Bandwagon Revisited: Another Trip to the Memory Museum
February 9, 2018
by Chris Lawrence
As we surf off the exhaust fumes of Super Bowl LLII and admit to ourselves that the last NFC East team has entered the big game’s Valhalla, its time to close out our look at the last Washington Redskins team to win the Lombardi Trophy. Nostalgia is a fickle mistress (the word comes from the Greek word meaning “pain for home”) and it can keep us warm at night and crush our hearts in the morning, but let’s take a tour of the Bandwagon.
Like this year, the 1992 Super Bowl was also in Minneapolis, Minnesota but at the old Metrodome. The city was mystical for Skins fan that year because Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser had invited everyone to join him in planning trips to Minneapolis after the season’s opener 45-0 whupping of the Detroit Lions (you can see more about that in part 1) and officially revved up the Bandwagon. In what turned out to be both one of the great sports columnist called shots of all time and a completely safe bet, Kornheiser’s Bandwagon took on a momentum of its own and the series of columns covering the team became part of their legend. You can read all the Bandwagon columns here.
As Tony so astutely diagnosed, this team was a machine and the steam roller approach did extend all the way through the big game.
I know its hard for the young-uns to understand but the Buffalo Bills were once a very successful and respected franchise. They had a cerebral and respected coach in Marv Levy (Fun Fact: He was a George Allen era Skins special teams coach), and they had the most famous QB/RB/WR triple threat in the game of Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed. Their defense was young, fast and nasty and lead by Bruce Smith and Cornelius Bennett. This was their second of their four Super Bowl run (of which they won: zippy) and had just come off the previous year’s brutal missed field goal loss the the Jeff Hostetler lead Giants. A loss that so twisted the fan psyche of upstate New York that native son and filmmaker Vincent Gallo made Buffalo 66, an arthouse classic about killing the Scott Norwood character. They joined the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl futility.
But in 1991 they were still young and cocky. They were sexy stars with loud mouths and flashy stats. They had the league MVP in Thomas. The Bills K-Gun, no huddle approach was a stark contrast to the Washington team that was so methodical in their dominance they bored non-fans. Even though the Redskins were dominant that year and a 7 point favorite in the game, the popular pick was actually the Bills.
Well look at what the Department of Defense did to the league MVP in the game – Thomas had 10 Carries for 13 yards, 4 catches for 27 yards and a garbage time touchdown. The most memorable thing about Thomas’ game was how he lost his helmet during the Bills’ opening possession and was comically searching for it. It was on the bench.
Jim Kelly’s day? 4 pics and a fumble. And speaking of helmet follies, Andre Reed (who ended his career with Washington) at one point smashed his in frustration sending facemask and ear pads flying. He grabbed 5 balls for 34 yards.
Buffalo beat writer, Sal Malorana said about the game:
“The Bills were outplayed, outhit, and pretty much out-everythinged. It may be a cliché, but the game wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated.”
The game definitely started with some rocky moments for our boys. On the Skins second possession they marched down the field behind 4 grabs by HOFer Art Monk. But a 3rd down TD to Monk was called back by a little toe out of bounds and then they botched the subsequent field goal. But the Bills took no advantage and the Bandwagon rolled to a 17 point lead by the second quarter after a Gerald Riggs short yardage rumble.
Wanna see dominance? Look at what the Redskins Defense did to Jim Kelly in their first half shut-out.
While preparing for this piece I was deep in the annals of Skins lore and I rediscovered my love for middle linebacker Kurt Gouveia. Kurt was the next man up after the Rich Milot/Mel Kaufman eras of middle linebackers. He was a lunch pail type, but he had quite a post-season that year with three interceptions. One of those was the punch to the Bills’ kidney with the first play of the second half where he slid in front of route across the middle on a floater from Kelly and took the ball down to the 2 yard line. From there Riggs banged in his second touchdown bringing the score to 24-0 . And with that all drama was gone from SB XXVI and the Washington Redskins’ (last?) party could commence.
When you rewatch this game two things jump right at you like Wilbur Marshall into the Bills’ backfield. One, the Redskins were just bigger. They look like hulks compared to the Bills. Two, this was the most talented version of The Hogs. They were so good that year that should be Hall of Famer Joe Jacoby had switched to right tackle to make room for Jim Lachey. The unit only gave up 9 regular season sacks and bulldozed a path to 2000 plus rushing yards for the team. They are easily one of the best offensive lines of all time.
If you haven’t watched the game in awhile, do yourself a favor, fire up this YouTube version of the game, pour yourself a beverage of your choosing and revel in this all time team.