They lacked a catchy moniker -- the Hogs were still around, but going on 10 years -- or a player who grabbed everyone's attention for his greatness. There was no Joe Montana or Tom Brady; so the 1991 Washington Redskins sometimes get shorted when it comes to recognition.
They shouldn't be overlooked and Football Outsiders shows why. In fact, they even called it an easy decision in naming them the best team over the past three decades. After all, only this Redskins team produced an offense, defense and special teams that were ranked among the 30 best over the past 30 years. Two years ago, USA Today called the '91 Redskins the best Super Bowl team ever.
The Redskins had one of the game's best-ever coaches in Joe Gibbs, who is in the Hall of Fame. They had good players all over the place, some of whom played great. The whole of this team was better than the sum of its parts. They had three future Hall of Fame players, but eight made the Pro Bowl that season. Two were named All-Pro. Of the Pro Bowlers, only corner Darrell Green made it to Canton (receiver Art Monk and guard Russ Grimm also made it there from this team).
"We had tremendous depth," said Charley Casserly, the general manager of that team, "and a Hall of Fame coaching staff and it starts with them. I have to emphasize that."
That depth was evident at receiver, where Ricky Sanders was their No. 3, behind Monk and Gary Clark. Sanders once set a Super Bowl record with 193 yards receiving after the 1987 season and finished his career with 483 receptions.
"Clark to me is Andre Reed," Casserly said. "He's not better than Gary Clark and he's in the Hall of Fame."
At running back, they used a combination of Earnest Byner (1,048 yards) and Gerald Riggs (11 touchdowns) and Ricky Ervins (680 yards; 4.7 per carry). And they had depth along the line; in a game against Houston, the Redskins lost both starting tackles. So at left tackle they used Grimm, who is in the Hall of Fame as a guard and was a backup in '91. They inserted a one-time first-round pick, Mark Adickes, on the right side. Those two shut down the Oilers' top ends, William Fuller and Sean Jones.
The Redskins could have finished as the NFL's best scoring offense and stingiest defense. But in the season finale, they pulled their starters at halftime and Philadelphia rallied for a 24-22 win; the Redskins finished with the No. 2 scoring defense instead. The Redskins' other loss: a three-point defeat to Dallas. Conceivably, a couple of plays prevented them from an undefeated season.
They led the league in average yards per pass attempt (8.07); they also were first in yards allowed per attempt (6.0). They were plus-18 in turnover differential. They excelled on special teams -- returner Brian Mitchell averaged 13.3 yards per punt return.
Of the Redskins' 17 wins that season, 12 were by double digits. During the postseason, they outscored the opposition 102-41.
Then there's quarterback Mark Rypien. In his first four seasons, he combined to throw 56 touchdowns and 37 interceptions. After 1991, in his final seven seasons, he threw a combined 31 touchdowns to 40 interceptions. But in 1991, Rypien threw 28 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. He was sacked seven times; he attempted 421 passes. In fact, the Redskins allowed only nine sacks all season and recorded 50.
"Ryp was a leader, he was smart," Casserly said. "He could throw the deep ball. You look around today and how many quarterbacks can throw the deep ball? And we had a way to get guys deep."
One word sums them up: dominance.
It was the Redskins' third Super Bowl winner in a decade. This run was capped by a season that Football Outsiders considers the best. They even said the gap between this team and the No. 2 team -- the 2007 New England Patriots -- was greater than the Pats and the 11th-ranked team.
But this Redskins team didn't have standout personalities. They just won; usually big. Their coach's personality was to deflect praise. Casserly said those reasons, all of which helped their success, are why this team isn't remembered like, say, the 1985 Bears.
"We weren't a team that said a lot," Casserly said. "We didn't blow our horns. The best phase of the team was the offensive line and nobody cares about the offensive line. Not having that signature guy that TV focuses on probably is a reason this team doesn't get as much recognition as it deserves."
But when people dig into the numbers and the season, that's when this Redskins team gets the praise it deserves.