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Joe Bugel’s Impact on the Redskins in the 80’s Was a Key to Their Success

By Marc Lande

Some of us in DC did not particularly like Joe Gibbs during his 1st tenure. Some of us even sat in the stands and bickered wishing we had the Senators back. Back in the 80s, I heard often from buddies, “Baseball is far better than football.”

Year in and year out through the 80s, I would hear the whining and complaining and pundits on Washington football teams inability to win in a non-strike season. But one, the whole town agreed on, whether more of a Senator lover or just a Gibbs detractor or a die-hard Washington football team fanatic: that Joseph John Bugel (March 10, 1940 – June 28, 2020), genius!

Put Bugel on the Mt. Rushmore of offense line (OL) coaches for the whole history of the NFL!

Most of us agree on defending that the Mall is great for tourist, most of us like to defend a current administration when it’s their parties turn in office, hmmm…but one things is for sure, when it came to a Bugel coached line: the QB would be defended and the running game would always be a factor.

From Timmy Smith’s performance against Denver to runners like Byner and Bryant and Ervin and Rogers and Riggs and Riggins and little Joe Washington, Bugel’s genius of how to coach and teach lineman made stars for the decade plus of Gibbs.

Even though Bugel had moved onto a head coaching position in Arizona by 1992, this writer believes Bugel can share in a slice of the Washington football teams biggest accomplishment from this writers perspective: getting Rypien protection for a whole season so we did not see him fumble on every other play. Remember the 1991-1992 Washington football team still holds the record for fewest sacks in a season: 9.

The Super Bowl performance by Doug Williams and Gary Clark and Art Monk and Rickey Sanders and Clint Dider was made possible by Bugel’s and Gibb’s and the rest of the staff’s Xs and Os in part.

A sad day in Washington to read of Bugel’s passing. It was also sad that Bugel never was made a head coach here in DC. Most of us fans thought that Bugel should have been given a shot especially after Petitbon’s failure. Sort of like how many of us still feel that Russ Grimm should had been given a shot as head coach! Or, even, a former player like Todd Bowles!

Note: I love everything the Washington football team has done this past offseason with the hiring of Ron Rivera and Jennifer King and Bobby Mitchell’s jersey retirement and players and the organization speaking against injustice.

Well, almost everything and the thing they have not done has outweighed what would have been a wonderful but bittersweet offseason. If Dan changes the name and logo to an indigenous name and logo what a bittersweet but historic off season this will be. RIP Bobby Mitchell!

And one more story. I was living in San Diego in 1999 and taking a class at University of San Diego-La Hoya. As I was driving off campus some random late morning, I drove onto a big cul de sac like road with a smallish football field if football fields can be small. As I am driving around to get out of this area of UCSD I realize: that is the San Diego Chargers team OTA!

I am trying to spot players and then I see Bugel right near the chain link fence that separates the road from the field. Thinking I might never have a chance to meet Buges.

In terms of football genius: this was like Mick Jaggar, or Ray Charles or Bill Parcels.

I walked right up upon Bugel and since I was hooting and hollering they probably were unconcerned with me being a spy for another team. Crazy person, maybe! I started telling him how much we miss him and need him back yada yada yada.

I think I put my hand through the chain link fence and got a quick handshake from a guy who was trying to ignore me or rather do his job for the most part. That is my recollection all these years later.

I jump back into my car and sped off.

With a handshake or fence shake from a King I will always remember how much love we had for Bugel! Joe, you were missed and loved and cherished here in DC. RIP!


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