That was the year Vince Lombardi joined the Redskins. With his two Super Bowls and three other NFL championships with the Green Bay Packers on his resume, Lombardi commanded respect, even from Jurgensen, who curtailed his carousing and dedicated himself completely to football.
"I finally had a coach who I really respected, a man who worked hard and wanted to win," Jurgensen said. "Sure, a little bit of it was me maturing, but it was more. Here's a guy who's won if we do what he says we'll have a legitimate chance to win. "
That season, Jurgensen threw for 3,102 yards and 22 touchdowns, completing 62 percent of his passes as the Redskins improved from 5-9 to 7-5-2, their first winning record in 13 seasons.
"My career wasn't like someone like [Dallas quarterback] Roger Staubach's, who played for the same guy [Tom Landry] the whole time," Jurgensen said. "I was always changing every other year it seemed changing systems, changing keys. Lombardi had the simplest system and by far the best. There's no telling what I would have done had I played for him my entire career."
But Lombardi's tenure in Washington was cut tragically short by his death, and Jurgensen's was curtailed by injuries. In 1970 he threw for 2,354 yards and 23 touchdowns but injured his left shoulder in an exhibition game the following year and missed the first eight regular games. In 1972, after leading the Redskins to three straight wins after recovering from the shoulder injury, Jurgensen ruptured his Achilles tendon.
Still fighting injuries, Jurgensen threw a total of 312 passes in the 1973 and 1974 seasons. He retired on May 1, 1975 as the NFL's all-time leading passer and holder of the league's single-season records for pass attempts, completions and yardage.
As for what he values most from his Redskins days, Jurgensen goes back to his season with Lombardi. That year, former Packer stars Paul Hornung and Max McGee came to Washington to visit their former coach during a Redskins practice. At one point in their conversation, Lombardi reportedly looked at Jurgensen and told the duo, "If we'd had him, we'd have never lost a game." This from a man who had coached Bart Starr, one of the NFL's legendary field generals.
"I also heard that Lombardi once said I could perhaps be the best who ever played," Jurgensen said. "For him to say things like that . . . when I look back at my career, those are the words I cherish the most."