The Washington Redskins have that Super Bowl look.
Yeah, we know—it's early for that kind of talk. We're not even out of November, and they still have to face the Giants, and a few crucial injuries can make the whole equation go kaboom. But every now and then a team seems to find itself, and it takes on a certain aura, and you say, "That's it, that one's going all the way." It's got that look.
Sunday, Nov. 23, RFK Stadium—Washington 41, Dallas 14, O.K., Dallas gets whipped; that's not big news anymore. But this was the backs-to-the-wall game for the Cowboys, the one that could really get them back in the playoff picture. And Washington was coming off a grueling Monday-nighter against the 49ers, three hours and 48 minutes of pressure for a 14-6 win. The Skins were banged up. Their best defensive back, Darrell Green, had a bad shoulder and would see only sporadic action. Their quarterback, Jay Schroeder, came out of the 49er game with a sore back, and no one knew how he would hold up. Their best offensive lineman, Russ Grimm, and their premier wideout, Gary Clark, were also iffy.
The Cowboys were never in the game. They fumbled the opening kickoff, and the Redskins banged it in for a touchdown in three plays. And got another one several minutes later in the period. And scored on four straight possessions in quarter No. 2. And held Dallas to 43 yards for the half. Seven Cowboy possessions, seven punts, no third-down conversions. Halftime score: 34-0. In the press box people were scrambling for their record books. When was the last time Dallas was beaten so badly in a half? Answer: never. The game was over.
Washington had played the perfect game, or as close to it as we've seen this season. Two days before the game. Redskins coach Joe Gibbs tried to put his club into perspective:
"You know, we're not the team we were two years ago. We pounded people in those days. We were precise. We were great from in front, but when we got behind we got frightened. Our personality has changed. We're not that kind of team anymore. Maybe it's because we have 14 new players on the squad, but we're the kind of team that's going to get behind, we're going to be in hot water. We're not going to win by a big margin. It'll be pressure packed, fighting. Since Jay came in at quarterback [in the 11th game last year] we've won six games where we were behind in the last quarter."
Schroeder is only the fourth Redskin quarterback in 23 seasons. The three who preceded him—Sonny Jurgensen, Billy Kilmer and Joe Theismann—each made the Pro Bowl, and each had a kind of jaunty swagger that stamped his personality on a town that lists its two leading citizens as the President of the United States and the quarterback of the Redskins, and not always in that order. Schroeder is different.
At the end of last season he took the offensive line out to dinner. This year, on the Thursday night after the 49er victory, he expanded the outing to include the whole team—plus wives and girlfriends. "When Joe would take us out it was a happening," Grimm said. "You knew it was his show. This one was real quiet, but it had to run into big bucks for Jay."
Schroeder played high school ball in Southern California and college ball at UCLA, and with his lean 6'4", 214-pound frame and blond hair, the only thing missing is a surfboard. Except that he is originally from Wisconsin, and he doesn't surf, and the world of hype leaves him cold. His style is low-key Midwest.
The Redskins drafted him in the third round in 1984, the year of the nonquarterback. He had started one game for the Bruins—the 1980 Mirage Bowl in Japan against Oregon State—and then had packed it in to play baseball, his first love. He spent three years as a farmhand for the Toronto Blue Jays but never as a pitcher. He wanted to be a catcher like his idol, Johnny Bench.