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The 5 O'Clock Club: “Gold Standard” - The ‘91 Skins vs. the ‘17 Skins

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere...

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

The nature of the victory over the Raiders on Sunday night got a lot of fans — myself included — giddy with the style of play and the domination of the opponent that we saw on the field.

James Dorsett gave information in his Snaps & Stats this week that indicates that — at least for one game — the team play was reminiscent of the legendary Redskins of old.

Those of us old enough to have watched them play may have been reminded of the Redskins teams that played under Joe Gibbs in the 80’s and early 90’s. The greatest of those teams — and there are people who will argue that it was the single greatest team in NFL history — was the 1991 Washington Redskins.

The ‘91 Redskins dominated the league all season, winning their first eleven games. Their two losses were by margins of 3 and 2 points, respectively. The Redskins led the league in scoring with 485 points, and allowed the second-fewest points (224) in the league in 1991. They had a +18 turnover ratio, also best in the NFL.

In 2016, Chris Chase of USA Today ranked the team as the greatest to ever win a Super Bowl.

Quarterback Mark Rypien had an outstanding year. His 8.5 yards per pass attempt was second in the league, and his 3,564 passing yards were best in the NFC and fourth in the league.

Running back Earnest Byner's 1,048 rushing yards were 5th best in the NFL.

The Redskins had two wide receivers who went over 1,000 yards receiving in 1991: Gary Clark (1,340) and Art Monk (1,049).

The Redskins beat the Buffalo Bills 37–24 to win Super Bowl XXVI. With the championship, coach Joe Gibbs also became the only head coach to win three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks.

In 2007, ESPN.com ranked the 1991 Redskins as the 4th greatest team in NFL history, noting, "you can look at two stats to get a pretty good idea of just how great a team is: yards gained per pass attempt, and yards allowed per pass attempt. The 1991 'Skins topped the NFL in each category, with Mark Rypien averaging 8.5 yards per attempt, while his colleagues on Washington's defense allowed only 6 yards per attempt....

The 'Skins outscored their opponents 485–224, and they had a tough schedule. After going 14–2, they romped through the NFC playoffs, beating the Falcons 24–7 and demolishing the Lions 41–10 on their way to the Super Bowl. In the Big Game, the 'Skins beat the cursed early-1990s Bills 37–24."

Statistics site Football Outsiders has ranked the 1991 Redskins as the greatest team in their ratings history, stating that the team "may have been the most well-rounded team in NFL history. [...] A lot of the best teams in NFL history got a little extra boost by picking on an easy schedule, but not Washington. They had an average schedule, and a harder-than-average schedule of opposing defenses. One reason for that: 1991 was not only the year of the best overall team in [their rating system's] history. It was also the year of the best defense in DVOA history, which showed up on Washington's schedule twice: the 1991 Philadelphia Eagles."

I remember this team very well. I was 31 years old and living in Northern Virginia. I worked in Tyson’s Corner area at the time, and I was a rabid fan, who lived and worked with other equally rabid fans. We didn’t get much work done on Monday mornings... we just stood around talking about the Redskins game from the previous day.

God, those were good times! Victory was the norm; domination was expected; championships were routine.

Tony Kornheiser of the Washington Post (whom I understand may not enjoy the same wonderful reputation today that he did in the early 90s) started writing a series of columns about the (for a while) undefeated Redskins, welcoming all the new fans who were jumping “on the bandwagon”. The series of columns is an educational walk down memory lane, and still good for a few grins due to its irreverent, unpretentious, tongue-in-cheek style.

That ‘91 team had a quarterback with a big arm, but who was no superstar.

The team had a smothering defense that pitched 3 shutouts, and gave up more than 17 points in only 3 games.

The offense was driven by an overpowering offensive line, two running backs that had joined the team as veteran free agents from other teams, and three wide receivers who seemingly couldn’t be stopped.

They were great.

So, why would I say that the 2017 Redskins remind me of the early Joe Gibbs-era Redskins teams?

Because they do. This team’s performances against the Rams and Raiders relied — not on out-scheming the opponent — but on each player beating the man across from him. The concept of 'good old fashioned smash mouth football' springs to mind.

  • The ‘Skins faced a talented defense in LA, and beat them like a drum.
  • The ‘Skins faced one of the most high powered offenses in the league at home last week, and shut them down.
  • Beast Mode ran for less than 40 yards, and didn’t come back into the game after Swearinger’s ‘statement’ hit.
  • The Redskin cornerbacks held Cooper & Crabtree to a combined 2 receptions.
  • The front 7 sacked Carr 4 times, while the DBs picked him off twice.
  • Jay Gruden — for the second time in as many weeks — called more running plays than passing.
  • The team — especially in the week 3 home game — played with fire and passion... in fact, they looked angry.
  • While I’m making comparisons, position coaches like Manusky and Tomsula (FUCC 'EM) bring back memories of guys like Joe Bugle and Richie Petitbon.

But the 1991 team is the “Gold Standard”. That’s the bar that every Redskin team has to jump over if they want to be the greatest ever.

Now,I’m not suggesting that the 2017 Redskins are as good as the ‘91 version was, and I’m definitely not trying to say that they are better, but they might be a little closer to that standard of play than anyone might have expected prior to this week.

If a young whippersnapper tried to suggest a comparison between this team and the ‘91 Skins, he’d get bitch-slapped, and he’d probably deserve it. But the ‘91 Redskins were my generation, so I figure I have the right to suggest such things if I want.

And I do want.

James Dorsett put up a poll question this week asking how Chris Thompson compared to great Redskins from the past like Joe Washington and Brian Mitchell. I voted CT as the best of the bunch.

I believe we've got a team with the talent and coaching to be great, though they still have to go out and prove it week in and week out.

I thought it might be interesting to put the two teams side-by-side and see how our current Washington 2017 Redskins stack up against the greatest Redskin team of all time from 1991.

I invite you to look objectively and see what you think. The ‘91 Skins were possibly the most compete team in NFL history. With that as the standard, how does the 2017 version stack up position-by-position, player-by-player, and overall?

How far can this year’s team go?

Here are a few thoughts from me to get you started. Feel free to use the comments section to tell me why I’m wrong, and to offer your own thoughts.

QB - Rypien deserves his place as a Redskin hero, having won a superbowl. He had a huge arm. I think Cousins is probably more sophisticated, and better equipped to handle the complex defenses year after year. Rypien never really managed to have another successful year after the superbowl win. Advantage: 2017

RB - After the Diesel, Riggs & Byner are my second & third favorite Redskin running backs. The current group are little more than placeholders. Advantage: 1991

WR - If Garcon & Jackson were still here, there might be some discussion. With Pryor and Doctson at the top of the depth chart against the Redskins greatest Hall of Famer, this is no contest. Advantage: 1991

TE - If we’re talking about blocking, give me Warren, Orr and Middleton. But Reed, Davis and Paul are among the best in the business, and there are 2 potential hall-of-fame players in that position group. Advantage: 2017

LT - Wow! Probably the two greatest left tackles in Redskins history. Lachey is one of my all-time favorite Redskins, but Trent Williams is a dancing bear. Advantage: 2017

LG - Advantage: 1991

C - Bostic was smart, but small. He did it over a number of years and has 3 superbowl rings. It’s ridiculous to suggest that Spencer Long, in his second year playing the position is better, but I’m gonna suggest that Long’s size & quickness make him the better player in a one-to-one comparison. Advantage: 2017

RG - Schlereth went to 2 pro bowls and won 3 superbowls in a 12-year career. I’m thinking that Scherff is gonna end up being the better player overall. Advantage: 2017

RT - Morgan Moses may be one of the best RTs in the game today, but Joe Jacoby is a mountain of a man who deserves to be in the hall of fame. Advantage: 1991

Edge - I made a sandwich for Charles Mann and his wife once in the mid-1980s when I worked in a restaurant in Fairfax. If this was Mann & Manley, I’d have a hard time with the decision, but in the ‘91 versus ‘17 comparison, I’m taking Preston Smith, Ryan Kerrigan and Junior Galette for my pass rushers. Advantage: 2017

DT - I honestly don’t remember these guys too well. I really like the DT group we have right now, but any defense that has 3 shutouts in 17 games has talented interior defense. Coin-flip

LB - Wilbur Marshall was a beast. Matt Millen played with a nasty attitude. I really like the trio of Foster, Spaight and Brown — most especially Zach Brown, who is speed & tackling in almost perfect form, but Wilbur Marshall has attained almost god-like status in my memory. I really like the current ILBs, but... Advantage: 1991

CB - Hands down, Darrell Green is the greatest Redskin CB of all time, bar none. But the 3-man combination of Norman, Breeland & Fuller looks like it could be the best in the NFL right now, even if no one knows it but us. This is why the plan last year was for Norman to stay on his side of the field -- because Breeland can flat-out ball. Fuller is breaking out now. Advantage: 2017

S - At any time in the past 6 or 7 years, I’d’ve said that the Redskins had a bottom-5 safety tandem. Three weeks ago I wouldn’t have thought the starting duo could crack the top half of the league. After Sunday night, I think we’ve hit gold. I think Swearinger & Nicholson are changing the way people think about and game plan for the Redskins. Advantage: 2017

K - Advantage: 1991

P - Advantage: 2017

PR - Coin flip

KR - Advantage: 1991

So, what do you think?

How good is the current team, and how do they compare to the greatest Redskin team in history?

Poll

The better quarterback

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    1991
    (67 votes)
  • 70%
    2017
    (159 votes)
226 votes total Vote Now

Poll

The better running backs

This poll is closed

  • 96%
    1991
    (220 votes)
  • 3%
    2017
    (7 votes)
227 votes total Vote Now

Poll

The better tight ends

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    1991
    (20 votes)
  • 91%
    2017
    (203 votes)
223 votes total Vote Now

Poll

The better Left Tackle

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    1991
    (59 votes)
  • 73%
    2017
    (161 votes)
220 votes total Vote Now

Poll

The better Center

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    1991
    (171 votes)
  • 22%
    2017
    (49 votes)
220 votes total Vote Now

Poll

The better Right Guard

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    1991
    (119 votes)
  • 44%
    2017
    (95 votes)
214 votes total Vote Now

Poll

The better Right Tackle

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    1991
    (194 votes)
  • 10%
    2017
    (23 votes)
217 votes total Vote Now

Poll

The better Edge Rushers

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    1991
    (73 votes)
  • 66%
    2017
    (144 votes)
217 votes total Vote Now

Poll

The better Defensive Tackles

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    1991
    (138 votes)
  • 35%
    2017
    (75 votes)
213 votes total Vote Now

Poll

The better (inside) Linebackers

This poll is closed

  • 75%
    1991
    (161 votes)
  • 24%
    2017
    (51 votes)
212 votes total Vote Now

Poll

The better Cornerbacks

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    1991
    (95 votes)
  • 55%
    2017
    (119 votes)
214 votes total Vote Now

Poll

The better Safeties

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    1991
    (109 votes)
  • 48%
    2017
    (103 votes)
212 votes total Vote Now

Poll

The better Punt Returner

This poll is closed

  • 88%
    1991
    (181 votes)
  • 11%
    2017
    (24 votes)
205 votes total Vote Now

Poll

The better Kick Returner

This poll is closed

  • 92%
    1991
    (191 votes)
  • 7%
    2017
    (15 votes)
206 votes total Vote Now