North and south, Riggo does go.
Last thing he'd do, for sure, is throw.
But there came the time,
To commit the crime,
And Riggo, o, Riggo, the highest Hog,
Launched that sucker like a log.
"Shades of Kilmer's one-winged ducks,"
Quoth JKC. "For this I pay a million bucks?"
Baugh and Jurgy and Joe T could sling it,
And now comes a Hog trying to wing it.
Russians tracked Riggo's mystery missile a while,
Thinking it a danger to their life style.
But the pass fell to earth, a harmless dud,
And Riggo said, "I'd rather run in the mud."
So here we are talking to the Redskins' newest passer, the golden arm from the golden wheat land of Kansas, the man whose future as a quarterback is limited only by his talent.
Okay, John, off a sweep you threw a pass on first down in the third quarter. You threw it out of bounds because the receiver was covered. When did you last throw a pass?
"I think I was a junior in college."
In 12 seasons as a pro, no team had a pass in their playbook for you?
"Maybe. But nobody ever had the guts to call it before."
Because Joe Gibbs read somewhere that Riggins had been a high school quarterback, the coach has had Riggins throwing in practice. They had the play called in the Super Bowl, of all places, but a receiver couldn't get loose and so Riggins ran.
"My dad kept tellin' me, 'John, tell 'em you can throw the ball,' " Riggins said.
Pause. A wink. "Dad, it didn't work."
Few things are nicer than having a good ol' time doing well at work you love while some rich guy pays you a million bucks (give or take a dollar). These are the good ol' times in John Riggins' life and it's a pleasure to see him at work, the same as it's a pleasure to see any great entertainer giving every little bit of himself, even some parts he just invented, such as the forward (mostly sideways) pass.
"The truth of the matter is," Riggins said, "football is more fun now than it ever was."
Only a fullback with 2,113 carries, an elephant's load, can know how much fun it is, after a dozen years, to wind up and throw a pretty-boy-quarterback pass downfield.
You should have seen it. Think of Starr and Stabler.
It wasn't like that at all.
The pass traveled 35 yards.
Imagine Eddie Murray popping up a Gossage fast ball. That's the flight path of Riggins' pass.
As for the tight spiral you see on most NFL passes, it was missing in this instance. Soviet radar picked up an oblong object spinning end around end. MIGs fired warning shots at it. You'll read all about in the papers.
"It scared me when it left his hand," Gibbs said of Riggins' aerial circus. "I thought he was serious."
Someone was so unkind, talking to Riggins, as to compare the golden arm's work to the wobbling wonders once put up by Billy Kilmer. "The way that ball fluttered," a man said, "it looked like one of Kilmer's worst."
Riggins laughed. "It might have been one of Bill's best."
Kansas City isn't in the Redskins' class. A 12-0 halftime lead might have been 28-0. Good teams don't make killing errors, as Kansas City did in the second half. Good teams use bad teams' errors to build killing momentum, as the Redskins did.
Four plays, and a feeling, defined this Redskins' victory.
Riggins said, "I had a feeling at the half that I haven't had since my sophomore year in college when we were going to the Orange Bowl. I felt things weren't as bad as they seemed. There was no sense of panic . . . I don't know how this will sound, but we are the world champions.
"Some people might say we're fluke champions. But we've got the rings. We're in a positive posture here.
"Whether or not people believe we're world champions is immaterial. We think we're that good."
World champions, when they're behind, make big plays.
The Redskins' first play in the third quarter was a wide receiver reverse with Charlie Brown gaining 11 yards. It established who's in charge here. A minute later, Riggins threw his pass, demonstrating that the Redskins' daring knows no bounds.
A second big play was Vernon Dean's theft of the ball from a falling Kansas City receiver deep in Chiefs territory. Only the most cunning cornerback dares such a heist. Down, 12-0, the Redskins 10 minutes later had scored 17 points.
A third play: Riggins' 26-yard run starting the drive to the go-ahead touchdown was, for a fullback, as much fun as the law allows. Sprinting through a garage-door hole, Riggins next did a jab move at top speed that is beyond the capability of most any 240-pounder. The jab fake made a Chief a frozen spectator. Riggins then dragged another Chief five yards.
The fourth play, for the last touchdown, was Joe Theismann's 39-yard pass to Clint Didier out of a third-and-two situation when everyone assumed Riggins would run.
"They had stuffed us three times because we're almost 100 percent run in that situation," Gibbs said. "I told Joe that the next time we're going to take a shot."
Theismann faked to Riggins, with Otis Wonsley in motion, and threw deep to Didier, who was all alone in convincing testimony to Riggins' halftime feeling that there was no reason for world champions to get worried.