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Need to Know: Why have the Redskins not been to the Super Bowl in 24 years?

Feb 7, 2016, 5:18 AM EDT

Gibbs-post-Super-Bowl

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 7, 17 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Why have the Redskins not been to the Super Bowl in 24 years?

The numbers are stark. In a league that is supposed to be defined by parity, the Redskins have gone 24 years without a Super Bowl appearance. There are 16 teams in the NFC and the Redskins have been unable to break through.

The situation been worse than that, actually. The Redskins are not only unable to get to the big game, they are unable even to get to the doorstep. They are one of two NFC teams who have not played for the conference championship since the 1991 season. The other one, perhaps coincidentally and perhaps not, is the team they played in the 1991 NFC title game, the Lions.

The era of unrestricted free agency and the salary cap came about in 1993, a change that was supposed to level the playing field and give every team a chance at ultimate success. But the Redskins have been unable to take advantage.

Or, perhaps the better way to put it is that they have taken advantage of unrestricted free agency too much. Stop me if you’re heard this before, but they have been too reliant on free agency to build year in and year out rather than placing an emphasis on the draft.

A myth that many fans buy in to is that the organization suddenly became infatuated with free agency when Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999. Not true—it’s part of the team’s DNA, its culture. Some pre-Snyder free agent pickups during the 1990’s included defensive tackles Dana Stubblefield and Dan “Big Daddy” Wilkinson. The latter actually was acquired in a trade, which was the worst of both worlds. They gave Wilkinson a big contract and gave up their first- and third-round picks in the 1998 draft.

But the Redskins were buying free agents before 1993. CB Pat Fischer, DT Dave Butz, and LB Wilbur Marshall were all signed after their contracts expired with their old teams. The rules at the time required draft pick compensation for such signings. John Riggins was signed in 1976 when a one-year window allowed for unrestricted free agency to take place. A “gentlemen’s agreement” was in place that discouraged signing free agents (it would be called “collusion” today). But George Allen was having no part of that and signed several players, including Riggins.

Butz, Marshall, and Riggins all helped the Redskins win Super Bowls and without a salary cap their salaries didn’t matter all that much. That changed in 1993. The way to go became to use draft picks to build your team with relatively cheap labor and then give the big money to your homegrown talent. An occasional free agent pickup to bolster a weak spot is fine but acquiring veteran plays is a method that needs to be a supplement to the draft, not the other way around.

Free agency became a cycle in Washington. When there was a hole in the lineup it was plugged with a free agent. If a player was drafted at that position he didn’t get an opportunity to develop. So when the original free agent got too old or too expensive there wasn’t a player ready to take his place. Snyder got out the checkbook and another free agent signed on the line.

Scot McCloughan knows the right way to do things. He had a hand in building the Brett Favre teams that went to the Super Bowl twice in the late 1990’s, the 49ers that went there in 2012, and all three of the Seahawks Super Bowl teams, including the one that is played in the last two Super Bowls prior to this one.

McCloughan started to point things in the right direction in his first year on the job. But one season does not make a culture changeCan the new GM change the Redskins’ culture and get a franchise that keeps on trying to build a team using methods that worked for a couple of decades a long time ago but don’t any more to start doing it the right way? That is his biggest challenge.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 28 days ago. It will be about 217 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 17; NFL free agency starts 31; 2016 NFL draft 81

In case you missed it

  1. mrhart76 - Feb 7, 2016 at 8:31 AM

    Keep building the foundation. D line and corners and a huge wide out. Bring Morris back. And keep feeding him the ball. Draft or sign a center, or move Long to center and let the Bama kid play LG.

    • Bob e - Feb 7, 2016 at 10:40 AM

      Alfred doesn’t fit the new scheme. Always been fan of him but he would be better off with someone else

  2. hitmeimopen - Feb 7, 2016 at 9:01 AM

    I must admit that my hatred of Snyder blinded me into thinking he started all that horrible FA stuff. Stubby and Wilkinson came before Snyder – wow! I still won’t give Napoleon a pass, though. He’s still the devil.

  3. kenlinkins - Feb 7, 2016 at 9:37 AM

    Rich: True or False, The biggest advantage a NFL GM and Head Coach had in the 1970’s and 1980’s was an owner who was willing to have the highest payroll? (i.e. No Cap).

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 7, 2016 at 10:01 AM

      It was *a* big advantage. A team that can draft well has always had an advantage, perhaps bigger than a willingness to spend. You could draft players and keep them virtually forever.

  4. redskinsnameisheretostay - Feb 7, 2016 at 9:54 AM

    I certainly agree about being over reliant on free agents as a way to build a roster is/was a failed experiment. However, how does that explain Cleveland and Detroit who have failed miserably by trying to build in the draft? The point is you can make poor decisions in the draft just as well as you can in free agency. In 2012, this team invested in two additional 1st round and a 2nd round picks on a projected franchise QB only to settle for a 4th round QB as a starter in 2015.

    Scot is credited for a great track record of building super bowl contending rosters. It’s looks like he pointed the organization in the right direction with the 2015 draft but the mark was missed in off season free agency.

    Overall, I’m not so sure the organization has started to make a complete move in the right direction. To further my point, just last year this team signed onto a guaranteed rookie extension with RG3 who never started all the while the rookie extension signed onto removed any leverage for trading him. Then RG3 was cleared of a concussion he never should have been cleared of because leaders in the organization went by word of mouth instead of waiting on the official paper work to make a proper analysis on RG3 status. The organization also lost a promising rookie by placing him on an injury waiver expecting to get him back, only to find Indy seize the opportunity to bolster their practice squad. Another bad decision was made in cutting Amerson who moved onto another team and aided their coverage unit that improved from 31st at the time he arrived to an 8th overall ranking. Amerson would also go on to having his best season yet where he only started in 10 games.

    As of right now the organization has backed itself against the wall by having no leverage in working out a huge contract on a quarterback with a limited resume. Whatever the contract it may be, they’ll be forced to overpay for Cousins. The only way you remedy this contract scenario is if Cousins turns out to be a true franchise caliber player. However if a fails to continue his development and perform at a high level then this becomes another of many blunders the organization continues to make.

    The point of all this is that it will take more than Scot working behind the scenes making good draft selections. The team still needs to do better in free agency and the organization needs to do a better job with the players they have on the roster.

    • bangkokben - Feb 7, 2016 at 10:13 AM

      I don’t agree your examples of failures of this current organization but i do agree with the premise that a team can do better in free agency. Take Denver for instance. They drafted Tim Tebow in the first round yet are in their second Super Bowl since that move by and large by how well they have signed free agents. On this team there is Peyton Manning, DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, Aquib Talib, Owen Daniels, and Emmanuel Sanders to name a significant but not exhaustive bunch.

      • redskinsnameisheretostay - Feb 7, 2016 at 10:47 AM

        That’s a great point about Denver. You can build some good seasons by finding the right players in the open market and properly utilizing those pieces on the field.

        Sticking to Denver’s approach; now the question may be posed on fans as to if they want a team like Denver that may be very good for a few consecutive seasons before the cap catches up to them, or should an organization build in a more sustainable manner like New England with a great system, an elite QB, and some smart “under the radar” acquisitions?

        Of course I’m assuming you’d agree that the approach Denver made is not a long term sustainable one. Personally, I like how Seattle built their roster with by a combination of great draft selection and some solid FA acquisitions.

        • bangkokben - Feb 7, 2016 at 2:48 PM

          Of course, I’d prefer that our team build through the draft and supplement with some key free agents but I would argue that Denver – perhaps the only team to do it this way – did do it with a bit of sustainability. They have been Super Bowl contenders since 2012. If it wasn’t for a desperation Joe Flacco pass, Denver arguably would’ve been in three of the last four Super Bowls instead of just two. One of the reasons is that they were able to get an elite QB on the open market in 2012 which is not likely to happen again anytime soon. Another reason is that they had the cap room to work with. In the end they may not win a Super Bowl with Manning but they also will continue to have cap space.

    • cowboyhater - Feb 7, 2016 at 10:28 AM

      Hindsight is great isn’t it? No one is mistake proof, and there will be more to come. The piece your missing is that we now have a GM that knows how to build a winning franchise, and an owner who now fully understands how to be an owner. Let’s keep looking forward, and not so much the latter. You are the type of guy who is just yearning to get back on here next season and put in another hindsight I told you so…..The fact is as a fan for many, many, many years…I see a change in this organization and it really excites me to think about the future. Will they make mistakes along the way?…I’m sure they will….but we now have a GM that will have more successes than mistakes, and that in itself is a very good thing. You should change your name to: MRHINDSIGHT

      • redskinsnameisheretostay - Feb 7, 2016 at 10:59 AM

        “Hindsight is great isn’t it?”

        This has nothing to do with hindsight. Many of those poor choices were just lapse in judgment by a poorly functioning organization. If those poor choices continue then it will continue to chip away on any potential gains made and this team will never improve or become a regular playoff contender.

        “The piece your missing is that we now have a GM that knows how to build a winning franchise”

        My point was already made regarding that part. The GM alone can’t make a team successful. Scot needs the backing and support of a properly function organization that runs up to the owner and down to coaching.

        “You are the type of guy who is just yearning to get back on here next season and put in another hindsight I told you so…..”

        No, I’ve been right on many of my comments that I have never even brought up. You are the type of guy that improperly rushes to judgment on folks you know nothing about. Aren’t you a bit old to be trolling boards?

        “The fact is as a fan for many, many, many years…I see a change in this organization and it really excites me to think about the future. ”

        The fact is you as a fan for many, many, many years remain naïve to all the elements involved in building a winning football team. Losing is contagious and you obviously picked up the bug.

        Try changing you name to LOSTCAUSE since all those years as a fan has rendered you with little understanding or insight.

        • cowboyhater - Feb 7, 2016 at 11:34 AM

          Oh so bitter…I must of hit a nerve with your post. I know guys like you hate when someone comes on here and calls you out. LOSTCAUSE is quite insightful, and has full understanding of this sport, and mostly of this organization.
          Of course you are right with your points, but my issue with guys like you is that you get on here and look at the past and love to dwell on their past mistake and roll it into where we are now. Where during this year, and at the end of year did you not get a sense of complete backing of our GM from the organization?…You just made something up to stir the pot…this organization is completely backing the GM and the decisions he will make concerning the personnel. The coach even said so, which has been documented. Also, I didn’t see an owner chime in at all this year about our GM, which tells me that he also has the backing of ownership. So again you are making statements to stir the pot.
          No losing bug here…and I’m just a realist as a fan, and you have no idea who you are talking to. The elements in your posts show the propensity of being that fan that has been subjected to seeing a losing organization since you have been a fan, and can’t understand optimism…I feel sorry for you. Hopefully the skins organization can prove to you and your great knowledge of how winning organizations are to be built and sustained, wrong…..good luck being that fan. I chose to that LOSTCAUSE fan with little understanding,and insight (in your opinion) to be be excited about the future (note I said future because I even recognize we have more work to do) of this organization.

        • cowboyhater - Feb 7, 2016 at 11:34 AM

          Oh so bitter…I must of hit a nerve with your post. I know guys like you hate when someone comes on here and calls you out. LOSTCAUSE is quite insightful, and has full understanding of this sport, and mostly of this organization.
          Of course you are right with your points, but my issue with guys like you is that you get on here and look at the past and love to dwell on their past mistake and roll it into where we are now. Where during this year, and at the end of year did you not get a sense of complete backing of our GM from the organization?…You just made something up to stir the pot…this organization is completely backing the GM and the decisions he will make concerning the personnel. The coach even said so, which has been documented. Also, I didn’t see an owner chime in at all this year about our GM, which tells me that he also has the backing of ownership. So again you are making statements to stir the pot.
          No losing bug here…and I’m just a realist as a fan, and you have no idea who you are talking to. The elements in your posts show the propensity of being that fan that has been subjected to seeing a losing organization since you have been a fan, and can’t understand optimism…I feel sorry for you. Hopefully the skins organization can prove to you and your great knowledge of how winning organizations are to be built and sustained, wrong…..good luck being that fan. I chose to that LOSTCAUSE fan with little understanding,and insight (in your opinion) to be be excited about the future (note I said future because I even recognize we have more work to do) of this organization.

        • redskinsnameisheretostay - Feb 7, 2016 at 12:15 PM

          You are only calling yourself out with your naivety about the situation and arrogance towards me. My original comment was not stirring up anything. It was an opinion about the direction of the team that was followed by reasons for it. As someone who decided to respond; you could have disagreed on some points like Bang did. However, your disagreement was instead followed by passing judgement on me and not providing any alternative facts to my point. So who really is stirring the pot?

          “Where during this year, and at the end of year “did you not get a sense of complete backing of our GM from the organization?”

          Did we not have the same appearance on the backing of Shanahan by the organization after 2012? Where did that perception end?

          “The coach even said so, which has been documented”

          :Lol, you mean Head Coach Gruden? The same coach who also publicly stated how he’d make Darrell Young into a big part of the offense, about how RG3 was the starter for the team, etc. ? The point is there are many things Gruden states that don’t reflect reality. Now, does that mean the organization is not backing the GM? No; but to use someone who has a propensity for false public statements while complementing his boss is a weak argument.

          “and I’m just a realist as a fan, and you have no idea who you are talking to.”

          I don’t know who I’m having a discussion with here but it looks to be a naive fan who thinks one guy can just arrive like some Rock Star and turn this whole roster into a winner. There are more elements involved. The key point I originally was making is that an organization with a losing history and a weak roster has little room for error. More is needed than one “Rock Star” GM to make this organization into a consistent winner. Providing recent miscues by the current leadership was just pointing out that better judgement is still needed with this organization. This was hardly a justified reason for you to respond with an arrogant tone that trended more on attack the individual instead of the opinion.

    • Bob e - Feb 7, 2016 at 10:45 AM

      They made the right decision with amerson only reason he had the turn around is cause he got released

      • redskinsnameisheretostay - Feb 7, 2016 at 5:48 PM

        I love how people read that cliche put out there and buy into it 100%. That’s a big difference between winning organizations and losing ones. Winning organizations don’t release young players that move onto other teams to play well. Winning organizations develop and get the best out of their young players on the field so they don’t need to release them.

    • John - Feb 7, 2016 at 9:42 PM

      The Skins have been out of it for so long because of a variety of factors.

      1. When Gibbs left after round 1, the talent on the team was old and heading out the door. That and with the cap and free agency, they could no longer stash players on IR. No more open wallet.

      2. Crap draft after crap draft.
      Andre Johnson
      Heath Shuler
      Rod Gardner
      Plenty of draft busts and drafts with only a handful of picks.
      Thanks Charlie, Vinnie & Mike.

      3. Money spent year after year on free agents who did not pan out.
      AH
      AA
      Stubby
      Bruce Smith
      Mark Carrier
      Jeff George
      Thanks Dan and Vinnie.

      4. Coaches that just sucked.
      Norv “wet noodle” Turner
      Steve “fun n gun” Spurrier
      Jim “hip hip hooray” Zorn
      Mike “good coach – bad gm” Shanahan

      5. The owner being buddy buddy with players

      6. You name it….
      To many to name here.

    • John - Feb 7, 2016 at 9:56 PM

      Regarding Detroit, they had Matt Millen as GM and drafted 3 WRs with their 1st pick during his tenure. They have had a bunch of bad coaches. You name it.

      Cleveland. Total study in mediocrity. A bunch of career backup QBs drafted or signed. Inconsistent drafts. Bad coaches. Football hell.

  5. hail74 - Feb 7, 2016 at 10:00 AM

    I believe it was called plan b back in the day. One of my favorite memories is during a Redskins blow out trashing of the cardinals, plan b acquired safety Brad Edwards makes a tackle. The running back gets up and celebrates a first down only to have Edwards come over and point to the score board, then walk away.

  6. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Feb 7, 2016 at 10:02 AM

    Snyder does deserve a lot of blame for turning the Redskins into a laughingstock with moves like signing Albert H.

    But it’s all blue skies and sunshine from here, I hope!
    ~

    • bangkokben - Feb 7, 2016 at 10:14 AM

      Snyder deserves blame for letting Vinny run the show for so long but I’d blame the Haynesworth signing and contract on Cerrato.

      • Rich Tandler - Feb 7, 2016 at 10:30 AM

        I think Vinny could justifiably use the “I was only following orders” defense in the Albert signing.

        • redskinsnameisheretostay - Feb 7, 2016 at 11:07 AM

          Sure Vinny could point the figure at the big boss but would that argument hold true? Haynesworth wasn’t the only gaff selected out of FA by Cerreto. I think Bang is right. If anything Snyder is to be faulted for is his poor front office decisions which then lead to poor personnel decisions.

  7. goback2rfk - Feb 7, 2016 at 10:16 AM

    Rg3 set the organization back 10 years with what will possibly turn out to be the biggest draft bust in NFL history.

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Feb 7, 2016 at 11:13 AM

      Did RG3 set the organization back or did poor management of RG3 set the organization back? Also how can a ROY and POY candidate become a bigger draft bust than Ryan Leaf, Matt Leinhart, or JaMarcus Russell?

      • goback2rfk - Feb 7, 2016 at 11:27 AM

        The Redskins gave up three first-round picks and a second-round pick to move up and draft Griffin. Griffin has gone 5-15 over the past two seasons. During that span, he has a Total QBR of 39.0, 28th out of 32 qualified quarterbacks, ahead of two Jaguars (Blake Bortles and Chad Henne) and two Raiders (Terrelle Pryor and Derek Carr). Thats how.

        • redskinsnameisheretostay - Feb 7, 2016 at 12:24 PM

          …and that decision to offer up those draft picks is RG3’s fault? …and the recent regression in performance has nothing to do with recovering from a severe knee injury, lost of OTA, TC, and preseason preparation; that then left him playing with a rigid brace for one yearl that then was followed by a coaching and system change on the offense. None tf that has anything to do with RG3’s regression, it’s just all RG3’s fault? Yeah, got it!

      • Thetruthis - Feb 7, 2016 at 6:04 PM

        Well thanks for the well thought out comments. Finally, someone who has a brain. Most of these posters, i.e. the ones you have been commenting with are so simple minded that its difficult to even read their posts. They speak about results as if they are based on some made up fairy tale. When, the results are based on science. Specific things (and there are numerous) that goes into winning and loosing. If the skins choose A, they don’t get B which is what they may want. Then they want to blame the results on a player. Nonesense. Most of the errors are because of a coach who does not know how to get the best out of his players or in the case of Gruden, he was on a different page from day 1. He made every mistake in the book his first year and these people want to blame it on RG3 or Morris. Just utter nonsense. But there is no helping these people, they are not at all interested in accurate thinking. The GM is good. The HC, not so much. I believe he is a fraud and as you expressed, you cannot believe very much he says. And as a player, that is not going to sit well when or if they start loosing. And many of these posters have given Gruden a full pass for all the mistakes he made. And there are to many to mention here.

    • sidepull - Feb 7, 2016 at 2:37 PM

      Yea and the salary cap debacle was a set back that I still hold a grudge against Mara about.

    • bangkokben - Feb 7, 2016 at 3:15 PM

      Such a sense of hyperbole, you have. Ten years? Child please! Two division titles since that draft trade and the $36 million penalty. How many teams can claim the same thing? I don’t know, but ELEVEN teams haven’t even been in the playoffs in the last four seasons. Do you ever think about what you write here or do you just think of the what’s the most provocative thing to write? Seems like you just want to poke a sore spot for large group of fans whether you say this or when you call for RG3 chants. Honestly, I can’t tell if you’re trolling or fan that drinks before he posts or both.

  8. goback2rfk - Feb 7, 2016 at 10:44 AM

    How the hell is Jameis Winston pepsi ‘ROTY’

    Under 60% completion rate. 4000 yds but 22TD to 15 INT with a QB rating under 85.

    What about Tod Gurley Man.

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Feb 7, 2016 at 11:16 AM

      Winston played a whole season, demonstrated a big arm, and some more mobility than anticipated from him. Jamison at a far more difficult position did very well as a rookie. What did you expect, elite numbers from to have Brady like numbers? LOL, not everyone rookie QB can post numbers like RG3 did in 2012

      • goback2rfk - Feb 7, 2016 at 11:31 AM

        He had a decent year nothing spectacular. He was a 1st overall pick. Definitely had some decent games but that could be expected. Famous Jameis also got a pro-bowl nod over Cousins I believe as an alternate.

        • Thetruthis - Feb 7, 2016 at 6:09 PM

          Funny how you Cousins fans ignore all the bad games he had at the beginning of the year before the coach scaled back the offense for him. Cousins has got to win some big games first. Obviously, people saw the limited way he was asked to play. Lots of short yards with a lot of YAC is not going to win you big awards unless you at least show that you can win big games.

        • hail74 - Feb 7, 2016 at 8:37 PM

          Funny how Cousins haters try to bring his game down while ignoring that all other QBs benefit from things like yac and short passing attacks too. Big Ben and Brady are far more reliant on yac, guess they’re scrubs too. Brady runs same offense as cousins, or do you only watch highlights of other teams? Hows the long game working out for Cam and Peyton tonite?

  9. colorofmyskinz - Feb 7, 2016 at 12:35 PM

    Dan Snyder took a struggling franchise and drove it into the ground with high dollar free agency moves and micromanagement of his front office. We went from bad to worse and darn near pathetic when Snyder took over.

    Scot Mcgloughling is our only hope.

  10. bangkokben - Feb 7, 2016 at 3:26 PM

    As for the HOF, Jake was snubbed. Shameful that the near dynasty the Redskins had continues to not get the respect it deserves. Watching Stanfel’s son, Stabler’s grandsons, and Marvin Harrison be a no show; it is important that the committee get these things right and right in the lifetime of the player. Congrats to all that got in. I know that one day Joe Jacoby will be in the Hall. I just hope it is when he can appreciate it.

  11. warrenhajrblog - Feb 7, 2016 at 7:08 PM

    This says, Thanks also to Mr. R. Tandler for that this i of his said columns on the reason why NOT sadly STILL even asks also, ” ‘ ‘ Why have the Redskins NOT been to the Super Bowl in xxiv years and xii days? ‘ ‘ ” for himself, for ANYONE whoever accepts also that this even says also, Thanks also to Mr. R. Tandler for that this i of his said accounts on the reason why NOT sadly STILL even asks also, ” ‘ ‘ Why have the Redskins NOT been to the Super Bowl in xxiv years and xii days? ‘ ‘ ” him/herself for him/herself, for fans, for readers, for others also and even for us, too…. However, this even says also, Thanks also for accepting that my opinion personally believes also that to answer the said question that the title headline of this i of his said columns asks also on the reason why NOT, the LARGEST reason why NOT is also that ‘Skins officials also root for a said team of wearers of Burgundy, golden yellow and white which KNOWS also ALL too well the tough way that a team that suffers from POOR management, but has also been suffering from POOR management on a consistent basis for a while also is a team that’ll be in NO position to build a team of champions for himself, for ANYONE whoever accepts also that this even says also, Thanks also for accepting that my opinion personally believes also that to answer the said question that the title headline of this i of his said accounts asks also on the reason why NOT, the LARGEST reason why NOT is also that ‘Skins officials also root for a said team of wearers of Burgundy, golden yellow and white which KNOWS also ALL too well the tough way that a team that suffers from POOR management, but has also been suffering from POOR management on a consistent basis for a while also is a team that’ll be in NO position to build a team of champions him/herself for him/herself, for fans, for readers, for others also and even for us, too….

  12. slbrook - Feb 7, 2016 at 8:10 PM

    What are you whining about? The Lions have NEVER been to a Super Bowl

  13. goback2rfk - Feb 7, 2016 at 10:30 PM

    Congrats to Super BowL Champion and ex Skin, Tyler Polumbus.

  14. smotion55 - Feb 8, 2016 at 11:39 AM

    To many of the same guys getting and staying off topic and going personal . The change has already taken a big step forward and like this real GM said in his statements to the press. He would love to have 15 picks and free agency is just a supplement to the draft and they will not be big players. Johns long comment reminded me of how badly the redskins have been handled for a very long time.
    Cuts coming, Free agency, the Combine, and the Draft. In a couple of months from now all the cry babies should have more positive things to talk about but only time will tell with all the glass always 1/2 empty instead of 1/2 full guys on this site. Always argue just to argue I guess. Good times are coming again, it just will take a couple more years. Find somebody else to pick on besides Gruden too, he will be just fine, you can’t always fire a coach every 2 years and ever win here PERIOD .

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