So how did that struggling, uncertain team turn into the champions of the 1980s?
The Redskins did it in lots of ways, as many who were there will tell you. They did it with Gibbs, Beathard and Charley Casserly making shrewd picks for the team and for the strike replacement squad in 1987. They did it with Riggins' legs, Mark Moseley's foot, Joe Theismann's and Doug Williams' arms and tight-knit groups like The Hogs of the offensive line. They did it with players who kept going when they were injured and on painkillers and with plays with names like 50 Gut, Counter Trey and 70 Chip.
But perhaps above all they did it because Jack Kent Cooke got a divorce. The Redskins owner, who held more than 85 percent of the team's stock at the time, paid a then-record $42 million divorce settlement, sold his beloved Lakers and Kings and the Los Angeles Forum he had built for them, and in 1979 moved from California to Virginia. It was Cooke who made the ultimate decisions about the Redskins and the right people picking Beathard's strategy over Pardee's, hiring Gibbs, agreeing to pay high prices for some of the right players, backing his people when times were not so great.
When Cooke came to Washington, he brought his intense competitive spirit with him. "Winning was his priority," said Lakers general manager Jerry West before Cooke's death in 1997. "Mr. Cooke is demanding. When you work for him, he wants the best, which is the way it should be."
Cooke's sale of the Lakers and Kings meant that Edward Bennett Williams no longer would be the man in the owner's seat at RFK. It removed the cross-ownership barrier that had prevented the Redskins' real and dominant owner from being just that.
"At first, it was a gradual transition," said son John Kent Cooke, now president of the Redskins. "But as Ed put it later on, we were operating under the golden rule, which was that whoever had the gold rules. And there was no question who was in charge."
Ultimately, Williams and Cooke would fight bitterly, especially over the Baltimore Orioles, the baseball team Williams had bought in mid-1979 with the help of a loan from the Redskins. In 1984 Cooke, citing a loose agreement with Williams, would demand half of the Orioles' profits and threaten a lawsuit something Williams badly wanted to avoid. "He didn't want a high profile lawsuit with reporters digging into the past, examining how Cooke and Williams had come to gain control of all the Redskins stock from the George Preston Marshall estate," according to Williams biographer Evan Thomas. Williams, who would die of cancer in August 1988, ended up settling the dispute by selling Cooke his 14 percent-plus interest in the Redskins.