Of course, the Washington Commanders were not the Commanders back in 1992.
They were the Washington Redskins back then.
January 26, 1992 was the last time the team played as a team. That was the date of Super Bowl XXVI. I remember it well because I was there with warpaint on my face and dressed head to toe in burgundy and gold.
I grew up in Minnesota as a rabid fan of the Redskins, and my Grandma got me a ticket for my high school graduation present.
Corner end-zone, but in the Bills’s end-zone! I was hoarse by halftime.
The Redskins won 37-24.
Those were the days and that was the last time Washington had an identity regardless of their team name.
What was Washington like back then?
I’m sure some of you remember and some of you aren’t old enough to remember.
Either way – – it was magical time and the secret ingredient was the team played like a team.
That’s what made them so special.
Their team chemistry was a mixture of cast-offs and mid-to-late-round draft picks.
My Grandma (God rest her soul) used to say the Redskins were like a family, and she was right.
It was a time when the team and the fanbase were full of life. It was electric. All you have to do is click on this YouTube video from the “Seat Cushion Game,” to see what I mean. This video brings tears to my eyes to this day.
The stands were not filled with Eagles fans back then like it was at last Sunday’s “home” game.
Bobby Beathard was the architect of the magic in Washington
All the credit typically goes to Joe Gibbs, who was the head coach of the three-time Super Bowl Champions.
However, as a lifelong fan, it really was team General Manager Bobby Beathard who was the visionary behind Washington’s glory days.
Gibbs retells the story in his own words when Beathard introduced the idea of hiring Gibbs to Jack Kent Cooke, who was the owner of the Redskins at the time.
In Gibbs’ best Mr. Cooke voice, “Joe who?”
Beathard had an unorthodox eye for talent. In fact, during Beathard’s tenure, Washington only had three first-round draft picks in 11 years.
That’s not a typo. From 1978-1989 Washington only had three first-round picks total under Beathard.
In a day when it’s all about tanking for some elite college quarterback or trading the farm to move up a few spots in the first-round, Beathard did things differently.
Beathard understood the art of chemistry, and he understood how to build a collection of characters Washingtonians could relate to.
When Beathard left the building, the magic left with him, and it’s never returned.
That team in 1992 was still mostly still loaded with Beathard’s touch that his understudy Charley Casserly won Super Bowl XXVI with.
The Redskins stopped being the Redskins in 1993
Everyone thinks the Redskins changed their team name in 2020 when they became the “Washington Football Team,” but for all intents and purposes, they became something nobody who lived through the glory days recognized, starting in 1993.
Gibbs, a devout Christian, resigned prior to that season.
It was Gibbs himself who personally tried to tell me it was a different team than the team I had loved growing up. I didn’t understand what he meant when I read his words in a letter he sent me in 1998:
“Daniel, given I am no longer with the Redskins organization, I have not had the opportunity to maintain contact with the new regime. These are new coaches, scouts, and it is essentially a new organization.”
I didn’t understand his words until many years later as losing became an uncomfortable and deeply humiliating new way of life.
I can’t tell you how many times over the years I murmured, “The only thing that makes them the Redskins anymore is the helmets.”
Rebranding doesn’t mean a thing
The team isn’t like McDonald’s that went through a facelift, dropped the clown and continues to prosper happily ever after.
As much as everyone likes to say “football is a business,” it’s not.
It’s a game first and foremost, and it’s about winning.
They don’t build a stadium with 82,000 seats to watch people work at a business.
Rebranding is cute, but the fans will not return until Washington becomes a winner again, no matter what their name is.
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