Remembering Washington’s magical Super Bowl season 30 years later

January 26, 2022

Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs meets with reporters after practice at Redskins Park, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 1992, in Herndon, Virginia. The Redskins would win Super Bowl XXVI on Jan. 26 in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)

On Jan. 26, 1992, Washington celebrated a 37-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI, the franchise’s third Super Bowl title and fifth championship since its inception in 1932.

Here’s a week-by-week look back at the results throughout Washington’s march to Minnesota for Super Bowl Sunday, followed by remembrances from the WTOP Sports team on where each was during that memorable run.

LISTEN: Dave Johnson's 1991 season recap of Washington's Super Bowl XXVI victory

Week 1 — Sept. 1, 1991

Detroit Lions 0
Washington 45

Record: 1-0

In a season rife with blowout wins, this was Washington’s largest margin of victory of the season.

Week 2 — Sept. 9, 1991

Washington 33
Dallas Cowboys 31

Record: 2-0

This was the most points Washington allowed in a game all season.

Week 3 — Sept. 15, 1991

Phoenix Cardinals 0
Washington 34

Record: 3-0

This was the second of three straight home shutouts to start the season.

Week 4 — Sept. 22, 1991

Washington 34
Cincinnati Bengals 27

Record: 4-0

This was Washington’s fourth straight 100-yard rushing performance to start the season.

Week 5 — Sept. 30, 1991

Philadelphia Eagles 0
Washington 23

Record: 5-0

Long before the Monday Night Massacre, Washington blanked Philly on MNF to pitch their third straight home shutout victory. Nearly 30 years later, it still stands as the last time the Burgundy and Gold had such a win, the longest active shutout drought in the NFL.

Week 6 — Oct. 6, 1991

Washington 20
Chicago Bears 7

Record: 6-0

Washington wasn’t just undefeated at this point. The team outscored its opponents 189-65. Utter domination.

Week 7 — Oct. 13, 1991

Cleveland Browns 17
Washington 42

Record: 7-0

Bill Belichick pulled out all the stops and still got blown out at RFK.

Week 9 — Oct. 27, 1991

Washington 17
NY Giants 13

Record: 8-0

Washington erased a 13-0 first-half deficit in prime-time to finally beat the defending champion Giants, who had won the previous six meetings between these division rivals.

Week 10 — Nov. 3, 1991

Houston Oilers 13
Washington 16 (OT)

Record: 9-0

In a regular season in which Washington would win by an average of 16 points per game, this was the Burgundy and Gold’s lone overtime game of the season.

Week 11 — Nov. 10, 1991

Atlanta Falcons 17
Washington 56

Record: 10-0

Washington would notch season highs with 451 passing yards and six takeaways.

Week 12 — Nov. 17, 1991

Washington 41
Pittsburgh Steelers 14

Record: 11-0

Washington became the fastest to clinch a playoff berth since the 1985 Chicago Bears — another all-time great Super Bowl champion.

Week 13 — Nov. 24, 1991

Dallas Cowboys 24
Washington 21

Record: 11-1

Not only did the rival Cowboys end the Burgundy and Gold’s hopes to go undefeated but at the time, it was the third win in four trips to RFK Stadium.

Week 14 — Dec. 1, 1991

Washington 27
L.A. Rams 6

Record: 12-1

Washington clinched the NFC East title for the first time since the 1987 Super Bowl season.

Week 15 — Dec. 8, 1991

Washington 20
Phoenix Cardinals 14

Record: 13-1

Washington erased a 14-0 halftime deficit to complete the season sweep of Joe Bugel’s Cardinals and clinch home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs.

Week 16 — Dec. 15, 1991

New York Giants 17
Washington 34

Record: 14-1

The Burgundy and Gold broke out the brooms against the Giants in a non-strike year for the first time since 1983.

Week 17 — Dec. 22, 1991

Washington 22
Philadelphia Eagles 24

Record: 14-2

Even with the loss, Washington tied a franchise record for wins in a season.

Divisional Round Playoffs — Jan. 4, 1992

Atlanta Falcons 7
Washington 24

Record: 15-2

In inclement weather at RFK Stadium — and infamously, with M.C. Hammer in attendance on the Falcons’ sideline — Washington’s defense forced nearly as many turnovers (6) as they allowed points (7).

 

Jan. 12, 1992

Detroit Lions 10
Washington 41

Record: 16-2

Oddly enough, this was one of Washington’s three turnover-free games of the entire season, yet the +3 turnover margin was the team’s lowest of the postseason.

Super Bowl XXVI — Jan. 26, 1992

Washington 37
Buffalo Bills 24

Record: 17-2

Madden and Summerall on the call. Mark Rypien’s ridiculous-yet-iconic celebration before winning Super Bowl MVP to make Joe Gibbs the first coach to win three Lombardi Trophies with three different quarterbacks. Gibbs’ Hall of Fame status cemented by leading a team later called “the most well-rounded in NFL history.” For Washington and its fans, life was good.

January 26, 1992 | LISTEN: WTOP's Michael Harrington reports on Washington name protest during Super Bowl XXVI

Where were you during Washington’s run to Super Bowl XXVI?

George Wallace: The 1991 Super Bowl season was definitely a special one for me. I was one of the diehard fans growing up and was in ninth grade during that year, living and dying with every Sunday as most did back then. I also taped every game that year, so if anyone has a VHS player we can re-watch the games!

I also had a unique view that year as I worked at a concession stand at RFK Stadium in section 538. I actually worked at every home game from 1989 until 1996 when the team left for Landover.

The Sundays spent there were some that I will never forget, especially as the team started the season 11-0 and you knew that something special was happening. I saw the same fans every week. They knew me by name and I knew exactly what they would order when they came by each week. The playoff games brought an even higher energy, beginning with the “Seat Cushion” game against the Falcons. (I was able to get two before I left that day). The Lions came to town the following week for the NFC Championship Game and being able to feel the stadium shake as my team blew out Detroit to go to the Super Bowl was the ultimate bucket list experience.

Two weeks later, I watched the culmination of a historic season, something we haven’t even come close to witnessing since. Will we see that ever again?

Dave Preston: I was scared the Bills would win.

When Washington won Super Bowl XXVI, I was a senior at Syracuse and two of my best friends were from the Buffalo area — Marc hailed from Hamburg and had a younger brother named Rico, who, as a 14-year-old, had more of a mustache than I probably could grow nowadays, while Max moved from Jamestown to North Tonawanda (His dad was the GM of the Minor League Expos and Rapids). To say that they were Bills fans would be a major understatement, and to say they could be obnoxious would be a given. They loved their team and enjoyed how pitiful my New England Patriots were. And Buffalo was back in the Super Bowl after their heartbreaking loss and had learned their lessons. They’d blow up the Burgundy & Gold and I’d have to see my friends gloat.

But then the game began. I was amazed at how well-coached Washington was that day and how they took advantage of every Bills mistake. I was floored that this was a completely different team than the one that beat Miami in Super Bowl XVII and boasted a different nucleus than the one that defeated Denver in Super Bowl XXII. Here was an organization that won three titles with three different starting quarterbacks as well as three different leading rushers. And they were the only team “in Washington” — baseball was up in Baltimore and the Bullets and Capitals played in Landover, which may as well have been Charm City. Joe Gibbs was only 51 years old and had at least 10 more years in him. I was bracing for a Burgundy & Gold decade. With Dallas coming on and Philadelphia boasting Randall Cunningham, Washington was going to be in some incredible NFC races throughout the ’90s.

So much for looking beyond the moment. But that was a really great team; in some metrics, the 1991 edition isn’t only the best in team history but in Super Bowl history. In hindsight, it was the perfect capper to a great era.

As for me, Sunday night I was still scared the Bills would win.

Dave Johnson: The Super Bowl MVP was called a bloody idiot by the owner.

I was anchoring AM drive sports at WTOP in January 1992. I stayed back in the studio while reporters Paul Wagner and Rich Johnson were on the scene in Minneapolis for Washington’s win over the Bills.

January 27, 1992 | LISTEN: WTOP's Dave Johnson's 1992 AM sportscast after Washington's Super Bowl victory

But I was at training camp the summer before in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, when Jack Kent Cooke said into a WTOP microphone that quarterback Mark Rypien was “a bloody idiot” if he didn’t arrive soon and end his contract holdout. Rypien was 23 days late for camp, but on time with everything else the rest of the way punctuated by his MVP performance in the Super Bowl.

I watched the Super Bowl alone after hosting a Capitals postgame show that afternoon following a win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. I was taking notes and getting ready for my 3 a.m. wake-up call to talk about the win. One of the notes was about a group of Native Americans outside the Metrodome protesting Washington’s team name. I did not think much would come out of the protest. After all, WTOP — under the direction of then-general manager Michael Douglass — had banned on-air use of the team’s moniker in the summer of 1991 and then again in March 1992, less than two months after the Super Bowl win. Only a newspaper in Portland followed WTOP’s on-air ban and the decision was lampooned in a newspaper cartoon.

J. Brooks: In 1992, I was in management at United Parcel Service, just a “couple three” years away from getting in to radio.

A look at J. Brooks in 1992, when Washington last won the Super Bowl. Brooks was working at UPS in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (WTOP/J. Brooks)

At the time, I worked for the UPS Overnight Air department at Harrisburg International Airport in Pennsylvania. I had to work that day but did watch Washington win (I always video recorded the Super Bowls, which was a thing, believe it or not) and having off the next day, I was able to stay up and really enjoy the game with an adult beverage or 12 … but anyway.

I cannot believe this team has fallen to the depths that it has over the years, a once proud franchise in its current state is shocking. I know some say it’s getting better, but until it does, I look back at this franchise, like others that have fallen into disrepair, with fond remembrance of days gone by.

Frank Hanrahan: The funny thing about Washington winning the Super Bowl that year was that it also happened to coincide with the closest I have ever been to dying.

I don’t want to get too dramatic but it’s true — and anytime someone brings up that Super Bowl XXVI win over Buffalo in Minneapolis, it reminds me of how close I was to checking out. So instead of “Yeah, that game was awesome!” I’m more likely to reply “Yeah, I was lying in a hospital bed recovering from a freak dorm room accident.”

The night before the Super Bowl, I was playing nerf hoop in my room and I tried to throw a self-alley-oop to myself to try to dunk on my opponent’s head and when I left my feet, he gave me a nice box out and I lost my balance. In midair, I flailed my arm back and swiped my arm through a perfectly placed beer bottle on a drawer. My perfect karate chop sent my arm through the bottle and it stuck and dug in to my skin. The crazy thing is, I pulled the bottle out of my arm.

Fortunately, my dorm was right across from the infirmary, so I raced over there and immediately off to the hospital via ambulance.

A nurse at the hospital asked me if I was religious. I replied no but was curious why she asked. She said, “because you are really lucky, you could have died.”

Apparently, I just missed hitting my artery. I did, however, cut several tendons and had to undergo surgery. Feel good story I know!

Rob Woodfork: I didn’t realize I’m the youngest full-time sports anchor at WTOP until this exercise.

On that Super Bowl Sunday 30 years ago, I was a sixth-grader likely in bed shortly after the confetti fell because it was a school night and my dad wasn’t a big sports fan. But I remember watching the game with my uncle and grandfather, a good-luck charm of sorts since we watched the momentous Doug Williams Super Bowl victory together just four years prior. That was the year I really got into football — and a passion for Burgundy and Gold was born.

It’s hard to look back on those glory years without making it a referendum on where the franchise is presently but just seeing Joe Gibbs, Mark Rypien, Art Monk, Darrell Green and Charles Mann in the above videos again is a stark reminder that Washington was once home to one of the all-time great NFL seasons and an elite organization to be proud of. I sincerely hope I see that again in my lifetime.

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