Golden Football Magazine
NFL Championship Games
This series covers the history of the NFL through the prism of its yearly championship games.
Note: The gray boxes contain asides that provide interesting material but could be skipped without losing the continuity of the article.
Super Bowl XVIII - Washington Redskins vs Los Angeles Raiders: Pregame
1983 saw a repeat champion in the NFC and an original AFL team return to the Super Bowl for the third time in eight years but from a different city.

Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis fought a four-year battle with the NFL to move his team to Los Angeles.

  • In 1980, he attempted to relocate his team to Los Angeles but was blocked by a court injunction. In response, Davis filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL.
  • In June 1982, a federal district court ruled in Al's favor, and the team officially moved to Los Angeles for the '82 season.
  • However, the team's base of operations that year was still Oakland. So the coaches, players, and staff lived and practiced in the Bay Area while playing "home" games in the Los Angeles Coliseum.
  • The move was complete by 1983.

Fifth-year coach Tom Flores, who had played quarterback for the Raiders for six years, was a beacon of calm on the sea of turmoil.

  • The '83 Raiders won their first four games before losing to the Redskins in Washington 37-35 in perhaps the most exciting game of the regular season. Washington scored 17 points in the final 6:15, with QB Joe Theismann throwing a 33y pass for the winning score with 33 seconds left. Hardly anyone remembered that LA's star RB Marcus Allen didn't play in that game.
    Redskins G Mark May said afterward, "I wouldn't be surprised if we met them again in January."
  • A victory over archrival Kansas City was followed by a loss at Seattle. The Seahawks would sweep the season series in Los Angeles two weeks later.
  • Five victories in a row, including three within the AFC West, put LA in a strong position for a playoff berth.
  • They finished 12-4, which tied the Dolphins for best record in the AFC.
  • After enjoying a bye the first week of the playoffs, the Raiders blistered the Steelers 38-10, then found the third time a charm against the Seahawks, who had eliminated Miami. The 30-14 drubbing earned LA the right to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

Several factors kept the Raiders from compiling a better record in line with their talent level.

  • A quarterback controversy between Jim Plunkett and Marc Wilson plagued the team for three midseason games.
  • The careless Raiders finished -12 in turnover differential thanks to 24 interceptions and 25 lost fumbles versus 37 takeaways.
  • But everything meshed during the playoffs, and the Raiders came to Tampa as a dangerous underdog.
    TE Todd Christensen feels that the head coach never got the credit he deserved for the Raiders' success. "Tom Flores was a great fit for our team, where you had so many dominant personalities, so many guys who had TV and radio shows, guys who were high profile. A Mike Ditka-type would have been obnoxious and never worked. Flores had the ability to sublimate his ego. He was a calm guy on the sidelines and behind the scenes. Tom was a very bright man, but because of the way things shook out in the organization, he didn't get much publicity. He was underrated in terms of his knowledge of the game. Al Davis got most of the publicity. It may have been the impression, due to his manipulation of the press, that we tried to play football the way Al Davis wanted it played, but in truth the guys didn't give him a second thought. He was famous for his 2 A.M. calls to coaches, but he had nothing to do with game plans and on-the-field activities."

The Raiders offense led the AFC in points scored and ranked 3rd in the entire league.

  • The offense was straight out of the 60s when Al Davis was the coach. They still allowed the quarterback to call his own plays.
  • Up front was a huge offensive line. All five were 6'3" or more. They averaged 275lb per man. C Dave Dalby was the smallest at 250.
  • The leading receivers were TE Todd Christensen with 92 catches, tops in the NFL and the most ever to that point in the NFL, and RB Marcus Allen with 68, which was 29 more than WR Cliff Branch.
The Los Angeles defense finished strong after a mid-season slump.
  • Starting with the Redskins game, they gave up 34 or more points in five of six contests. But they surrendered 14 or fewer points in three of the last four regular season games and the two playoff games.
  • However, the Raiders led the AFC in points scored (442).
  • The unit improved greatly when CB Mike Haynes joined the team in November after his contract was awarded to the Raiders in a settlement that gave his former team, the Patriots, a No. 1 draft choice in 1984 and a No. 2 pick in '85.
  • Haynes joined Lester Hayes to form the best cornerback duo in the league. They covered the opponent's best receivers one-on-one, freeing safeties and linebackers to play what Flores called "attack football."
  • The three-man front was anchored by NT Reggie Kinlaw, whom opponents consistently double-teamed, allowing the ends, Howie Long and Lyle Alzado, to rush the passer.
  • OLB Ted Hendricks, who made the Pro Bowl for the seventh time, was nursing pulled stomach and groin muscles and would play sparingly.

    Raiders defensive front: L-R: Matt Millen, Lyle Alzado, Reggie Kinlaw,
    Vann McElroy, Ron Nelson, Howie Long
    255lb LB Matt Millen, who called the defensive signals, recalled: "That '83 defense was one of the best defenses the NFL has ever seen. Other teams tried to copy it, but you couldn't because there was too much talent there. And the whole thing was based on our corners. Nobody since then has been able to have two corners of that caliber."

Washington defended their NFC Championship thanks mainly to their offense, which led the league in points scored with 541.

  • Like the Raiders, the Redskins packed beef in the offensive line. The five Hogs, as they proudly called themselves, averaged 274lbs and, like the Raiders' five, 6'4".
    Washington Hogs L-R: Mark Mary, Coach Joe Bugel, Jeff Bostic, George Starke,
    Russ Grimm, Joe Jacoby
  • As in the previous year, the Skins generally ran a one-back offense with two tight ends. They used only four or five running plays and four or five passing plays in any game. But they ran them from numerous formations with men in motion. "We're pretty basic," said WR Art Monk. "We just have so many formations, it looks like we do more than we really do." Coach Gibbs said, "Everything we do on offense starts with RB John Riggins."
  • Defensively the Redskins were first in the league against the run but last against the pass. Three members of their 1982 secondary were no longer with the team because of suspension (S Tony Peters), injury (CB Vernon Dean), and a contract holdout (CB Jeris White).
  • But they led the league in time of possession (33:44 per game), touchdowns (63), and points (541). They also surpassed all clubs in turnover ratio: +43 (61 turnovers vs 18 giveaways).
  • One suspect area of Washington's game was kicking. P Jeff Hayes averaged only 38.8y per kick. Mark Moseley's field goal percentage from 30y was 61.1. Included were four misses in the NFC Championship between 30 and 45y.
After losing the opener on Monday Night Football to Dallas 31-30, the Redskins reeled off five straight wins.
  • Included was the thrilling two-point victory over the Raiders.
  • After losing to the Packers in another one-point high-scoring thriller, Joe Gibbs's club won the remainder of their regular season games.
  • That gave them a 14-2 record and a two-game edge over the Cowboys for the NFC East title.
  • After a much-needed bye week, Washington destroyed the Los Angeles Rams 51-7 to reach the NFC Championship Game.
  • The Skins held a 21-0 lead heading into Q4 in the NFC title game against San Francisco only to have the 49ers rally behind three Joe Montana TD passes to tie the game. But aided by two controversial interference penalties, QB Joe Theismann drove the Redskins close enough for Mark Moseley to boot a 24y FG with 40 seconds left.
  • Washington came to the Super Bowl with a 36-6 mark in their last 42 games.

After the teams arrived in Tampa a week before the game, the biggest mystery man was Redskins RB John Riggins, who was notorious for his aversion to the media.

  • On photo day, he stood stolidly in the end zone in his uniform and cowboy boots.
  • Would he condescend to speak to reporters the next day? He came up the backstairs of the hotel, marched through a kitchen, entered through a stage, and popped out of a curtain. "What, no applause?" he said. He wore an olive flight suit with a white scarf around his thick neck.
  • "Last year the Redskins marched through Miami," said Riggins. "This year we fly over L.A. Bombs will be hot and heavy in the first half allowing our troops to position themselves and carry us to victory."
  • Asked what he was thinking the day before in the end zone, he replied, "I was standing there looking for a soft place to land. If Lyle Alzado is going to knock my block off, I hope he's a gentleman and hands it back. Those Raiders. They're such bruisers."
  • However, reporters noticed that Riggins was drained and noticeably hoarse. He confessed that he was "quite exhausted ... for some reason or another." Asked why, he pointed to the sandy terrain at his home stadium. "I can't help but think that playing on that RFK beach had something to do with it. Either that or I'm getting old." Later in the week, a Redskin official admitted that Riggins had been battling the flu. NT Dave Butz also said he had the flu earlier in the week.
  • Theismann talked about the difference in facing the Raiders compared to other teams. "Most teams don't challenge us one-on-one. But the Los Angeles Raiders do. That's the difference between them and the rest of the NFL. They're tough guys. Lyle Alzado's got a nasty image. I expect them to be tough. I'm going to find an alley here in Tampa and get beat up every night ... because Sunday I'd be surprised if I don't get my head handed to me."
    The Redskins were not happy with their accommodations in Tampa. They stayed at an airport Holiday Inn while the Raiders were at the Hilton, supposedly because Washington owner Jack Kent Cooke didn't want to impose on his friend Barron Hilton a second time. The rooms were cramped and dingy, and the small lobby made it difficult to exit the hotel without being bothered by drunken fans and autograph seekers.
    The practice facilities were even worse. While the Raiders practiced at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers headquarters, the Redskins prepared for the game at the University of South Florida, a school that had no football team and limited resources. During practice on Thursday, four men were caught taking photographs from a nearby building. That day's film was confiscated by NFL security officials. C Jeff Bostic spoke for many Redskins when he said, "I'm convinced Al Davis had us spied on."
The Raiders took a day to adjust to Eastern time.
  • Coach Flores fined seven players for sleeping in, including QB Jim Plunkett. Their body clocks still on Pacific time, each donated $1,000 to the fine fund for missing the 8 AM meeting.
    Reports circulated that the fines were never paid.
  • Asked about the cute Washington nicknames - the Hogs (O line) and the Smurfs AKA the Fun Bunch (receivers), no nonsense Matt Millen said, "A nickname never won a football game. Those nicknames are not very professional."
  • Millen on the Redskins' star RB: "I'm one of Riggins' fans. He'd make a tremendous Raider. Last game I thought I had a real good hit on him. I had him lined up, and he got a real good hit on me. He broke my face mask."
  • All Pro CB Lester Hayes had an interesting take on the Redskins offense. "The man we fear most is not John Riggins, Joe Theismann, or Charlie Brown but Gibbs."
  • A reporter asked Marcus Allen if he approached the game as a contest between him and Riggins. "Nah. It's going to be built up, but I'm not thinking about it."
  • Jim Plunkett, rescued from the scrap heap by the Raiders in 1979, was asked how he felt when Flores benched him midway through the season. "Here we go again," said Plunkett. His replacement was Marc Wilson, whom Al Davis had drafted in 1980 to be his franchise quarterback. But when Wilson suffered a broken shoulder in his third start, Plunkett took over for the rest of the season. "I've had my ups and downs, like a lot of other people," said Jim. "I've learned to live with a lot of things. I know what happens today may change tomorrow. I was benched unfairly. They wouldn't have benched Ken Stabler. But they did bench me. I was down. It hurt."
The difference in the attitudes and habits of the two teams was epitomized by how the players met the press.
The Redskins had Theismann change three-piece suits between TV interviews while the Raiders' Alzado talked to reporters wearing a cut-off T-shirt.
Christensen recalled, "Al Davis didn't worry about the image of his club. I genuinely believe that was a big edge for us. All of us reveled in our renegade image. We had an 'us-against-the-world' attitude, which our coaches played up to motivate us. ... There were many games when we were favorites, but even then we played the role of underdogs because we knew everyone wanted to see us get beat. We enjoyed that. ... We were a group of self-starters, so I don't think we needed someone in charge or an inspirational leader. Instead, we had people like Ted Hendricks who led by example."

The Redskins were consensus three-point favorites. Some said if they beat the Raiders for their second straight Super Bowl championship, they would be consideredone of the best teams to every play in the NFL.
The famous "Jimmy the Greek" Snyder had Washington favored by five. But Christensen said, "Jimmy the Greek confessed to one of our players during Super Bowl Week in Tampa, 'I know you're going to win by two touchdowns or more, but for the sake of the business people around me, I have to make them the favorites."
More from Todd: "I don't remember any speeches in our locker room before the game. There were some guys who were yelling, but in general, no. There were guys who were - I resist saying 'businesslike' because that indicates a degree of sobriety that didn't exist. Yeah, people were excited, but the beating of helmets and jumping on each other was not what the team was about. We understood what he had to do. This particular day there was, for lack of a less dramatic term, a sense of destiny. Any way you look at it, you're making history. We'd come this far and there was a mission that had to be accomplished. I remember overhearing broadcaster Jim Hall outside our team bus saying, 'These guys seem amazingly calm.' He was right. Oh, man - the confidence level was so high."
On the other side, the Redskins bus got lost on the way to the stadium Sunday morning. Defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon recalled, "We got to the stadium just in time to get dressed and get on the field to warm up. And that throws you off, that was a very tiring effect for us. Not that that was the main reason we didn't play good, but it looked like it was just not your day today."

CBS televised the big game, which would draw an estimated 77.62 million viewers. A 30-second commercial cost $368,000.

  • Pat Summerall did the play-by-play with John Madden supplying the commentary.
  • Jack Buck and Hank Stram handled the CBS radio broadcast.

Barry Manilow sang the National Anthem, and former Los Angelese Ram great Elroy Hirsch performed the opening coin toss.


Al Davis


Tom Flores


Jim Plunkett


Marc Wilson


Todd Christensen


Mike Haynes


Lester Hayes

 

 

 

 

 

 


Joe Gibbs and Joe Theismann


Art Monk


John Riggins


Jeff Hayes


Mark Moseley

 

 

 

 


Marcus Allen


Barry Manilow

1983 Washington Redskins
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
3 Mark Moseley K 5-11 200 Texas A&M/S.F.Austin 14
5 Jeff Hayes P 5-11 175 North Carolina 2
7 Joe Theismann QB 6-0 200 Notre Dame 10
8 Bob Holly QB 6-2 195 Princeton 1
12 Babe Laufenberg QB 6-2 195 Indiana 1
22 Curtis Jordan S 6-2 205 Texas Tech 7
24 Anthony Washington CB 6-1 205 California/Fresno State 3
25 Joe Washington RB 5-10 180 Oklahoma 6
26 Reggie Evans RB 5-11 200 Richmond 1
28 Darrell Green CB 5-8 170 Texas A&M-Kingsville 1
29 Mark Murphy FS 6-3 210 Colgate 6
30 Nick Giaquinto RB 5-11 205 Bridgeport/Connecticut 3
32 Vernon Dean CB 5-11 180 US Int'l, San Diego St. 1
39 Otis Wonsley RB 5-10 215 Alcorn State 2
41 Brian Carpenter CB 5-10 165 Michigan 2
44 John Riggins RB 6-2 250 Kansas 12
47 Greg Williams S 5-11 185 Mississippi State 1
48 Ken Coffey S 6-0 190 Texas State 1
50 Larry Kubin LB 6-2 235 Penn State 1
51 Monte Coleman LB 6-2 230 Central Arkansas 4
52 Neal Olkewicz LB 6-0 230 Maryland 4
53 Jeff Bostic C 6-2 250 Clemson 3
54 Pete Cronan LB 6-2 240 Boston College 6
55 Mel Kaufman LB 6-2 220 Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo 2
57 Rich Milot LB 6-4 235 Penn State 4
58 Stuart Anderson LB 6-1 225 Virginia 2
60 Roy Simmons G 6-3 265 Georgia Tech 5
61 Ken Huff G 6-4 265 North Carolina 9
65 Dave Butz NT 6-7 295 Purdue 10
66 Joe Jacoby T 6-7 295 Louisville 2
67 Bruce Kimball G 6-2 260 Massachusetts 2
68 Russ Grimm G 6-3 275 Pittsburgh 2
69 Perry Brooks DT 6-3 270 Southern 5
71 Charles Mann DT 6-6 270 Nevada 1
72 Dexter Manley DE 6-3 240 Oklahoma State 2
73 Mark May G 6-6 295 Pittsburgh 2
74 George Starke T 6-5 260 Columbia 10
77 Darryl Grant DE 6-1 275 Rice 2
78 Tony McGee DE 6-4 250 Wyoming/Bishop 12
79 Todd Liebenstein DE 6-6 255 UNLV 1
80 Virgil Seay WR 5-8 175 Troy 2
81 Art Monk WR 6-3 210 Syracuse 4
83 Mark McGrath WR 5-11 175 Montana State 3
84 Mike Williams TE 6-4 250 Alabama A&M 2
85 Don Warren TE 6-4 245 San Diego State 4
86 Clint Didier TE 6-5 240 Portland State 1
87 Charlie Brown WR 5-10 180 South Carolina State 1
88 Rick Walker TE 6-4 235 UCLA 6
89 Alvin Garrett WR 5-7 185 Angelo State 3
1983 Los Angeles Raiders
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
6 Marc Wilson QB 6-6 205 Brigham Young 4
8 Ray Guy P 6-3 195 Southern Miss 11
10 Chris Bahr K 5-10 170 Penn State 8
11 David Humm QB 6-2 190 Nebraska 9
16 Jim Plunkett QB 6-2 215 Stanford 13
20 Ted Watts CB 6-0 195 Texas Tech 3
21 Cliff Branch WR 5-11 170 Colorado 12
22 Mike Haynes CB 6-2 190 Arizona State 8
23 Odis McKinney S 6-2 185 Colorado 6
26 Vann McElroy S 6-2 190 Baylor 2
27 Frank Hawkins RB 5-9 210 Nevada 3
28 Cleo Montgomery WR 5-8 185 Abilene Christian 4
31 Derrick Jensen TE 6-1 220 Texas-Arlington 5
32 Marcus Allen RB 6-2 210 USC 2
33 Kenny King RB 5-11 205 Oklahoma 5
34 Gregg Pruitt RB 5-10 190 Oklahoma 11
36 Mike Davis S 6-3 205 Colorado 6
37 Lester Hayes CB 6-0 200 Texas A&M 7
38 Chester Willis RB 5-11 195 Auburn 3
45 James Davis CB 6-0 195 Southern 2
46 Todd Christensen TE 6-3 230 Brigham Young 5
48 Kenny Hill S 6-0 195 Yale 3
50 Dave Dalby C 6-3 250 UCLA 12
51 Bob Nelson LB 6-4 235 Nebraska 8
53 Rod Martin LB 6-2 225 USC 7
54 Darryl Byrd LB 6-1 220 Illinois 1
55 Matt Millen LB 6-2 250 Penn State 4
56 Jeff Barnes LB 6-2 225 California 7
57 Tony Caldwell LB 6-1 225 Washington 1
58 Jack Squirek LB 6-4 230 Illinois 2
61 Dave Stalls DT 6-5 250 Northern Colorado 7
62 Reggie Kinlaw NT 6-2 245 Oklahoma 5
64 Shelby Jordan G 6-7 260 Washington (MO) 9
65 Mickey Marvin G 6-4 265 Tennessee 7
66 Steve Sylvester G 6-4 260 Notre Dame 9
68 Johnny Robinson DE 6-2 260 Louisiana Tech 3
70 Henry Lawrence T 6-4 270 Florida A&M 10
71 Bill Pickel DT 6-5 265 Rutgers 1
72 Don Mosebar C 6-6 285 USC 1
73 Charley Hannah G 6-5 260 Alabama 7
75 Howie Long DE 6-5 270 Villanova 3
77 Lyle Alzado DE 6-3 260 Yankton 13
79 Bruce Davis T 6-6 280 UCLA 5
80 Malcolm Barnwell WR 5-11 185 Virginia Union 3
82 Calvin Muhammad WR 5-11 190 Texas Southern 2
83 Ted Hendricks LB 6-7 235 Miami (FL) 15
85 Dokie Williams WR 5-11 180 UCLA 1
87 Don Hasselback TE 6-7 245 Colorado 7
93 Greg Townsend DE 6-3 264 TCU 1

References: The Super Bowl: Celebrating a Quarter-Century of America's Greatest Game (1990)
Super Bowl Chronicles: A Sportswriter Reflects on the First 30 Years of America's Game, Jerry Green (1995)
Super Bowl: The Game of Their Lives, Danny Peary (ed.) (1997)
The Football Game I'll Never Forget: 100 NFL Stars' Stories, selected by Chris McDonell (2004)
The Ultimate Super Bowl Book, Bob McGinn (2009)
50 Years, 50 Moments: The Most Unforgettable Plays in Super Bowl History, Jerry Rice and Randy O. Williams (2015)
Super Bowl Gold: 50 Years of the Big Game, Sports Illustrated (2015)
The Super Bowl: The First Fifty Years of America's Greatest Game, David Fischer (2015)
Hail to the Redskins: Gibbs, the Diesel, the Hogs, and the Glory Days of D.C.'s Football Dynasty, Adam Lazarus (2015)
The First 50 Super Bowls: How Football's Championships Were Won, Ed Benkin (2018)