I once ate gumbo at Doug Williams’ house in Zachary, Louisiana. This was a few years after his retirement from the NFL and his glory days of playing professional football in Washington D.C. We took photographs and he showed me around his home which is full of trophies and mementos of his playing days at Grambling State University. He was the top QB coming out of college back in the late 1970’s. He also had an assortment of photographic memories of his playing days in the NFL and the now defunct United States Football League (USFL.)
Of course, there was Super Bowl XXII of 1988 where he was voted MVP, when his team ended the big dreams of John Elway and the Denver Broncos with a 42-10 win and when Doug had the greatest offensive performance by a player in the history of the game according to many. He had the jersey of that game sealed inside a glass case, the grass stains still on it.
On the night of that game, after Doug’s legendary performance, my brother and I raced to the streets of the Georgetown corridor in DC and yelled loud over and over: “Big Doug…Big Doug…” as all the fans gathered in the streets from the bars.
Other fans would say to us, hey it is about the team, and we would correct them and remind them that maybe for them, but for us, African-Americans, this was about one guy – Doug Williams. Then we would yell “Big Doug” even louder.
The African-American quarterback, always capable, always ready, and always treated and evaluated differently, was on the way after that performance by Doug Williams. Williams, who had been asked by a reporter the week of the game, “how long have you been a black quarterback?” had changed everything in one day of football.
Doug Williams, Super Bowl hero, has returned to Washington D.C. to work in the front office of Dan Snyder’s troubled NFL team. I love Doug Williams more than any other Washington player but one wonders if Doug is the antidote to the mess he is entering. He surely has the skills and the résumé. He has been a college head coach and an assistant coach. He has also worked in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers front office doing player personnel work. But this task in Washington, with one of the league’s most dysfunctional franchises, is going to be quite a chore.
Two years ago, the team’s new rookie sensation, Robert Griffin III could do no wrong and could have run for mayor he was so good. This year, after a bad knee injury, on the field struggles, the typical Dan Snyder misguided management of the team, infighting, and the implosion of an egomaniac coach, fans were calling for RG3 to be traded so that backup quarterback Kurt Cousins could guide them to three losses. It was typical Washington fan desperation.
Washington NFL fans are spoiled and impatient. Williams can offer up some help. He was here during the steady Joe Gibbs’ years and he excelled in an organization that was solid. It wasn’t based just on talent, it had working parts: a great front office run by Bobby Beathard, a great coach and coaching staff, and an owner who was charismatic but invisible. Snyder is neither.
It is also important to note that Doug Williams is an example of patience and endurance in professional sports. Despite leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the NFC Championship in 1979, he was paid trinkets in NFL money and was eventually let go by 1982. He bounced around the USFL and finally caught on with Washington as the back-up quarterback in 1986 as Joe Gibbs began putting together another Super Bowl run. But Williams, who finished 4th in Heisman Trophy voting coming out of college, always stayed prepared and focused. When his moment arrived in the 1988 season, he was ready to shine in the league’s biggest moment.
So I am writing to wish my hero, Doug Williams all the best as he enters the front office for the team I began rooting for when I was probably just a boy. Doug Williams knows football. He knows winning. Maybe he can convince Dan Snyder to also change the name of the team if they start winning. I doubt it but you can’t blame a fan for hoping.