It has been a week now since John Riggins made a sharp turn around the corner of Miami's defense and ran 43 yards to Super Bowl glory.
It has been a week now since the Hogs, Smurfs and Fun Bunch showed an international television audience that they are no laughing matter.
It has been a week now since the Redskins ended their unexpected trip to the NFL title game and returned order and purpose to an otherwise flawed season.
It has been a week now since Washington, D.C., became the football capital of the world for the first time in 40 years, a wildly celebrated achievement that made just about everybody feel good about this city.
But even a week later, the memory of that Sunday afternoon in the Rose Bowl, beneath cloud-shrouded mountains, lingers. This was arguably the most exciting Super Bowl ever, played by teams that cynics had predicted would produce the dullest title game in history. Instead, it was the breath of fresh air a stale NFL season needed.
In an era of overpaid, temperamental, selfish athletes and half-speed, badly coached, overrated teams, the underrated Redskins were different. They hustled and listened to instruction and won without the aid of too many high-salaried stars. They partied late into the night Super Bowl week and got in trouble with their coach for showing up late to meetings. They happily called themselves Hogs and they laughed when Riggins, the ultimate nonconformist, appeared at his boss' pregame party dressed in top hat and tails.
Here was a team that seemed to come from a less complicated era, a team dominated by 26 free agents and 14 players who never had been drafted, a team so well balanced it could boast of a place kicker who was the league's most valuable player.
And this was a team good enough to contribute to Riggins' dazzling month-long run to playoff glory. Maybe in the future someone else will eclipse his accomplishment of four straight 100-yard games, of 610 yards in four playoff games after only 553 in eight regular season games, of consistently grinding out yardage when even the least knowledgeable of fans knew he would get the ball. But no Redskin fan will ever forget his month of fury, or his fourth-quarter 43-yard touchdown run against Miami that started all the cheering.
More than any other player, Riggins epitomizes the spirit of this team. Despite a hefty salary, he projects a good-ole-boy image. Despite a season-long retirement two years ago, he was embraced by the fans upon his return and was so popular this season that, after a 185-yard game against Minnesota, he moved to midfield at RFK Stadium and bowed deeply. Despite being 33 years old, he performed like a youngster in the playoffs after asking Coach Joe Gibbs to stop pampering him and give him the ball. It was a marvelous one-man show in this purest of team sports.
The Redskins no longer have to worry about respect, not after winning 12 of 13 games this year and 15 of their last 16 since the end of last season. They can sit back now and reminisce about the highpoints of this magical season, as can we.
Game No. 1, at Philadelphia, in overtime. Joe Theismann throws a quick pass over the middle to Art Monk, who appears to catch the Eagles' defense by surprise. The pass is good for 27 yards. Four plays later, Mark Moseley kicks the winning 26-yard field goal. How did Monk get so open?
"I was doing the same thing Terry Metcalf did last year. I lined up so it looked to the defense like I was a tight end. But actually I was a halfback going in motion. It was new to me and we hadn't tried it much before. It was a big catch because in the previous two years, I had been here, we had lost our opening game. It was hard to get over that."
Second quarter, Game No. 2 at Tampa Bay, in a rainstorm. Tampa's Larry Swider is on his 10, ready to punt. But Redskin safety Curtis Jordan, an ex-Buc, breaks in clean and blocks the ball, then recovers it in the end zone for what proves to be the Redskins' winning touchdown. How did Jordan escape blockers on the play?
"The blocking back had to take either Clint Didier or myself. He went to Didier and I knew I had it. No one touched me. I got it right in the chest. It was my first NFL touchdown (in six years) and it was my greatest moment, especially against my buddies. I can't repeat what they said."
Fourth quarter, Game No. 4, RFK Stadium against the Eagles. On fourth down from the Redskin 33, with Washington ahead, 13-9, Ron Jaworski throws to Mike Quick near the end zone. How did Tony Peters make the interception?
"It was the type of situation we knew they needed to score a touchdown. It was my role to keep them out of the end zone. Quick ran an up pattern. My first job was to go deep and support the cornerback. I read the pattern and saw where he was and I ran to him. I looked up and saw the ball so I caught it. It was a big play. It insured the win for us."
Fourth quarter, game No. 7, RFK Stadium against the New York Giants. Mark Moseley makes NFL history by kicking his 21st straight field goal. To make the moment even more memorable, his 42-yard, last-moment kick won the game, 15-14, and put the Redskins in the playoffs for the first time in six years. What were Moseley's thoughts about the kick?
"The thing that strikes me most is that it happened just as I imagined it would, that I would kick three field goals that game and that the third would be the tie breaker, the game winner. I felt a tremendous amount of relief. My knees were kind of shaky, but you don't know that until afterward. It was just one of those things you don't expect will ever happen. It will always live with me."
First quarter, game No. 9, Art Monk tries for his first pass reception against the St. Louis Cardinals in RFK. Instead, he further fractures a bone in his right foot, putting him out for the rest of the season. When did Monk realize he had increased the damage to the bone?
"I was running an eight pattern where I go straight up the field and then cut to the middle. I had to make the cut on the bad foot. As I broke, the ball was badly thrown and I had to dive for it. I heard the foot pop. A lot of people think I hurt it when I dove but I know I had hurt it when I turned. I knew deep down inside I was out for the rest of the season."
Playoff game No. 1, against Detroit in RFK. With Monk out, Alvin Garrett gets his first Redskin start. Only 5-foot-7, Garrett plays a bigger-than-expected role, catching three touchdown passes. He has six catches in all, equaling his prior NFL career total. Was Garrett, one of the two Redskin Smurfs (Virgil Seay is the other), glad to get away from special teams work?
"Football to me is special teams. I love special teams. I probably won't get a chance to play 'em much more. I don't know if I like to catch a touchdown or hit a guy on a tackle more. But now I feel like I have a chance to make the team next year."
Same game, first quarter. Detroit is moving the ball effectively. Quarterback Eric Hipple tries to pass deep to halfback Billy Sims, but cornerback Jeris White steps in front and returns the interception for a 77-yard touchdown. Did White know he had an interception all the way?
"No, I really wasn't going to try to catch the ball. I was going to takle him (Sims) or bat it down. But the ball got there so slowly, I was able to scramble around him. We were just fortunate to be in the right defense. I don't think Hipple ever saw me."
The Fun Bunch--Rick Walker, Charlie Brown, Clarence Harmon, Otis Wonsley, Don Warren, Garrett, Seay--caught the fancy of Redskin fans during the Detroit game with its touchdown celebration ritual, which ends with a leaping, group high five. Did Walker ever expect the Fun Bunch to become nationally known?
"All we wanted to do is create something that would motivate our offense during a time we were having trouble scoring. It's no fun when you don't score. Suddenly, everyone wanted to be in it, nine, 10 guys, but that was okay. To make it work, we had to get into the end zone, so the result was good. Everyone was doing anything they could to go through the celebration. And then we had a chance to show off the Fun Bunch twice in the Super Bowl. We're international now."
Playoff game No. 2, third quarter, against Minnesota in RFK. Viking receiver Sammy White has two steps on cornerback Vernon Dean in the Redskin end zone but drops a pass with Washington ahead, 21-7. What did Dean think when he saw White ready to reach for the ball?
"I thought I had deep help on the play, but I missed an audible change. When White got ahead of me, I thought, 'Oh, no.' When he dropped it, I just clapped my hands and said, 'Thanks' to myself."
Before the NFC title game against Dallas, Dexter Manley said, "Tell Dallas that Dexter Manley is the Redskins weakness and to run right at Dexter Manley because Dexter Manley will be waiting." Before the Super Bowl, Manley wanted to be this year's Joe Namath, the game's most valuable player. What makes Dexter Manley so outspoken?
"I've got to be me. I've got to talk. I don't mean any harm by it, I don't mean to insult anyone or any team. But if I put myself on the spot by talking, then it puts pressure on me to perform well. I want to be the best. I want them to think of me when they think of all pro, stuff like that. Besides, it's fun. It keeps things lively."
Third quarter, NFC championship against Dallas. Mike Nelms, who set up a Cowboy touchdown by fumbling the second half kickoff, returns another kickoff 76 yards, leading to a Washington touchdown and a 21-10 lead. What did Nelms think after the fumble?
"I didn't worry about the fumble. I just went to the sidelines, said a few prayers that we'd get the ball back and everything would work out. Really, the return was easy. The way we hit people, all I had to do was find the opening and run through it. I wish they were all that easy."
Same game, fourth quarter. Gary Hogeboom, playing for injured Danny White, tries to throw pass into the deep right flat, toward Tony Hill. But linebacker Mel Kaufman makes a leaping, turning interception to set up a Mark Moseley field goal and get Redskin offense going. What were Kaufman's duties on that play?
"They were running an out pattern, which had been killing us all day. It was my job to take anyone who went outside deep. I was looking at Hogeboom all the way and I don't think he ever saw me. As soon as he threw it, I knew I had a chance at it. Funny, I didn't think it was that hard of a catch until I saw the films. It was a better catch than I had imagined."
Same game, later in the fourth quarter. Dallas is backed up near its own end zone. Hogeboom tries to throw a screen pass to Tony Dorsett, but Dexter Manley leaps high and tips the ball sideways. Defensive tackle Darryl Grant catches the ball, and runs 10 yards for the game-clinching touchdown. When did Grant realize he had a chance for the interception?
"I said, 'This feels like a screen.' I watched Dexter fight off his man, force him to throw and tip the pass. I said to myself, 'I believe I can get it.' When I caught it, I started high stepping for a good reason. Earlier in the season, Dexter forced a fumble against Tampa Bay and I picked up the ball and started running with it. One of the offensive linemen just managed to clip my feet and I fell down. All the players were kidding me that if I had picked up my feet, I could have gone all the way. This time I did."
In the Super Bowl buildup, the Hogs received a major share of the hype, becoming one of the most publicized offensive lines in recent history. Was center Jeff Bostic surprised by all the attention?
"It was really amazing. Here was something that (offensive coordinator) Joe Bugel started just to give us togetherness and suddenly linemen were getting publicity normally reserved for more glamorous positions. And we had something to live up to in the Super Bowl. We thought we could run on Miami, and by the end of the third quarter, we knew it for sure. They weren't getting as excited and not as many guys were helping out on tackles. It was ours."
Third quarter, Super Bowl. Joe Theismann tries to pass to Brown from the Redskin 10, but Miami's Kim Bokamper tips the ball and then tries to catch it. If he does, he scores a touchdown and Miami will be in front, 24-13. But Theismann sticks out an arm and bats the ball away. What was Theismann thinking as the pass fluttered toward Bokamper?
"When he hit the ball, I said something like, 'Holy Geez, I better get to it fast.' I didn't want to be like Richard Todd (New York Jets quarterback) when A.J. Duhe picked one off on him the week before (in the AFC title game). I ran toward the ball and so did he. I just dove at it and got myself close enough so I could bat it away. Of all the plays I was involved in this year, that's the one I remember most, more than any touchdown pass or anything."
Same game, early in the fourth quarter. The Redskins are facing fourth down at the Miami 43. Washington runs "70 Chip," which sends Riggins around left end. Two views of that play, which resulted in a dramatic touchdown run by the man they call "The Diesel."
Fullback Otis Wonsley: "It worked exactly right. I'm supposed to be John's eyes. I have to make the decision on whatever way to run. The offensive line had a great surge and it isolated me on a linebacker. When I took him out, that left John with the cornerback, and John loves cornerbacks. I thought all we had was a first down, because that's how much space I had cleared. But when I stood up, I saw everyone chasing him. I knew he had scored."
Tackle Joe Jacoby: "They had a 60 front and I had a guy over me, Bokamper, man on man. They were all low, trying to get penetration and we just had to meet them head on. When I looked up, I saw the back of uniform 44 on the 10. I was excited. It was like Jeff Bostic put it. He said he ran all the way to the end zone to catch up and his feet never hit the ground."
Same game, late in the fourth quarter, the Redskins are threatening again. Theismann rolls to his right, pump fakes toward the middle, stops and throws into the end zone, toward Charlie Brown, who makes a difficult touchdown catch to clinch the NFL title for Washington. How did Brown hold onto the ball?
"It was the result of tremendous concentration. I knew I was close to the sideline, I didn't know if Joe was going to run or throw, but if he threw, I knew I was going to get really hit. I made sure I stayed in bounds and I just braced myself for getting banged. I was so prepared for it, I didn't feel it.
As the Super Bowl came to an end, Coach Joe Gibbs stood on the sidelines, ignoring the celebration around him, head bowed. What was Gibbs thinking about at that moment?
"A lot of things go through your mind. I was thanking the Lord and I was thinking back to how many hours and how much work had gone into this day. So many hope to be Super Bowl champs and here we were, on the verge of fulfilling that dream. It was kind of overwhelming."
In the locker room after Super Bowl XVII. Riggins is informed that President Reagan has called to congratulate the Redskins. Riggins, the game's most valuable player, smiles.
"At least for tonight, Ron's the president, but I'm king."