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Redskins '77 - Part Four

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Unable to bring himself to talk about the current affairs of the Washington Redskins, Tom again travels back to 1977.

David Boss-USA TODAY Sports

I'm not even going to begin to broach the subject of the weekly Redskins melodrama.  I will instead simply say that anyone who cares to may read a column I wrote for Hogs Haven a year ago - on Robert Griffin III - entitled "The Ballad of Greg Cook."

Now, back to 1977.

This is a photo of the Redskins' training camp from 1976.  In those days, the camp took place in Carlisle, PA.  Washington spent over three decades' worth of summers there, leaving after 1994, but returning briefly in 2001 and 2002.

The block you see here is noteworthy, and not just because of the anthropomorphized dummy.  No, it's also worth mentioning that the player is executing what we would have called a "shoulder-drive block."  In 1978, the NFL liberalized blocking rules (specifically, the use of hands / extended arms) for offensive linemen.

This had a monumental impact on offense around the league, particularly in the passing game, where the new "Blount Rule" combined with the new blocking rules to create the modern NFL.  Completion percentages, passing yardage, and points began to rise steadily and quickly.  Meanwhile, shoulder-drive blocking instantly became an antiquated technique.  Despite its obsolescence, coaches who played in the 60s and 70s were still teaching shoulder-drive blocking to us in the mid-90s when I was playing high school football.

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Here's the Redskins' bulletin board, packed with unflattering articles, or at least articles with unflattering quotes.  Given the players referenced, it's fairly obvious that this is from Dallas week.  Even Efren Herrera, the Cowboys' kicker, somehow managed to get himself thumbtacked to the motivational wall.  Assuming he actually said something of consequence, I'm guessing that didn't sit well with The Man in the Hat.

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Speaking of bulletin boards, there's a drawing of a bulletin board in the middle of the preview guide, with various 1976 Redskins facts and figures "pinned" to it. I'm highlighting one of these below.

Remember those rules changes I mentioned a minute ago? The primary driving force behind them was how defense-oriented the game had become by the mid-1970s. One example of this was the astonishing stat you see below - the 1976 Redskins held opponents to an incredible 41.1% completion mark.  To clarify - that's the number for the entire season. Only once did a Redskins' opponent complete over half its passes, and that feat ironically came during the Washington win over St. Louis I've talked about a couple of times during this series - the one where the Cardinals turned the ball over ten times.

This 41.1% number was the lowest in over two decades, more reminiscent of post-WWII football than the game we saw post-1978. It seems almost impossible that a team that allowed foes to complete barely two out of five passes could somehow "only" go 10-4, but that's what happened. It was a different time indeed.

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Last up this week, Billy Kilmer looks over the Giants defense during the Redskins' 19-17 win against New York at RFK. The Giants were awful in 1976, but they gave the playoff-bound Redskins fits. Washington had to hold on for that two-point win in the season opener, then met the 0-9 Giants again in November - and lost 12-9. New York wound up 3-11. For his part, Kilmer threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns in the opening victory.

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It's been a long year, and I hope these looks back at happier days provide some solace for weary fans who are old enough to remember the good times of the Allen and Gibbs tenures.  In case you missed them, here are parts onetwo, and three.

If there's a silver lining to be found here in 2014, it's that the season is almost over.