The Washington Redskins have had great success since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. The Redskins have produced 16 playoff appearances that included three Super Bowl championsips. But the organization’s glorious past dates back almost 60 years and includes five overall world championships and some of the most innovative people and ideas the game has ever known. From George Preston Marshall to Jack Kent Cooke, from Vince Lombardi to Joe Gibbs, from Sammy Baugh to John Riggins, plus the NFL’s first fight song, marching band and radio network, the Redskins can be proud of an impressive professional football legacy.
George Preston Marshall was awarded the inactive Boston franchise in July 1932. He originally named the team “Braves” because it used Braves Field, home of the National League baseball team. When the team moved to Fenway Park in July 1933, the name was changed to Redskins. A bizarre situation occurred in 1936, when the Redskins won the NFL Eastern division championship but Marshall, unhappy with the fan support in Boston, moved the championship game against Green Bay to the Polo Grounds in New York. Their home field advantage taken away by their owner, the Redskins lost.
Not surprisingly, the Redskins moved to Washington, D.C., for the 1937 season. Games were played in Griffith Stadium with the opener on September 16, 1937, being played under flood lights. That year, Marshall created an official marching band and fight song, both firsts in the National Football League. That season also saw the debut of “Slinging Sammy” Baugh, a quarterback from Texas Christian who literally changed the offensive posture of pro football with his forward passing in his 16-season career. The Redskins won five NFL Eastern division titles and NFL championships in 1937 and 1942 during Baugh’s tenure.
Ray Flaherty was Baugh’s first pro coach from 1936-1942 and his 56-26-3 record (.701 percentage) is the best in team history. In 1944, the Redskins formed a radio network to broadcast their games throughout the southern United States. By 1950, all Redskins games were televised over a network of southern stations, thus making Washington the first NFL team to have an entire season of televised games. D.C. Stadium (later changed to Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium) was opened in 1961 and the 55,683-seat stadium was the Redskins home through 1996. In 1997 the Redskins moved into the new FedEx Field. A consecutive sellout streak began in 1968 and is still alive today. No other NFL team can claim that long a string of sellouts.
In 1969, the legendary Vince Lombardi guided the Redskins to their first winning record in 15 years but he died of cancer before the 1970 season. Class of 2002 inductee George Allen took over in 1971 and coached Washington to 69 victories, five playoff appearances and the 1972 NFC championship in his seven years. Joe Gibbs, who led the Redskins from 1981 to 1992, ranks as the most successful coach in Redskins’ history with a 140-65-0 record that produced eight playoff appearances, five NFC Eastern division championships and victories in Super Bowls XVII, XXII and XXVI. He was named NFL Coach of the Year in 1982 and 1983 and elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
In 2004, Gibbs returned to the sidelines when he was hired as the team’s head coach once again.