FanPost

Will History Repeat? Redskins Thrive in Seasons Marred by Labor Strife

Hi, this is Mike Richman, the official Redskins historian and author of the Washington Redskins Football Vault and The Redskins Encyclopedia.  I also host a Redskins TV show called "Burgundy & Gold Magazine."  I just joined Hogs Haven, and I'm going to make my first FanPost about the biggest story thus far in the NFL offseason -- the ongoing labor negotiations to reach a new Collective Bargaining Agreement -- and give it a Redskins twist at the same time  

As the owners and NFLPA battle it out in hopes of coming to terms on a deal that will satisfy both sides and allow for a 2011 season and beyond, I repeatedly think back to the last two seasons when the league experienced major labor strife: 1982 & 1987.  Both seasons, the common denominator for the Redskins is that they were Super Bowl winners.

The Redskins opened the 1982 campaign 2-0 in Joe Gibbs' second season in D.C.  But with the owners and players locked in a dispute about the CBA (sound familar?), the players walked away from the game.  There would be no football for 62 days.  When play resumed, the Redskins won six of the remaining seven regular-season games, then hitched a ride with John Riggins as he rumbled behind the "Hogs" in the four-game "Super Bowl Tournament."  Riggins rushed for 610 yards and four TDs in the playoffs, which the Redskins capped with a 27-17 win over the Dolphins in Super Bowl XXVII.  His 43-yard touchdown run on 4th and 1 in the Super Bowl is the most famous play in Redskins history.

The primary disagreement between the owners and players was basically the same in 1987: revenue sharing.  But when the players went on strike after two games, this time the owners were well prepared with replacement teams consisting of many obscure names, as well as former college standouts who had never made it in the NFL.  The Redskins, 1-1 before the strike, won their first two games in the replacement series, before pulling off a 13-7 win over a Cowboys team with several regulars who'd crossed the picket line, including future Hall of Famers in running back Tony Dorsett and defensive tackle Randy White.  One Redskin replacement who contributed in that game was quarterback Tony Robinson, a former star at Tennessee who was on a work furlough from prison after a cocaine conviction.

The replacement series, which drew modest crowds, broke the back of the regular players and forced them to return to the field after missing three weeks of play.  The Redskins were 4-1 when regular play resumed and won seven of their last 10 games to finish 11-4 (one game was canceled) and capture the NFC East.  By then, Gibbs had tapped quarterback Doug Williams to start in the playoffs over his rival, Jay Schroeder.  After playoff wins over the Bears and Vikings, Williams put forth a spectacular performance in Super Bowl XXII, throwing for a Super Bowl-record 340 yards and four TDs, almost all of it during the Redskins' famous offensive explosion in the second quarter of a 42-10 rout of the Broncos.  Like Riggo in Super Bowl XVII, Williams was named game MVP.

So will history repeat itself?  First of all, let's hope the current labor strife doesn't affect the 2011 regular season, and that the owners and players soon reach a meeting of the minds.  I think there will be a quick settlement.  Still, it's fun to think back on 1982 and 1987, two of the three Super Bowl seasons during the Redskins' Gibbs-I glory era.  Those were the days! 

Redskins historian Mike Richman is the author of the Washington Redskins Football Vault and The Redskins Encyclopedia.  He can be reached at mikerichman@redskinshistorian.com, and his Web site is www.redskinshistorian.com.

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