Super Bowl week is the time when legends of the big game get to relive the glory of those championship moments that stand the test of time. Although Pro Football Hall of Famers are considered the most select fraternity in pro sports, the most valuable players of the annual NFL showdown have their unique place in the history of the game.
Thirty years to the day after Doug Williams put to bed the myth that Black quarterbacks couldn’t lead a team to an NFL championship, he was not making his rounds in Minneapolis enjoying the adulation that goes with his benchmark MVP performance. Instead, Williams was at work in Ashburn, Va., hoping to restore glory to the franchise that gave him the platform to make history.
After starting the season as a backup to Jay Schroeder, Williams took full advantage of his opportunity to start when Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs inserted him into the lineup in November. Despite a knee injury in the first quarter of Super Bowl XXII he toughed through the pain after twisting his knee and produced the greatest single passing quarter in the game’s history.
Down 10-0 Washington erupted for 42 unanswered points behind four second-quarter touchdown passes by Williams that blew the game open. His MVP stat line was 18 of 29 for 340 yards and four touchdowns—this after six hours of root canal surgery one day before the game.
“No doubt the memories are still clear,” said Williams. “You can never forget being the first to do something. Nobody can ever take that away.”
Williams is now at the top of the chain in Washington’s football operation as senior vice president of player personnel. While his counterparts were savoring the memories of their success in championship games from days gone by, he was preparing for the draft and NFL free agency in the aftermath of a blockbuster trade with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Washington traded cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third-round draft pick to the Chiefs for quarterback Alex Smith. That ended the ongoing saga of whether to pay Kirk Cousins an enormous long-term maximum contract normally reserved for players who can at least get them to the playoffs. It also gives Washington over $36 million of salary cap space and a budget to spend in free agency. It gives them financial flexibility to fill the holes so glaring they haven’t made the playoffs for the last three years. Williams leads Washington into the official offseason with the opportunity to be aggressive in free agency and the pressure of having to spend their money wisely.
“Kirk played well for us but deep down inside he really wanted to test free agency,” Williams told the AFRO. “He played in a system where we had a lot of talented offensive players around him. But [he needed] to understand that if you break the bank to sign him [we] [wouldn’t] have enough money to sign other players that could help him win.”
Williams’ resilience demonstrated as a player will be tested as he begins the latest chapter of his football life. Washington’s talent pool has improved over the last two years although depth behind the starters still must get better—especially along the offensive and defensive lines—for them to contend.
Williams now leads the organization into a critical offseason where the standard bearer of the league is now in Washington’s division. He knows what it takes to win a championship as a player but duplicating that as an executive may be a more challenging feat.