But Baugh's bigger challenge was war-related. His cattle-raising had been important in providing beef for the military, and that fact had gotten him a "rancher's exemption" from the draft. By 1944 he had to oversee the cattle-raising himself. He pitched in with the work, making certain that the government got its beef shipments on time. He missed the first two games of the season and afterward could fly to Washington only on weekends to lead the team.
Filchock, back from the Coast Guard, had to do the weekday chores in practice. Clark Shaughnessy, T-formation guru who was coaching at the University of Maryland, instructed Filchock, who responded by leading the league in passing. But it was not to be Washington's year. The Redskins wore down late in the season, losing three of their last four games.
Going into 1945, Redskins fans had no way of knowing two things: that this would be another great season, and that it would be the end of an era of greatness. After 1945, Baugh would never again play in a championship game; he would retire after the 1952 season. And the Redskins, a power on the Potomac through the 1945 season, would manage only three winning seasons until Vince Lombardi's arrival as coach in the distant future.
The turning point of the 1945 season came in the third game against a tough Philadelphia team. The Redskins won in a 24-14 upset; they then won six straight and finished by shutting out Pittsburgh and the Giants. As Eastern Division champions, the Redskins earned a trip to play the Cleveland Rams in the title game. It would be Baugh versus Bob Waterfield. It also would be cold six degrees at Municipal Stadium. The Redskins band could scarcely blow a note. On the bench, Redskins wore parkas and kept their legs warm by covering them with blankets and, of all things, hay.
The footing was treacherous because of an icy field. But the Redskins came prepared they had brought tennis shoes from home. The home team, inexplicably, had no tennis shoes. Before the game, Cleveland's coach, Adam Walsh, pleaded with DeGroot not to let the Redskins wear sneakers. "I'd appreciate it if we could play this game on even terms," he said. In a gesture of sportsmanship, Dud DeGroot agreed. With that, everyone began skidding around the field.
If 73-0 was the game Redskins' fans wish could be sticken from the books, a play that always would haunt the team occurred in the first period of that 1945 championship game in Cleveland. Passing from his own end zone toward a wide-open Millner, Baugh hit the goal post.