“We’re definitely the undisputed world champs. And I’ll tell you one thing — that feels pretty good.”
— Redskins defensive end Charles Mann
That was 25 years ago Thursday, Jan. 26.
It’s been that long since anything and anyone connected with the Washington Redskins has felt that good.
Good, in fact, has changed dramatically since the Redskins defeated the Buffalo Bills 37-24 in their last Super Bowl appearance, a season in which the Redskins ran through the NFL with a 14-2 record with arguably one of the greatest teams in the history of the league.
What is good now? Desperately playing their way into the playoffs with a 9-7 record and an NFC East title — a fish that this franchise used to throw back because it was too small?
“A game like this makes you realize how good it can be.”
— Redskins coach Joe Gibbs.
Good. It’s been a long time since this franchise has been close to anything that felt that “good.”
Maybe no one has to be reminded of that. Redskins fans live daily with what was, and what is now.
But time slips by quickly, and can dull the senses, and can lower expectations —and demands.
When the Redskins moved from Boston in 1937, they hit the ground running with rookie quarterback Sammy Baugh, winning the NFL championship. They would play in three more NFL championships games, in 1940, 1942 (winning their second NFL championship) and 1945 before beginning their long walk in the desert, with just three winning seasons until Vince Lombardi arrived in 1969 and led the Redskins to a 7-5-1 record.
Then Lombardi died, and after one year of Bill Austin, George Allen came in 1971 and began another era of success, with five playoff appearances and one NFC championship. Then came three years of Jack Pardee — none of which resulted in a playoff appearance but were hardly bottom feeder seasons — and Joe Gibbs arrived in 1981.
That’s when everyone found out how good it can be.
Gibbs left after 1992, and though he came back for four years from 2004 to 2007, it hasn’t felt that good since.
Maybe it never will.
There are franchises where it has never been that good — take for example, the Atlanta Falcons, who will face the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Falcons came into existence in 1966. This will be their second Super Bowl game.
It’s never been that good for them.
“We had a good run and played good football,” tackle Jim Lachey told me in an interview for my book, “Hail Victory: An Oral History of the Washington Redskins.”
“We just rolled,” Lachey said. “Everything was just working. We were on a mission that year, and we got it done.”
There’s that word “good” again. Good run. Good football. Feels pretty good. How good it can be.
And the mission. Lachey spoke of the “mission.”
So did Joe Jacoby.
“The older guys, we had our own meetings every Saturday, after we met as a team and talked about things, about how important this is and all that,” Jacoby told me in an interview for the book. “We kept going week after week. We were on a mission and we were playing so well, it would have been a shame if we didn’t win it all.”
I can’t remember any Redskins team — save for the one that went on the run to make the playoffs in 2007 after the death of Sean Taylor — in the past 25 years that qualified for being on a “mission.”
You’ve hear words like “improvement” and “evaluate” and “disappointing” over the past 25 years at Redskins Park. Mission? Not so much.
Except, of course, from you know who.
“We came back from the bye with one mission and that’s the mission we’re still on,” Robert Griffin III told reporters before the Philadelphia Eagles game in December 2012.. “We control our own destiny. We did what we were supposed to do. We won and that’s what we have to continue to do. Guys can’t get happy now. We still have one game and another game after that.”
I’m not sure that RG III was on the same mission as Jim Lachey and Joe Jacoby.
And I know for sure that “good” doesn’t have the same meaning at Redskins Park now that it did when Charles Mann and Joe Gibbs spoke of how “good” it felt and how “good” it can be.
“We had some good situations, some good games, some fun times, some not so fun times,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said in his post 8-7-1 season evaluation. “Any time you end the season after your 17th week, there’s a lot of work to do and it’s not good enough. The standards are set high around here. We didn’t reach any of them other than getting a winning season, which is one of our goals that we wanted. Other than that, we failed on a lot of accounts. We’ve got to coach better, we’ve got to play better, and turn the page and try to do some better things.”
Those “standards” that Gruden spoke of were last seen around here 25 years ago Thursday. As time passes, though, so does the standard for “good.”
Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes and Google Play.