The recent benching of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, player #10, takes me back to 1988. That year, Washington benched another quarterback #10, Jay Schroeder, ultimately trading him to the Los Angeles Raiders (now Oakland). For that season, I was so mad about the trade that I turned my back on Washington and pulled for LA.
My brother is a true football fanatic and loves Washington, so it was only natural that I grew up a fan of the team. I remember watching their 1983 Super Bowl XVII victory over the Miami Dolphins and their devastating Super Bowl XVIII loss to LA in 1984.
I did not really start watching football and Washington on a consistent basis until the 1985 season, though. I was 10-years-old, so staying up on a Monday night during the school year could be questionable. My parents were rather lenient, so an exception was made in the case of Washington’s game against division rival New York Giants that November. Washington came into the game with a 5-5 record.
Washington quarterback Joe Theismann, #7, suffered a career-ending broken leg during the game, which ABC saw fit to replay two or three times that night. Meanwhile, backup quarterback Jay Schroeder stepped in and led Washington to a victory over New York. The gruesome broken leg as well as the new quarterback was all the talk the next day at school in my 5th grade class. Schroeder lost only one game the rest of the season, and Washington finished 10-6.
The next summer, Schroeder made an autograph appearance at CP Dean sporting goods. Mom took my little sister and me there, and we were among the first five in line. Schroeder made quite the impression on me, as he took the time to talk to us even though there was a line of people snaking through the store and out the door when his session began.
He also wrote out a fully personalized autograph on a 5×7 black & white photo: “Troy, best wishes. Jay Schroeder #10.” As this was the first autograph I had ever personally obtained from anyone, it became a cherished memento. (Though, like so many of childhood’s treasures, it seems to be languishing at the moment in the vault known as Mom’s Attic.)
As we walked away, I heard an assistant tell Schroeder that he would need to hurry things along and stop personalizing the autographs so that he could get through the line of people.
That autumn, as the NFL season began, I found a new friend in the neighborhood, and we began to play 2-on-2 backyard football against other area kids. Back then, backyard football was actually played outside on the grass, rather than inside on a video game.
I played quarterback/tackle and my friend played center/halfback/cornerback. We even drew up a playbook of sorts, though neither of us knew very much about football beyond watching it on TV (still true). Our plays had fun names like “The Hitchcock.” I ask you, what other backyard football team of the 1980s named its plays after a legendary film director?
For home games, we tied kite string between two trees in my backyard. This served as a goal post for kicking field goals and extra points. All of our kicks were technically punts, as effective placekicking would have required a longer field.
One day, I was out practicing my field goals when I decided to make it fun by kicking 16 in a row to predict Washington’s regular season record for 1986. The results were 12 wins (successful kicks) and 4 losses (missed kicks).
I figured that was a good enough record to make the playoffs, so I continued. To my horror, I missed the kick that represented the NFC Championship – the last step before the Super Bowl. I quickly re-kicked that one and decided that Washington would make the Super Bowl after all.
That season, Jay Schroeder led Washington to a 12-4 regular season record and a playoff berth. Washington went on to lose against New York in the NFC Championship game. If only I had made that kick on the first attempt!
Schroeder the Raider
Schroeder suffered a shoulder injury in the opening game of Washington’s 1987 season, and things never seemed quite the same after that. He and Doug Williams, #17, traded the starting quarterback spot back and forth, and Williams went on to have the game of his career when he led Washington to a 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos in 1988’s Super Bowl XXII. While I was thrilled Washington had won its second Super Bowl in five years, it was bittersweet for me as I was such a Schroeder fan.
As noted, Schroeder was traded to LA later that year, and I became a traitor to the team by giving up on Washington and rooting for LA. As mentioned, LA had beaten Washington in a Super Bowl, so the only worse team I could have switched to in terms of fan loyalty was the Dallas Cowboys.
No matter how annoying Washington can be, even I would never stoop so low.
I found trying to follow a West Coast team while living on the East Coast to be quite a challenge. Most of the games were not televised here, and there was scant newspaper coverage. In short, it was hard to be a fan of LA and continue following Schroeder simply because they had so little exposure here.
A New Era
For the 1989 season, I returned to rooting for Washington. By this time, a new quarterback had replaced Williams, who never replicated his astounding Super Bowl XXII performance. I have to hand it to Williams, though, he peaked in the right game.
Mark Rypien, #11, eventually led Washington to a 37-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills in 1992’s Super Bowl XXVI. I was a Rypien fan as well. In fact, I still have his jersey hanging in my closet. Not that I could wear it now because . . . uh . . . that jersey sure has shrunk considerably in the course of the last 23 years. Must be something about that closet.
Anyway, as fellow Washington fans know, it has been a long drought since Super Bowl XXVI. While there have been one or two ups, things never quite seem to work out for the team.
With Kirk Cousins, #8, taking over for Griffin, Washington enters yet another quarterback transition this season. Will Cousins prove to be the next Jay Schroeder or Mark Rypien? Can 2015 finally be the year that things really turn around for Washington?
2015 Regular Season Predictions
Even coming off a 4-12 season (one of those 4 victories was against Dallas, though, the equivalent of a Super Bowl win in recent times), Washington fans are always hopelessly optimistic.
A small bit of preseason success and we assume a Super Bowl victory is imminent. After all, right now is the best part of the regular season – for our team is still undefeated at 0-0. Potential is limitless.
Without a kite string goal post in my backyard, I cannot hope to predict the upcoming season with the same level of accuracy as I did in 1986. Instead, I will just have to try my best by making predictions the old-fashioned way.
September 13: vs. Miami Dolphins (winner: Washington)
September 20: vs. St. Louis Rams (winner: Washington)
September 24: at New York Giants (winner: New York)
October 4: vs. Philadelphia Eagles (winner: Washington)
October 11: at Atlanta Falcons (winner: Washington)
October 18: at New York Jets (winner: New York)
October 25: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (winner: Washington)
November 8: at New England Patriots (winner: New England)
November 15: vs. New Orleans Saints (winner: New Orleans)
November 22: at Carolina Panthers (winner: Washington)
November 29: vs. New York Giants (winner: Washington)
December 7: vs. Dallas Cowboys (winner: Dallas)
December 13: at Chicago Bears (winner: Washington)
December 20: vs. Buffalo Bills (winner: Washington)
December 26: at Philadelphia (winner: Philadelphia)
January 3: at Dallas (winner: Washington)
2015 Regular Season Record Prediction: 10-6
Keep in mind, I am a Washington Redskins fan. Reality is not a consideration in any of this.