You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
Let's see here. The 1990 Redskins, coached by Joe Gibbs, went 10-6 and made the playoffs after a multi-year absence. They were a Wild Card entry, having finished behind the division-champion New York Giants They won a Wild Card game on the road before traveling west to San Francisco and bowing out in the divisional round. Gibbs also coached the 2005 Redskins and last year they went 10-6 to end a playoff drought as a Wild Card entrant having finished second to the Giants. The '05 Skins also won a road playoff game prior to going to the West Coast and losing to Seattle.
As we all know, the '90 Redskins became the 1991 edition, one of the best teams in NFL history. They went 14-2, outscoring the opposition by better than a 2-1 margin. After steamrolling their way through the playoffs they crushed the Bills in Super Bowl XXVI. The question that must be asked is the obvious one—will history repeat? To start to look at the possibilities here, let's look at each area of the team and compare the '91 and '06 editions. Earlier this week, we took a look at the offense. Today, the defense, special teams, and intangibles.
When Andre Carter appeared on the field at minicamp it appeared at first glance that we were back in Carlisle in the late 1980's and Charles Mann was going to work. Like Mann was, Carter has a tall, angular build (actually, at 6-4 Carter is two inches shorter than Mann) and, like Mann, he takes a cerebral approach to the game. In 1991 Mann was entering his ninth year in the league and would make his fourth trip to the Pro Bowl. Carter has yet to go to Hawaii, but he's entering his fifth season. That's the same year that Mann broke through with is first appearance. In short, Andre Carter isn't Charles Mann at this time, but he could be soon.
On the other hand, Tim Johnson is no Cornelius Griffin. Johnson was a nice player and a hell of a teammate, but he didn't have the ability to blow up the middle of the line on a consistent basis like Griffin does. Tackle Eric Williams and end Fred Stokes were good journeyman players as are Joe Salave'a and Philip Daniels. It could be argued that the '91 unit was deeper, especially with Jumpy Geathers coming off of the bench. That's true, but it would be a mistake to underrate the likes of Demetric Evans and Renaldo Wynn who can play both inside and outside.
The 1991 defense racked up 50 sacks. This year's unit, which tallied 35 in '05, could easily reach that total if the team operates with as many large leads as the '91 team did.
There is no pair of players on the two teams we're comparing here who are as similar as Marcus Washington and Wilbur Marshall. They're both Pro Bowl caliber, fast, athletic, every down strong side linebackers who are equally adept at going sideline to sideline in run defense and in dropping back in pass coverage. In the middle, linebacker Matt Millen was clearly a more accomplished player than Lemar Marshall is, but in 1991 Millen was well past his prime and was usually out of the game in anything remotely resembling a passing situation while Marshall is solid against the run and exceptional in pass defense. Andre Collins probably is better than whoever will start at the other outside LB spot.
Today's team doesn't have anyone like Monte Coleman or Kurt Gouveia, who provided depth and excellent pass defense in 1991.
This is the one area on defense where today's team has a clear advantage. Danny Copeland and Brad Edwards made up a decent pair of safeties, but they were not of the caliber that changed offensive game plans as Sean Taylor and Adam Archuleta will. Darrell Green had another excellent season at corner and Martin Mayhew had a career year but as a pair they aren't clearly superior to Shawn Springs and Carlos Rogers, especially if Rogers starts reaching the upside of his potential.
Even if John Hall comes back to his old form following surgery to repair some muscles in his upper leg he still won't have the range of Chip Lohmiller in 1991. Lohmiller was money in the bank inside 50 yards and a threat all the way back to midfield. It won't be hard for the Skins to get somebody who can punt as well as Kelly Goodburn did in '91, but that somebody probably isn't Derrick Frost.
In 1991 Brian Mitchell, who was a quarterback in college, broke through as a premiere punt returner, averaging 13.3 yards and scoring two touchdowns. Antwaan Randle El, also a former college QB, could well have similar production this year.
One of the legendary aspects of the 1991 team was the presence of a core of veterans who had been around since Joe Gibbs' first Super Bowl win in 1982. Coleman, Monk, Jacoby, Bostic, Grimm, and Warren provided leadership and big-game experience. The current team is not lacking in character by any means, but there aren't many Super Bowl rings in the possession of players.
The '91 team also was blessed with excellent health. They used 15 starters on offense and 17 on defense with several of the changes in starters being made for strategic reasons and not because the usual starter couldn't play.
Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington in 1937 through the 2001 season. For details on this unique book and to get ordering information, go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com.