I’m going to try something this year to jump on board the Throwback Thursday (#tbt) social media craze. Actually, since I’m noticing, it probably means it is no longer a crazy at all. Either way, it made me think of an interesting way to reach back to the past while getting ready for each upcoming game. Every Thursday I’ll share some brief thoughts on a memorable corresponding week in Redskin history. We’ll see how this goes and if people want to participate.
Because it mirrors both this year’s opponent and projected point spread, I’ve selected opening day 1986 as my Week 1 #tbt. Coming off of a promising, transitional 10-6 season, the Redskins hosted an Eagles team coming off a disappointing, sub-.500 year. Jay Schroeder was entering his first full year as the starting quarterback after replacing Joe Theismann mid-way through the 1985 season. The Redskins were also moving forward without other key members of their early-1980s dominance, including John Riggins.
The season started off on a promising note for the Redskins, who were favored by a little less than a touchdown entering the game. They drew first blood on a very short Mark Moseley field goal which triggered a see-saw first half. Ron Jaworski threw two red zone touchdowns to match two Schroeder scores (a 36-yard pass to Kelvin Bryant followed by a short quarterback keeper). The half ended with another field goal as punter Steve Cox (who was used for long-range kicks) hit from 55 yards out. The two field goals were the difference in a tight first half, 20-14.
As was often the case under Joe Gibbs, the Redskins took control of an inferior opponent in the second half. Schroeder added his second touchdown pass of the game early in the third quarter (a 36-yard strike to tight end Clint Didier) and then the offense turned things over to the running game. Bryant punctuated his efficient day with a rushing touchdown to close the third quarter and then George Rogers, the workhorse running back, finished the scoring with a short run in the fourth quarter. The 21-0 second half tipped the scales, and the Redskins had a comfortable 41-14 win to open the season.
Statistically the Redskins were very balanced, passing for nearly 300 yards and rushing for over 150 yards as a team. Bryant was the dual-threat that he could be when healthy, turning 10 touches into over 100 total yards and two touchdowns. Gary Clark also contributed 100 receiving yards.
The Redskins would ultimately finish the year 12-4 and become arguably the second-best team in the entire league in 1986, behind only the New York Giants. Unfortunately for the Redskins, the Giants won all three match ups between the two teams and eventually ended Washington’s season 17-0 in the NFC Championship Game. Still, 1986 is an often underrated season during an era that spoiled Redskin fans. It was a very successful season by any metric and laid the foundation for the following year’s Super Bowl run.
Now it’s your turn. What is your most memorable opening week in Redskin history?