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The Greatest Team Ever: Remembering Super Bowl XXVI

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Washington's third Super Bowl victory against Buffalo occurred 25 years ago Thursday, cementing the 1991-1992 Redskins as arguably the best championship team ever.

"History."

That's the first word Mark Rypien thinks about when he recalls the magical Super Bowl XXVI season that culminated in glory 25 years ago Thursday. But not history in the general sense. Not history strictly because it was Washington's third title in the last decade, nor because he won the big game's MVP award.

This was history because, for the first time in Washington's existence, the team won a championship in a full 16-game season. Take nothing away from the previous two Lombardi Trophies, which came during strike-shortened years, but there is a sense of pride that comes from Rypien's voice when he considers what his team did during the 1991-1992 season that might never be replicated again.

There are certainly the lopsided numbers that paint a broad picture of what this team – arguably the best to ever win the Super Bowl – really accomplished. They ranked first on offense and second on defense during a 14-2 regular season. They outscored opponents by 332 points, including the postseason, the third-highest differential of all-time. Rypien threw for 3,564 yards, the best mark in his career. "The Posse," Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders, combined for more than 3,000 of those. Thirteen different players recorded a sack. The Hogs allowed just seven all season. Washington never trailed during a single minute of the postseason.

And then there are the players themselves – the young and "old" – that exemplified the kind of men head coach Joe Gibbs asked them to be every day. They became a close-knit group. The veterans, and there were many Gibbs kept on the roster, made sure of it.

"What a guy meant in the locker room to Joe Gibbs was essential," Rypien said.

"You had an interesting cross-section of leadership within that locker room," said safety Brad Edwards, who snagged two interceptions in the Super Bowl. "You certainly had the Hogs and the offensive linemen who were very vocal, who were very strong leaders and had a very strong unity just among themselves and they had clearly performed at a high level. You had guys on the other side like Darrell Green, Charles Mann, who were certainly the biggest leaders from a culture perspective. Art Monk was someone you had great respect for. He was very quiet but he was like E.F. Hutton. When he spoke everybody turned and listened and he had that kind of reverence and impact. It was a terrific cross-section of individuals in that locker room."

The players did everything together. They spent time at community events and at each other's homes. The team stood above the individual, and while many other organizations boasted and boosted their star players, the Redskins remained content working as a full unit.

"We weren't into exploiting ourselves above the team. We were more into figuring out what we had to do and finding the best scenario to make us the best team possible," Rypien said.

"We just kind of went under the radar, pretty much did what we were asked to do and played that way," he added. "I think that probably motivated us, it helped us. 'Hey, everyone else is always talking about everyone else's superstars.' I think internally, we felt we had as many good players, but we weren't out there promoting our players as much as other teams were."

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It obviously worked. From the season opener, a 45-0 rout of the Lions, to the Super Bowl, a 37-24 dismantling of Jim Kelly and the Bills, Washington glided through opponents, always careful not to overlook each week even as the wins kept piling up.

Rypien had a career year. Earnest Byner rushed for just more than 1,000 yards and added another 308 yards receiving, complementing Ricky Ervins' 680 rushing yards and Gerald Riggs bludgeoning for 11 touchdowns. Clark went to the Pro Bowl after catching 70 passes for 1,340 yards and 10 touchdowns. Green had five interceptions that season while Mann offered 11.5 sacks and forced three fumbles to earn them both Pro Bowl invites.

And then the Hogs, the offensive line comprised of left tackle Jim Lachey, left guard Raleigh McKenzie, center Jeff Bostic, right guard Mark Schlereth and right tackle Joe Jacoby.

"The '91 team is the best I've ever played on," Bostic said. "We could do basically anything we wanted to offensively. We could run the ball and you couldn't stop it. We could throw the ball and you couldn't stop it. And defensively, we could put a pass rush on you, we could stop your run. That was a complete football team."

"We just had a combination that was pretty deadly," Rypien said. "And it all came together in one special year."

Other Facts And Figures:

  • Head coach Joe Gibbs became the first coach to win a Super Bowl title with three different quarterbacks.
  • The Redskins had the second-highest point differential of any Super Bowl champion along with a plus-12 turnover margin during the postseason.
  • In the Super Bowl, the Redskins defense held season MVP Thurman Thomas to 13 yards on 10 rush attempts.
  • The Redskins defense sacked quarterback Jim Kelly five times that Sunday, forced three fumbles and collected four interceptions, a Super Bowl record.
  • The Hogs didn't allow Rypien to get sacked for the entire game.
  • Wide receivers Gary Clark and Art Monk each had more than 100 yards receiving in the game.

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