In 1972, the Washington Football Team represented the National Football Conference in Super Bowl VII against the Miami Dolphins. In order to get there, then Washington head coach George Allen demanded all control over player personnel decisions and decided to build his team with experienced players who he “did not have to mold to the NFL game.” The “Over-The-Hill Gang,” as Allen’s starting lineup with an average age of 31 years old came to be called, represented a team of players united by not just an ability to do a job, but moreover the ability to do a job both well and with pride in their craft, too. During Allen’s tenure with the team from 1971-1978, as buoyed by the veterans’ consistent play, the Washington Football Team won 69% of their regular season games. Allen’s legacy of preaching well-worn fundamentals first was even carried on by defensive stalwart Richie Petitbon, who was a Redskins assistant and/or head coach from 1982-1993. Extrapolating past 1972, there’s cause to believe that analyzing the success of the Washington Football Team from say, 1972-1993 — an era that saw the team win three Super Bowls using roughly the same strategy as in 1972 — there’s a lot of lessons that can be carried forward for DC regarding the link between time-tested people, places and standards equaling modern-day excellence.
For as much as DC’s next-level legacy will likely be built on the back of the tech sector and a wave of refurbished real estate, there’s something in creating a rock-solid bedrock standard of excellence based on time-tested standards that deserves to be remembered. As well, for as much as new DC will be built on new residents bringing a diverse set of new skills to the city, it’s important as well to remember classic DC and it’s residents who still hold jobs in the government sector, city education, and also have a history as sustainable entrepreneurs, too. One must understand that yes, there’s parts of DC that are certain to evolve and/or be forgotten in the future. That attrition is actually important, as in the cyclical nature of the universe, things must die in order for other things to live. However, when evolution is pushed too fast or without significant thought attached, the proverbial baby could potentially be tossed out with the bathwater. Sometimes when that’s done — and hopefully not in DC’s case — solid people who do solid work are left behind.
As well regarding old things that were cast unwisely cast aside, I think I think back on the recent past in DC and remember people like one-time DCPS chancellor Michelle Rhee whose progressive programs so radically changed the city’s school system that a lot of solid people, practices and instiutions were lost along the way. My thoughts also shift to housing in DC, also. I think about old rowhouses getting refurbished and becoming homes for gentrifying hipsters new-to-the-city, while at the same time there’s a city in the midst of an economic boom that could be subsidizing homes for middle-class renters who want to stay in the city in which they’re either working and/or living. For as much as bringing in a fresh income base is important to a city’s revitalization, allowing existing residents and earners to invest their income in the city is important, too. Key to remember is that 1 x 100 equals 100, just as 100 x 1 equals the same number.
George Allen once built a championship caliber and consistently competitive franchise in Washington, DC on the back of the idea that standards, consistency, time-tested notions and a veteran population were easier to work with than big moves, fast-thinking, progressive idealism and new people. In thinking about the future of the Nation’s Capital, let’s never forget the “Over The Hill Gang’s” legacy of excellence.