The Redskins-Vikings game on Sunday at FedExField was a special occasion for Minnesota head coach Mike Tice, who faced off against the Redskins and the head coach he once played for, Joe Gibbs.
To put this into historical perspective, Tice became the eighth former Redskins player to coach against the burgundy and gold since 1950. Sam Wyche, a Redskin backup quarterback from 1971-73, was the last to do so, when he led the Tampa Bay to a 14-6 win over the Redskins on Sept. 24, 1995.
No former Redskin has coached against the team more than the NFL's all-time winningest coach, Don Shula. A Redskins defensive back in 1957, Shula compiled a 12-3 record against the Redskins as the head coach of the Colts and Dolphins, including a 1-1 record in Super Bowls.
Other former Redskins players to coach against the Redskins: Harry Gilmer, QB (1948-52, 1954), coached Detroit (1965-66); Ed Khayat, DT (1957, 1962-63), coached Philadelphia; Jack Pardee, LB (1971-72), coached Chicago (1975-77); Joe Walton, E (1957-60), coached New York Jets (1983-89).
Tice enjoyed a 14-year career as an NFL tight end following his college career at Maryland. Of those 14 seasons, 10 were spent in Seattle (1981-88, 1990-91), three in Minnesota (1992-93, 1995) and one in Washington (1989).
Tice signed with the Redskins as a Plan B free agent in February of 1989 to complement a tight end corps that included veterans Don Warren and Terry Orr. Rookie Jimmie Johnson was also added along with Tice.
Though he posted a career-high 29 catches a year before, Tice and the group of tight ends were not counted on to catch the ball very often in 1989.
"He gives us another big blocker," Gibb said the day of Tice's signing. "He has been a starter for the Seahawks and he's our kind of player."
The Redskins featured one of the best three-man wider receiver units in the history of the game with "The Posse." Art Monk, Gary Clark and Rickey Sanders teamed to combine for 245 catches on the year.
Warren led the tight ends with 15 receptions. Johnson had four catches and Orr had three. Tice had just one catch for a total of two yards on the season, this for a tight end who lined up in all 16 games and started five.
In that 1989 campaign, Tice was used primarily as a blocker. However, it was not his blocking or pass-catching skills that helped the Redskins earn a Week 4, 16-14 win over the New Orleans Saints and Tice's younger brother John, a tight end in New Orleans. It was his brains and veteran savvy.
Late in the third quarter, the Redskins faced a 3rd-and-2 from their own 43-yard line. Orr, known more as a pass-catcher, came onto the field and Tice departed. So that the Saints wouldn't be tipped off that it was a pass play, Tice faked a leg injury as he came off the field.
Confusing the Saints' defense worked as quarterback Mark Rypien threw a 48-yard pass to Orr, setting up a 9-yard touchdown run by Gerald Riggs.
"When you have a limited role, you have to think of these things," Tice told reporters after that game. "But my brother noticed."
After just one season with the Redskins, Tice was cut by the team in training camp of 1990 and returned to the Seahawks for two seasons before ending his playing career with three seasons in Minnesota.
Fifteen years later, Tice remains grateful for the lessons Gibbs taught him in that one year.
"I was very fond of the organization, very fond of the coaching staff and certainly very fond of Coach Gibbs," Tice said. "I recall my comments to him when he released me were that I felt that I left there a better player than when I got there. I think that is a significant say to say when you are 30 years old."
Added Gibbs: "I think the world of Mike. He's a very smart guy and he's done a terrific job. I think we share some of the same basic principles."
Tice's one-year stint in Washington was a bit of a homecoming. The Bayshore, N.Y., native was happy to return to the East Coast for the first time since graduating from the University of Maryland in 1981.
Tice came to College Park, Md., in 1977 as a freshman and became the starting quarterback in 1979and 1980 for head coach Jerry Claiborne. His brother John joined Mike for his final two years at Maryland before establishing a 10-year career as a tight end for Saints. (John is currently the Vikings' tight ends and assistant offensive line coach.)
The Seahawks signed Tice as a free agent quarterback out of college and quickly transformed him into a tight end, a position he stayed in for the remainder of his career.
Following Tice's retirement in 1995, he stayed on with the Vikings to serve as the tight ends coach for then-head coach Dennis Green. The following year, he was promoted to offensive line coach and after Green was fired at the end of the 2001 season, Tice had his shot as a head coach in the NFL.
He led Minnesota to a 6-10 finish in the 2002 season and 9-7 last year, barely missing the playoffs. This season, Tice has led the Vikings to the brink of the playoffs again, posting an 8-7 record. With a win on Sunday, the Vikings would be assured of a playoff spot.