Thirty years ago, the night before Super Bowl XXVI, Joe Gibbs took his team on a 45-minute bus ride to stay in a hotel outside the city of Minneapolis. But here’s the kicker: He didn’t tell the players where they were headed.
Recalling the story on a local radio station Wednesday, the Hall of Fame coach broke out into laughter.
“I started hearing you guys on the bus … ‘Where are we going? What’s the deal?’” Gibbs said with a laugh.
Gibbs said he believed that it was important for his teams to be able to get away just before the big game — to eliminate distractions and to hone in on the task at hand. The strategy worked, and then some. Not only did Washington earn a 37-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills — they cemented their status as one of the greatest teams in NFL history.
In 1991, the Redskins went 14-2, sported a top-rated offense and defense and were so dominant that they never trailed in a playoff game. The Burgundy and Gold outscored teams by a total of 261 points, the NFL’s third-highest point differential in the Super Bowl era (1966).
“I can’t believe time goes by that fast,” Gibbs said. “But I’ve gotta tell ya, it was a thrill.”
Gibbs said he could tell the roster featured a group of players who understood what it took to win it all. By then, Gibbs had a veteran core that he could lean on, but every season was different. And in this one, Gibbs said he knew by the mood in the locker room — guys were often relaxed and joking, he said — that he had the right pieces in place.
When Gibbs thinks back to that season, he said that offense tended to get more credit than the defense. But the latter unit, he said, was the driving force behind their Super Bowl season. Pro Bowlers like cornerback Darrell Green and defensive end Charles Mann set the tone for a defense that had three shutouts in their first games. Washington, for the record, hasn’t held a team scoreless since.
The offense, of course, was also highly regarded for a reason. Quarterback Mark Rypien found a perfect rhythm with the trio of Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders in the passing game. Running back Earnest Byner ran behind a stout offensive line of Jim Lachey, Raleigh McKenzie, Jeff Bostic, Mark Schlereth and Joe Jacoby. Together, the unit averaged a league-high 30.3 points per game.
That said …
“There’s a lot of stats that go with it that say that was one of the best teams to play in the NFL,” Gibbs said.
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