They helped save the Washington Redskins’ season, winning three games while other contenders lost the same number. For their efforts, the Redskins awarded the 1987 replacement players with a share of the playoff money.
On Tuesday, the Redskins will host a ceremony to give those replacement players what many wanted most: a Super Bowl ring. At least 22 of them will attend -- and there’s a chance some who were on the other side of the picket line will be there as well.
“There’s a time and place for everything,” said Charley Casserly, the former Redskins general manager who will host the ceremony.
“There’s no way in the climate in 1987 you could give them rings. There was tremendous animosity. No player stood up and said they should be recognized. ... It evolved over time; a number of our players stood up and said they should -- some of our high-profile players. I evolved with it. I always felt they needed to be recognized.”
Each replacement player did receive a playoff share of approximately $27,000. But no rings.
A year ago, ESPN aired “The Year of the Scab,” a movie in the "30 For 30" series that featured the Redskins’ replacement players. During the film, some players on the other side of the picket line -- notably defensive linemen Dexter Manley and Darryl Grant -- said they believed the replacements should get a ring. One player did stick around after the strike and received a ring because he played in the NFC Championship Game (but not the Super Bowl): receiver Anthony Allen.
Other former players, including Doug Williams, then the Redskins’ quarterback and currently their senior vice president of player personnel, have since said the replacement players deserve a ring.
The Redskins’ 1987 replacement players went 3-0, so when the strike ended, Washington was 4-1 overall. Meanwhile, the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants didn’t put as much effort into finding replacement players and went 0-3. They were 0-5 when the season resumed and finished 6-9. Casserly said he remembers one picture of a Giants player asleep on the bench. The Philadelphia Eagles were 0-3 and 1-4; the Dallas Cowboys were in better shape, going 2-1 en route to 3-2.
Washington hosted the NFC Championship Game -- a 17-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings -- in part because of the success it had while the regular players were on strike. The Redskins beat the Denver Broncos 42-10 in Super Bowl XXII.
"These were kids looking for a chance and it showed in how they played. The coaches did a phenomenal job focusing on it and making guys feel wanted. That meant something and the players responded. They played their butts off."Charley Casserly
The replacements’ biggest triumph: a 13-7 victory over Dallas on Monday Night Football. It was their last game, with the strike having ended and the regular players returning the following week. The Cowboys, though, featured several veterans who crossed the picket line, such as running back Tony Dorsett and defensive linemen Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Randy White. The Redskins didn’t have anyone cross the picket line.
Instead, they countered with players such as right tackle Willard Scissum, who was working as a security guard at a 7-Eleven in a tough area when signed.
“He had a tougher nighttime job than playing Too Tall Jones,” Casserly said. “He held him to no sacks.”
Before the game, Redskins coach Joe Gibbs told the players this is what they wanted: a chance to prove what they could do on national TV.
“The players had no fear of that game,” Casserly said. “They saw it as an opportunity. It was their last game, one more shot to play.”
The replacements signed by Washington were part of a well-thought-out process. The Redskins sought players who had been in training camp with them or who fit their system.
“That was the key,” said Casserly, then an assistant to general manager Bobby Beathard. “We had to play a game in 10 days. There were big names on the street looking for another paycheck. These were kids looking for a chance and it showed in how they played. The coaches did a phenomenal job focusing on it and making guys feel wanted. That meant something and the players responded. They played their butts off.”
Among those getting a ring: Ted Karras Jr. His father and uncle (Alex Karras) both won championship rings with the Chicago Bears; his son, Ted Karras III, won a ring with the New England Patriots last year. And Karras Jr. won an NAIA championship with Marian University in Indiana.
To prepare for this event, Casserly caught up with those coming to town. He spoke with Beathard and they reminisced about that period.
“A lot of teams did not take it seriously,” Casserly said. “Our coaches did. The players said that once they sensed that, it was big to them. They treated them like NFL players.”