It is probably correct to say that the future of the 0-5 Redskins is uncertain. Nevertheless, they are in no immediate danger of being classed with those wretched Redskin teams of 1960-61, coached first by the unhappy Mike Nixon and then by Bill McPeak.
Coach Joe Gibbs' winless 1981 Redskins have merely stuck a toe into the waters of defeat, while the teams during the Nixon-McPeak years drowned in them week after week.
For those Redskin fans brooding about that 0-5 record, how would 17 consecutive Washington defeats strike you, not counting ties? Or you might consider the 23 straight winless games in 1960-61, including ties.
Early in 1960, there were few signs of the impending disaster. After their first four games, the Redskins had two ties, one victory and one defeat. Then the deluge. The next victory was 22 games later.
It must be noted that Nixon took over a 4-7-1 team from Coach Joe Kuharich in 1959. Also, those 17 consecutive losses reflected the material that Redskin coaches were given to work with. It was the late George Preston Marshall, the team owner, who dictated the draft choices, engineered the trades and occasionally edited the playbook. Marshall had acquired his football expertise during 25 years as president and owner of the Palace Laundry.
In 1961, McPeak's first year as coach, Norman Snead was the team's new quarterback, Ralph Guglielmi having been traded to St. Louis for George Izo. McPeak learned adversity quickly in the form of an opening-game defeat by San Francisco, on four touchdown passes by John Brodie. It was the team's ninth consecutive loss.
The next week, the Redskins and Eagles were scoreless at halftime. But hopes of ending the losing streak vanished after a new, young quarterback for the Eagles named Sonny Jurgensen exploited a fumbled punt by Redskin Lew Luce and won the game on the next play with a 25-yard pass to Tommy McDonald. The game was close enough to inspire a Washington Post headline that read: "Fired-Up Skins Lose."
The next week marked the Redskins' first game at RFK Stadium. What a way to inaugurate it! Jim Kerr fumbled the Giants' opening kickoff. But young Snead threw touchdown passes to Dick James and Don Bosseler, Dale Hackbart scored with an interception of a Charlie Conerly pass and the Redskins led in the first quarter, 21-7. They lost, 24-21.
A week later, Bobby Mitchell beat them in Cleveland, scoring on a 52-yard pass play, a 64-yard punt return and a 39-yard run. The final score was 31-7.
It got worse in the following weeks, as the Redskins were shut out by the Steelers and Cardinals.
On Oct. 29, they thought they had won a game against the Eagles when a Snead pass to Jim Cunningham put them in front, 24-20, with 40 seconds to play. Glory be. But there was no glory. Jurgensen took the Eagles 80 yards to another touchdown with 12 seconds left.
The next week, they stretched their losing streak to 16 by collapsing completely and losing to the Giants, 53-0. Then the Browns beat them again, 17-6.
Victory was almost achieved against Dallas. The Redskins were leading, 28-21, with 7:29 left. But seven straight passes by Eddie LeBaron got the Cowboys a 28-28 tie.
The Redskins were beaten in the next three games by the Colts, 27-6; the Cardinals, who staged a 21-point fourth quarter, and the Steelers, whose Bobby Layne threw four touchdown passes.
Then Dallas returned for the season's final game. This was the Cowboys' second year in the league, and they had failed to win any of their 12 games in 1960. It was difficult to believe, but the Redskins, who had not won in 23 games, were 1 1/2-point favorites. And the Redskins brought it off, 34-24. They'd found a way to spell relief: C-O-W-B-O-Y-S.
One reason for the Redskins' problems was that Marshall denied them the talents of black players.Even the Redskin fight song, reworded to "Fight for Old D.C.," was originally written as "Cheer for Old Dixie." One writer had noted repeatedly that "the Redskins' colors are burgundy, gold and Caucasian." The Redskins' color line was stronger than their offensive or defensive lines. Marshall's discrimination against blacks finally ended in 1961, when Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall warned him that if he didn't sign black players, his lease at federally owned RFK Stadium would be abrogated.
Black players on opposition teams had been wrecking the Redskins. A string of 21 straight winless games began on Oct. 30, 1960, in their last year at Griffith Stadium, when Jim Brown and Bobby Mitchell emphatically integrated the Redskins' end zone. Brown ran 25 yards for one score with more than deliberate speed, and Mitchell hoodwinked them by throwing the first pass of his pro career on a halfback fake for a 23-yard touchdown. Cleveland's Milt Plum scored one touchdown on a 53-yard pass that seemed to confuse Redskin rookie defender Billie Brewer. "I lost the ball in the sun," Billie explained after the game.
The Redskins were still in the game as the second half opened, but 1 minute 50 seconds later, the Browns had another touchdown.
Guglielmi was quarterbacking the Redskins that year, the last of his four seasons here. He was forced to flee tacklers so often because of scant pass protection that he became the team's second-leading ground gainer of 1960.
The caliber of the Redskins' defense spoke for itself in their next defeat, 44-7 by the Cardinals. Then they lost to Philadelphia, 19-13. Their fourth straight loss was to the Cardinals again, 26-14. The Steelers beat them next, 22-10.
Defeat No. 6 was a 27-16 loss to Cleveland. No. 7 was a 17-3 disaster against the Giants. At one point in that game, the Redskins led, 3-0. Then Gary Glick fumbled a punt, after which the Giants scored. James fumbled a kickoff, and the Giants scored again. Tom Scott intercepted a Guglielmi pass and ran in for the third Giant score. The Redskins lost a game in which they held the Giants to minus one yard rushing. Finally, Washington ended the season by losing to the Eagles again, 38-28.
It was after that final game in 1960 that Nixon told a press conference he had been fired by Marshall. In a masterful display of semantic skills, Marshall denied it. "He was not fired," Marshall said. "His contract was simply not renewed." graphics 1: WP photo by Douglas Chevalier. Nixon & quarterback Guglielmi watch the Redskins lose to the Eagles on dec. 18, 1960. It was Nixon's last game as coach of the inept team. graphics 2: Norman Sneed photo.