Former Washington QB Doug Williams reflects on historic Super Bowl win 35 years later

It has been 35 years since Doug Williams made history and changed the narrative that Black quarterbacks couldn’t win a Super Bowl. On Jan. 31, 1988, Williams was the MVP of Super Bowl 22, throwing for 340 yards and four touchdowns in Washington’s 42-10 blowout win over Denver.

This weekend at Super Bowl LVII, two Black quarterbacks will start a Super Bowl for the first time ever.

Williams finds himself amazed that it has been that long but has very fond memories of that historic day in San Diego. Leading up to the game, he understood the magnitude of what was happening but never really focused on that.

“I know a lot of people wanted to make it about me,” Williams said. “Being Black and playing in the Super Bowl, that was great. But, for me, I just happened to be the quarterback of the Washington Redskins, who just happened to be Black. That’s how I looked at it. I went out on that field with one thing in mind, and that was finding a way to win.”

Not only did he win, but Williams did so in record-breaking fashion.

The historic afternoon didn’t start great for Washington, falling behind 10-0 quickly and losing Williams to a knee injury. However, when he returned at the start of the second quarter, it began the arguably greatest 15 minutes in Super Bowl history.

Washington Redskins quarterback Doug Williams grimaces as he hits the ground in first quarter of Super Bowl XXII, Sunday, Jan. 31, 1988 in San Diego. Williams had a slight leg injury but returned to the game. Right is Denver Broncos defensive end Rulon Jones. (AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy)

“We didn’t say we were going in there and score 35 points on 18 plays,” said Williams. “We went in there with the idea of being able to execute what was called. After it was over, everyone was amazed.

“It was something out of a storybook, you couldn’t even write a story like that knowing you were part of something of historic proportions.”

Does he see that as something that could ever happen again?

“I don’t know if that will ever be broken and at the end of the day, I don’t know if we’ll be here if it is broken,” Williams said. “I would like to sit down and see 35 points in 18 plays.”

Super Bowl XXII was Washington’s second title under head coach Joe Gibbs, and it would be followed up with a third just four years later in Super Bowl XXVI. The architect of those teams, General Manager Bobby Beathard, passed away last week.

“We have three Super Bowl trophies, and I can honestly say you’ve got to put Bobby’s name on every last one of them,” Williams said. “He was the architect of every trophy we have in there. If it wasn’t for Bobby Beathard, we wouldn’t have them.”

Beathard was also instrumental in bringing Williams to Washington, and they remained close throughout the final years of Beathard’s life.

“When I came here, I was a veteran,” he said. “Bobby always pulled me aside and wanted to talk about the young guys. What I thought about the young guys. How they developed. Over the last couple years, Bobby would call me once a month just to talk and check on me. We’d talk for a minute, then he’d go and say ‘Ok, just checking on you.'”

Washington Redskins quarterback Doug Williams is surrounded by members of the media after leading the Redskins to a 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII in San Diego, Jan. 31, 1988. Williams completed 18 of 29 attempts and was named Most Valuable Player. (AP Photo)

Two other Black quarterbacks have won Super Bowls since Williams: Russell Wilson with the Seattle Seahawks in 2014 and Patrick Mahomes with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020.

Mahomes will have another chance at a second title while Jalen Hurts is playing in the Super Bowl for the first time.

As time was winding down during the AFC Championship Game last Sunday and Mahomes got the Chiefs into field-goal position for the win, Williams took a moment to let it sink in.

“I said to myself, ‘Wow.’ My eyes watered up because of the moment, because of the chills of the moment,” he said. “The fact that I realized what had transpired.”

It’s not lost on Williams the significance of this game, and he doesn’t think the moment will be too big for the quarterbacks either.

“I look at it from the standpoint that it’s a historical moment and they need to embrace it,” he said. “I think they will because both of them are smart quarterbacks. They will their teams to where they are today. At the end of the day, I think they’re both going to sit back and think about this moment, and go out and enjoy it and try to be the victors on Sunday.”

The 2022 season saw 11 Black starting quarterbacks in the NFL, the most ever. While there has been progress, there are things that haven’t progressed as Williams would have hoped.

“What hasn’t progressed in the NFL is the hiring of Black coaches,” he said. “That’s the only thing we’re missing at this point. More general managers, more directing of scouting, more quarterback coaches and coordinators. We still have a ways to go.

“I’m hopeful it’s going to get better. It has to get better. There’s nowhere else to go but up.”

George Wallace

George Wallace is the WTOP sports director. He began at WTOP on Christmas Day of 2000.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up