When RFK was home base between 1961 and 1996, the Redskins made sports history many times over — including five trips to the Super Bowl and three victories. WTOP's sports director, George Wallace, revisits some of the greatest moments in team history at RFK.
RFK's beginnings through the first Super Bowl (George Wallace)
WASHINGTON — For more than three decades, the Redskins called RFK Stadium home.
As home base between 1961 and 1996, the Redskins made sports history many times over at RFK — including five trips to the Super Bowl and three victories.
The Redskins opened the stadium — then known simply as the D.C. Stadium — on Oct. 1, 1961 with a 24-21 loss to the New York Giants in front of 36,767 fans. In fact, the team didn’t get its first win at home until Dec. 17, the final weekend of the regular season, against the Dallas Cowboys. The Redskins went 1-12-1 that season.
The years that followed brought many games and memories that Redskins fans won’t soon forget.
Everyone that has ever been to RFK Stadium seems to have a favorite story about when they realized just how special that place was.
The old stadium hooked me from day one. I first stepped foot in RFK in August 1985 for a Redskins preseason game against the New England Patriots. I remember noticing just how loud it was, especially being a preseason game.
In some cases, fans that attended games in August didn’t necessarily get a chance to see a regular season game since the waiting list had over 40,000 people on it. I was one of those, so I treated a summer night just as I would a game in December against Dallas. The thing that stood out to me was the roller coaster roof. I remember just being in awe of the place and soaked up every minute.
As a die-hard Redskins fan growing up, there was nothing more I wanted than to be able to go to RFK every week to somehow watch my favorite team. Well, as a 12-year old I got that chance. My father managed two concession stands in section 538 and when I was old enough, I began working there. Talk about a dream come true.
I was fortunate enough to work there until 2001. I saw the 1991 Super Bowl season unfold, the end of the Joe Gibbs era and the end of the Redskins era at RFK. In addition to football, I saw pretty much every concert that came through the doors during that time, as well. I still attend every Redskins home game, but now as a member of the media and that experience doesn’t come close to the experience I had behind Stand 54 in section 538 at RFK.
Like many, my time there is a time I will always cherish and not soon forget.
George Allen brought the stadium its first ever playoff game, a Christmas Eve 1972 16-3 win over the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional round. They then followed it up the next week with a 26-3 win over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game to earn a berth in the 1973 Super Bowl.
Allen’s final game with the Redskins was a 17-14 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 17, 1977.
After a few lean years, things began to pick up with the arrival of Joe Gibbs in 1981. He got his first win at RFK on Oct. 25, 1981 in a 24-22 win over the New England Patriots.
The years that followed provided some of the greatest moments in team history — and they happened at RFK.
The day the Redskins, fans rocked Cowboys (George Wallace)
‘We want Dallas’
When you talk to people about their most vivid memories of RFK, those three chanted words — We want Dallas! — are usually the first thing out of people’s mouths.
Here’s the back story. In 1982, the Redskins had lost only one game — and it was to Dallas.
Before they got a chance to play Dallas again that season, the Redskins had to get by the Minnesota Vikings in the Divisional Round of the playoffs on Jan. 15, 1983. They did just that, thanks to a dominating performance from running back John Riggins. He put the team on his back rushing for 185 yards on 37 carries. As he came off the field toward the end of the game, and the crowd showed its appreciation, Riggins stopped before getting to the sideline and took a bow for the fans.
As the Redskins were putting the finishing touches on a 21-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings, the fans started the chants: “We want Dallas!”
Former Redskins great and original Hog Joe Jacoby remembers it well.
“Seeing the lower level seats you thought it was just the people moving,” he said. “But it was the whole stands moving.”
The players also wanted another shot at Dallas for the right to go to the Super Bowl, and they got it a week later.
Jan. 22, 1983 might just be the greatest moment in the stadium’s history.
The chant of “We Want Dallas!” began during pregame warmups and didn’t stop. The Redskins went on to dominate Dallas as Dexter Manley ended up knocking Cowboys quarterback Danny White out of the game. The Redskins punctuated the game with a Darryl Grant interception returned for a touchdown as they were off to Pasadena and the 1983 Super Bowl.
“This is 30-some years after the game and its such a vivid, vivid memory of what happened,” Jacoby said.
One of the very few, not-so-bright moments at the stadium came on Nov. 18, 1985 in front of a National Television audience on Monday Night Football. New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor sacked Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann severely breaking his leg and ending his career. Backup quarterback Jay Schroeder came in and led the Redskins to a 23-21 win.
On Jan. 17, 1988, the Redskins beat the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game to advance to the Super Bowl XXII in a game that came down to one play. Cornerback Darrell Green knocked down a Wade Wilson pass at the goal line to clinch the victory.
The Redskins put together a juggernaut of a team in 1991 and locked up home field advantage throughout the playoffs pretty early. In the Divisional Round on Jan. 4, 1992 they hosted the Falcons. The weather was rainy and windy, perfect Hogs weather.
Late in the game, after Gerald Riggs sealed the 24-7 win with a touchdown, the fans began to shower the field with the free yellow seat cushions that were given away that day. That was one of the all-time greatest scenes at RFK.
The next week, the Redskins dismantled the Detroit Lions, 41-10, in the NFC Championship Game and advanced to Super Bowl XXVI. This was the final NFC Championship Game played at RFK. In all, the stadium hosted five NFC Championship games, with the Redskins winning them all.
On Oct. 12, 1992, Art Monk broke Steve Largent’s record and became the NFL’s all-time leading receiver with his 820th reception. The Redskins beat the Broncos 34-3.
The Redskins closed out their time in the stadium with a 37-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 22, 1996. At halftime, several past Redskins greats were introduced while wearing replicas of the jerseys they wore during their playing days. After the game, fans stormed the field and ripped up chunks of grass as souvenirs. Fans were savoring their final moments with RFK and nobody wanted to leave.
The memories that the players, coaches and fans have from the old stadium will last a lifetime.