The secret to Gibbs' Redskins? Smarts and "Hogs," says Rypien

(Photo courtesy of Washington Redskins)

Talk of Fame Network

There is something remarkable about Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins, and it goes beyond four Super Bowl appearances in 10 years and three Lombardi Trophies in that duration. No, it’s more about how it was accomplished, with Gibbs winning three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks … none of whom was a Hall of Famer.

The obvious question is: What was his secret? How did Gibbs do what others could not? So we posed it to Mark Rypien, the third in that succession of quarterbacks and the MVP of Super Bowl XXVI when Washington bested Buffalo, 37-24.

His answer: Brains and the Hogs.

“In our league, we had Dallas and Arizona and the Giants and New Orleans and Philadelphia,” Rypien said on the latest Talk of Fame Network radio broadcast, “and one thing they liked to do was intimidate you with pressure. We had max protection. We had four wide receivers. We had four tight ends. We had a myriad of formations, shifts and motion. You had a 40-second clock to snap the ball. So we had chance to do a lot of shifting and motion to keep defensive coordinators up at night to figure out what we were doing.

“We were a very smart team. You’re only as good as the guys up front, and you’re known for what you do. And if you’re the Hogs – they had that reputation – they played to that reputation. They were the catalysts for how successful we were. If they stayed healthy … if your left tackle stayed healthy … as a right-handed quarterback you’re going to be pretty good. And I had a couple of good ones – (Joe) Jacoby and Jim Lachey, two of the best in the league who ever played.

“As an offensive line, we were one of the most successful groups. I think we had only seven or eight sacks that year (they had nine, but only seven of Rypien). A lot had to do with that max protection, hot reads, the quarterback getting rid of the football, having a good running game and doing some big things with play action, making big plays. We kept teams on edge. They didn’t really have to pin their ears back to break down our protection. At times they would, and we’d get into max protect … and we’d make big plays.”

A sixth-round draft pick, Rypien is the latest guest on the Talk of Fame’s Draft Countdown, with last week’s focus on the sixth round where Rypien was the 146th pick out of Washington State. Spending his first two years on injured reserve, he would go on to become one of the league's most accurate deep passers -- coming off the bench in 1988 to start for an injured Doug Williams and throwing for over 300 yards in his pro debut.

That was good. But what Rypien did in Super Bowl XXVI was better, throwing for 292 yards and two touchdowns in a destruction of Buffalo. It was the Redskins’ first Super Bowl victory in a non-strike year, and Rypien admitted the achievement wasn’t lost on him and his teammates.

“There was a bit of an asterisk within the organization that we hadn’t won a Super Bowl in a 16-game schedule,” he said. “So, for us as a team, to go out and do that in ‘91 and finish it the way we did against the Buffalo Bills -- a team that had the superstars, was favored and should’ve won the Super Bowl the previous year …. All those things were a tool we used to motivate us. And it was a special year for us.”