The 1971 Washington Redskins after years of not being a championship contender joined the upper echelon of the NFC. In the offseason the Redskins hired former Los Angeles Rams head coach George Allen to bring glory back to Washington for the first time since the Sammy Baugh era. After having only one winning season since 1955 when Vince Lombardi guided the Redskins to a 7-5-2 mark in 1969. Unfortunately for Washington his rebuilding plan lasted only one season as he died prior to the 1970 season. Under interim coach Bill Austin Washington finished a disappointing 6-8 in 1970.
Allen made his impact immediate on the franchise as he quickly remade the roster as the Redskins where quickly dubbed the Over the Hill Gang. A nickname they would have throughout Allen’s tenure in Washington which ended in 1977. In a fourteen player trade with his former club Los Angeles Allen traded away six draft choices and linebacker Marlin McKeever for Maxie Baughn, Jeff Jordan, Jack Pardee, Myron Pottios, John Wilbur, as well as a fifth round draft choice. In addition he acquired wide receiver Roy Jefferson from the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore COlts. In a move that may’ve been perplexing at the time he acquired New Orleans Saints quarterback BIlly KIlmer for linebacker Tom Roussel and two draft choices. Allen also brought in veterans Boyd Dowler, Clifton McNeil, Ron McDole, Verlon BIggs, and Speedy Duncan.
The trade for Kilmer paid off quickly for Washington when starting quarterback Sonny Jurgensen was injured at the end of the preseason with a severe shoulder injury. Jurgensen would never be a fulltime starter again in Washington over his final four seasons. The team started off fast in 1971 for Washington by winning its five games of the season. The highlight of this winning streak was a victory over hated Dallas in the Cotton Bowl 20-16. However in week 6 against Kansas City in a 27-20 loss wide receiver Charley Taylor was lost for the season catching a 36 yard scoring pass from Kilmer. Taylor broke his ankle on the play and would be lost for the season. The team would stumble the rest of the season and lose to San Francisco in the playoffs 24-20.
On the defensive front which had been a sore spot for Washington in previous seasons showed significant improvement. IN 1971 they rose from 17th in points allowed to fourth in 1971. With the newcomers jelling with the veteran holdovers Pat Fischer, Chris Hanburger, and Mike Bass among others the defense intercepted 29 enemy passes and made 24 fumble recoveries. Plus the defense allowed on 13.6 points a game compared to 22.4 in 1970. Corner back Mike Bass led the team with 8 interceptions including one brought back for a touchdown against Philadelphia. Jack Pardee and Myron Pottios solidified the linebacking corps of the defense and acquisitions of Ron McDole and Verlon Biggs improved the defensive line. Making the defensive backfield of Bass, Fischer, Petitbon, and Brig Owens much more effective.
Running back Larry Brown had a solid season rushing the football with 948 yards from scrimmage. The other back Charlie Harraway contributed another 635 yards to the attack giving them a formidable tandem in the backfield. The passing game suffered a bit with injury to Taylor although Jefferson did lead the team with 47 catches for 701 yards. KIcker Curt Knight contributed 27/27 extra points and a disappointing 29/49 on field goals. Including a disappointing 3/11 between the 40 to 49 yard line on his kicks.
In 1971 among the highlights beside making the playoffs was defeating Dallas and going on the road in December in front of a national television audience beating Los Angeles 38-24 to clinch their first playoff spot since 1945. A week ten 13-0 loss to Dallas hurt their prospects for a division championship. A 6-1-1 mark in the rugged NFC East contributed heavily toward making the playoffs as a wild card. It was still a season of triumph for Washington and the renewal of championship caliber football in Washington after being for many years an easy win for the good teams.
1971 Washington Redskins highlight film
1971 Washington Redskins John Schaeffer