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVI in Minneapolis that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated. It was the Redskins’ third Super Bowl triumph, and for at least another year it will remain their last.

Everything clicked. Quarterback Mark Rypien, throwing to a trio of talented wide receivers, had a career year. The offensive line opened holes for three different running backs and kept Rypien on his feet. He was sacked just seven times.

Defensively, the Redskins swarmed to the ball and attacked the quarterback, producing 50 sacks and 41 takeaways. Nine players recorded at least three sacks. The special teams were indeed special.

It was a talented, skilled team in every phase, constructed mainly by then-general manager Bobby Beathard. But there was more to it than that. Almost every player who looked back on the last decade and a half spoke almost reverently about coach Joe Gibbs and his staff and cited the same so-called intangibles — veteran leadership and an uncommon closeness and camaraderie. Safety Brad Edwards, one of several Plan B free agents who came to Washington (this was before the days of unrestricted free agency), repeatedly used the word “culture.”

He wasn’t talking about the ballet or the theater. He meant the atmosphere of professionalism, the spirit of togetherness that pervaded Redskin Park in Herndon and especially RFK Stadium, long since abandoned.

“The culture was one that was extremely positive, very workmanlike, and there was a tremendous togetherness,” Edwards said. “We stayed healthy, and guys found a way to win.”

Gibbs, who returned for a second act in 2004, has worked tirelessly, as always, to try to duplicate a similar environment. It hasn’t happened yet. Maybe it never will. Maybe what happened 15 years ago not only was special but thoroughly unique.

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