For two weeks leading up to the Washington Redskins' 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII, Doug Williams was asked the same question. Often it was disguised by another question, or buried in a mass of them, like a tin whistle in a Cracker Jack box. But it was always there.
At one interview session it wasn't even put as a question. A newsman merely said, "Black, Doug." Williams smiled and said what he had been saying all along: "[Coach] Joe Gibbs and [general manager] Bobby Beathard didn't bring me in to be the first black quarterback in the Super Bowl. They brought me in to be the quarterback of the Washington Redskins."
The 32-year-old Williams had put up with much adversity in his nine years in professional football, but all week his press conferences in San Diego were filled with friendly faces. Indeed, how could you not like Williams, who treated every person with a microphone or a notepad, as well as every fan, with kindness and consideration?
He chose his words carefully. He said that both on and off the field he thought he was a role model for young players, white and black alike. "I'm glad if I've opened doors for young [black] quarterbacks like Rodney Peete [of Southern Call and Don McPherson [of Syracuse]," he said. He also said that he didn't feel he had to have a spectacular game. "I don't have to play well for us to win," said Williams. "What I have to do is not beat the Redskins by throwing interceptions or turning the ball over."
But on Sunday he did play exceptionally well. He was especially impressive in one furious quarter of football, a quarter in which records toppled so fast the statisticians could barely keep track of them, a quarter that earned Williams MVP honors and Washington its second Super Bowl win in three tries. (The Skins won in 1983 and lost in '84.) So breathtaking was his team's second-quarter outburst and the blowout it led to that even Williams was a bit stunned. "Can you express the joy you feel now?" he was asked after the game.
"Not yet," he said. "Catch me next week in Zachary, Louisiana."
First the numbers. In five possessions the Redskins established a postseason record for one quarter of 35 points on five touchdowns. They turned a 10-0 deficit into a 35-10 lead, thereby ending the show before the Rockettes could even get warmed up for their halftime number. Williams had nine completions in 11 attempts for 228 yards and four touchdowns. His scoring passes covered, in order, 80, 27, 50 and 8 yards. In that quarter Washington racked up a playoff-record 356 yards of offense. That may be a regular-season record as well. The statistical people weren't sure.
"We don't keep one-quarter records," said Seymour Siwoff, head of the Elias Sports Bureau, which handles NFL stats, "but geez, 356 yards. Who could have gained more than that?"
Gone were the painstaking, clock-killing drives that have become a Washington trademark under Gibbs. The most plays consumed on one drive—a 79-yarder—were seven. Another, covering 80 yards, required only one play. The other drives covered 64 yards in five plays, 74 in two and 60 in three. Total plays, including a quarterback kneel to close the half: 19. Total time of possession: 5:54.
The best thing about it, if you are a Washington fan, was that it was far from a one-man show. It was simply a team reaching perfection on all levels: Williams's passing; the running game, featuring a little-known rookie named Timmy Smith, who added slash and dash to the Skins' old five-and six-yard standby, the Counter Gap play; a defense that clogged Bronco quarterback John Elway's passing lanes, kept the pressure on him and gave him little room to maneuver outside the pocket; a brilliant little receiver named Ricky Sanders, who had made his reputation catching Jim Kelly passes in the USFL; and a line that blocked the way you draw it on the play charts.