Students of antiquity know that Vince Lombardi and George Allen did not invent winning football in Washington although it may seem that way to the post-World War II babies.
The genesis of the best pro football town in America took wing with the hiring of a strapping brass-haired coach named Ray Flaherty, who had played end at Gonzaga University.
After five years as a player and a hitch as an assistant coach with New York Giants, Flaherty was persuaded by Redskin founder George Preston Marshall to become head of coach, when the club was still in Boston.
Flaherty won the Eastern Division title there in 1936, the world championship the next season when the team was shifted to Washington and three more Eastern titles and another world championship before enlisting in the Navy in 1942. He had a 54-21-3 record with the Redskins. He switched to the New York Yankees of the All-America Football Conference after the war.
The late Arthur (Dutch) Bergman followed the tough act, but it may be a consolation to Jack Pardee in following George Allen that Bergman had a winning record in his only season as Redskins coach, 6-3-1, in 1943.
Bergman, former Notre Dame halfback, was the Redskins' chief scout in 1942 and had been a successful head coach at Catholic University. He won the Eastern title with the Redskins but was gone the next season.
Morris A. Bealle in his history of the Redskins wrote that "contrary to reports, he left this post by mutual consent; not over any dispute with the Redskins brass (meaning Marshal) or a cagy desire to quit while he was ahead . . . he possessed a laudable ambition to become a nationally known sportscaster."
Bealle could have gotten bets from fans who later remembered that Marshall did outrageous things in the lean years to divert attention from the league standings.
In March, 1944, Marshall hired off the University of Rochester campus Dudley DeGroot, a newcomer to pro football.
Clark Shaugnessy, father of the new-fangled T formation was brought in to indoctrinate DeGroot and single wing tailback Sam Baugh. The Redskins dropped to a third-place fiish (6-3-1) in 1944. They won the Eastern title the next season but lost to the Cleveland (now Los Angeles) Rams in the championship game.
DeGroot and Shaugnessy did not get along and DeGroot resigned. Turk Edwards, an all-league tackle who had been an assistant to Flaherty Bergman and DeGroot, replaced DeGroot in 1946.
The Redskins went into a tailspin, with records of 5-1 in 1946, 4-8 in 1947, and got up to 7-5 in 1948 before Marshall came up with his most inexplicable coaching choice of all.
When reporters came back from a news conference at which Admiral John (Billick) Whelchel, a Washington native and former Naval Academy coach, was introduced as the Redskins' new head man, disbelieving editors, like many a fan, asked "Billick who?"
Whelchel had been sent to Notre Dame by Marshall to study the T formation under Frank Leahy.
Whelchel had a 3-3-1 record in that 1949 season before he was relieved by Herman Ball, his line coach and closet adviser. The Redskins said Whelchel "resigned," by mutual agreement. They finished fourth with a 4-7-1 season.
Ball finished dead last in 1950 with a 3-9 record and was replaced after the third game of the 1951 season by former Redskin running back Dick Todd. Ball had a 4-16 record in his tenture, Todd 5-4 in 1951. Todd quit after the second exhibition game in 1952.
Earl (Curley) Lambeau, a big winner at Green Bay, took over for Baugh's last season. Lambeau had a 4-8, last-place finish; a 6-5 season, and dropped to 3-9 in 1954. He was fired in the next preseason after an argument with Marshall over players' night-time habits.
Joe Kuharich pulled the team together after a 3-9 finish for the Redskins' last winning season, 8-4, in 1955, until Lombardi turned things around for a 7-5-2 record in 1969.
Kuharich went downhill himself, 6-6 in 1956, 5-6-1 in 1957, and 4-7-1 in 1958 before he resigned to coach at Notre Dame.
One of his assistants, Mike Nixon, lasted two season, finishing 3-9 and 1-9-2 before being replaced in 1961 by Bill McPeak.
Because the Redskins were not drawing well in those losingyears and because Marshall allegedly was exploiting his southern television and radio network by keeping his franchise a paleface reservation, the club did not bid for high-price players or hire blacks.
The Kennedy Administration manded an end to discrimination in employment by the Redskins when they moved into Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, a federally funded facility, in 1961.