They had finished strong in 1981 with an 8-8 record, after starting the season with one victory in their first six games.
That team had many stars like Hall Of Fame players John Riggins and Art Monk. They also had such legends like Joe Theisman, Lamar Parrish, Joe Jacoby, Russ Grimm, Joe Washington, Coy Bacon, George Starke, Brad Dusek, Monte Coleman, Dave Butz, Dexter Manley, Ron Saul, Jeff Bostic, Mark May, Richard Caster, Mark Mosely, and Mike Nelms.
Nelms was the only player who made the Pro Bowl off of that team. Nelms was a fearless return specialist most noted for never calling a fair catch on a punt.
Washington had an excellent special teams, led by Pete Cronin and Dallas Hickman. They also had a very young offensive line. Grimm, Jacoby, May, and Melvin Jones were all rookies who started most of the games they played that year. Bostic was in his second year.
Joe Gibbs was also a rookie head coach, though he had been a very successful assistant coach for many years with teams like the Saint Louis Cardinals, San Diego Chargers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His brilliance was evident in his first season, as he began to implement an offensive system that would soon be copied by the rest of the league.
The 1982 season started out with two wins for the Redskins. Then a players strike halted play in the NFL for 57 days. Seven games would be lost for the season after play resumed.
The team was one of the youngest in the league, after undergoing several personnel changes. Veteran players like Parrish, Bacon, Dusek, Hickman, and Saul had either retired or joined other teams.
The Redskins averaged 3.7 years of playing experience on their roster, and the starters were even younger. The defense had six players with three years or less of experience in the NFL. The offense had seven such players.
Washington also had a tremendous coaching staff to teach these young players. Men like Joe Bugel, Dan Henning, Rich Petitbon, Wayne Sevier, Don Breaux, Larry Peccatiello, Warren Simmons, and Hall Of Famer Charley Taylor.
Bugel coached up a young group of blockers to make history that year, dubbing them "The Hogs." Taylor took Monk under his wing, and molded him into one of the best in NFL history alongside Taylor himself. Monk, a college quarterback, had the perfect teacher for his type of game.
Taylor also took the other wide receivers and got the best out of them, including a rookie by the name of Charlie Brown. Brown was a rookie drafted in the eighth round that year who would be named to the Pro Bowl squad after the season.
The group of receivers was comprised of Monk, Brown, Alvin Garrett, and Virgil Seay. This group of players would be known as "The Fun Bunch."
Giaquinto was an undrafted player who attended both Bridgeport University and the University of Connecticut. He is just the second player to have played in the NFL from Bridgeport, and was the 11th player from UConn to make it.
He is the only player from Bridgeport to be part of an NFL Championship team, and the second from UConn since Pop Williams of the 1928 Providence Steam Roller.
Nick still holds the UConn record for most yards rushing in a game, when he gained 277 yards during his senior year against Holy Cross in 1976.
After he graduated, he tried out for the New York Giants and was cut after training camp. Giaquinto tried again the next year, this time with the New York Jets. Unfortunately, he was cut again.
In 1980, Giaquinto tried out with the Miami Dolphins, coached by Hall Of Famer Don Shula. He made the team, which had many excellent players like Hall Of Fame Quarterback Bob Griese, Hall Of Fame Center Dwight Stevenson, Bob Kuechenberg, Nat Moore, A.J. Duhe, Tony Nathan, and future NFL coach Terry Robiske.
"I really thank Coach Shula for taking a chance on me, and give him a lot of credit for doing so," Giaquinto said.
Nick was used in a variety of ways that year. He returned a career high nine kickoffs and seven punt returns. He also caught 24 passes, one that went for a touchdown, and rushed the ball five times.
Giaquinto returned to the Dolphins for the 1981 season, but was cut after the last exhibition game. Miami then started having injury issues with their running backs after the second week of the season, and brought Giaquinto back.
He stayed with the team for eight weeks. He ran the ball three times, caught seven passes for one touchdown, and had a kickoff return.
Miami was now having injury issues on their defensive side, so they cut Giaquinto again.
Henning was in his first season as the Redskins offensive coordinator, having left the Dolphins the season before. He was familiar with Giaquinto, and the Redskins needed more running back depth. They quickly signed Nick off the waiver wire.
He stayed with the team the remaining six games of the season, and scored a touchdown and had five receptions. He also carried the ball a career-high 17 times for 73 yards.
Nick was now an integral part of the team, and a fan favorite. Joe Gibbs nicknamed him "The Trashman", because of Giaquinto's versatility and ability to do everything on the field that others couldn't do.
When the Redskins were able to resume playing, there were seven games left on the schedule. They would win six of those games.
They were a power running team, but they also had a balanced offense and excellent defense. The defense would finish the season ranked first in the league that year, allowing just 14.2 points per game.
The running game was primarily carried by Riggins, but Joe Washington and Clarence Harmon also saw significant carries.
The passing game was spread out to several players. Monk led the team in receptions with 35, while Brown had 32 receptions for a 21.6 yards per catch average and eight touchdowns.
"Everyone had a role and accepted it," Giaquinto recalled. "We had several stars, but they played hard and appreciated the roles they were given."
Mark Mosely was named MVP of the league that season, and is the only kicker to ever achieve this honor.
The Redskins won their division, and headed into the playoffs on fire. They stomped the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings in consecutive weeks, scoring 52 points and giving up 14 total. They went on to face the Dallas Cowboys, their arch rivals, in the NFL Championship game.
The Redskins went into halftime leading 14-3. Despite knocking out Cowboys' starting quarterback Danny White from the game, Dallas still was able to close in on the lead by the end of the third quarter, trailing 21-17.
By now, Riggins was beginning to wear down the Cowboys defense, as well as control the clock. The Hogs had completely taken over the game, and the battle of the line of scrimmage. Nelms also made things worse for Dallas, returning a kickoff 76 yards.
After a field goal by Mosely, the game became a battle of field position in which the Redskins kept winning. The defense was stellar, holding running back Tony Dorsett, a Hall Of Famer, to just 57 yards on 17 carries.
Dallas had the ball on their own 10-yard line late in the fourth quarter, and needed to score quickly to tie the game. Gary Hogeboom, now the quarterback for Dallas, dropped back to throw.
Dexter Manley had been terrorizing the Cowboys quarterbacks all day, and he did so once again on this play. He hit Hogeboom as the ball was being released, and it was intercepted by defensive tackle Darryl Grant.
The Redskins' opponent in Super Bowl XVII was the Miami Dolphins, the same franchise that had defeated them in Super Bowl VII. Giaquinto also sought retribution against them for having cut him the season before.
Miami jumped out to a lead in the first quarter after Jimmy Cefalo took a pass 76 yards, the fifth longest in Super Bowl history, for a touchdown. After the two teams traded field goals, Garrett tied up the game on a four-yard reception.
Miami quickly responded, when Fulton Walker took the kickoff for a touchdown, the first in Super Bowl history, for a 98-yard score. This is still a record.
Though Washington trailed 17-10 at halftime, they weren't panicking. Their defense, minus that one pass play, was controlling the game for the most part. Miami would end up with only 176 total yards gained, and completed just four passes the entire game.
After Washington kicked a field goal in the third quarter, they went into the fourth quarter trailing by three points.
Now, they had Washington in a quandary. It was fourth down with one yard to go for the Skins at the Miami 43-yard line. It was too long for Mosely to attempt the field goal. Gibbs was confident his running game could get him that one yard, especially running behind Grimm and Jacoby.
The Redskins did that and more. Riggins broke off-tackle into a big hole, only to be greeted by Dolphins cornerback Don McNeal. Riggins outweighed McNeal by forty pounds, and ran right through him.
Washington was now in complete control of the game, but wanted to score again to ensure victory. They now were on the Miami six-yard line. They called a "Dash" play, where Theismann was to roll out to his right.
Giaquinto recalls the play vividly. "It might be my fondest memory of the season," he said. "I was supposed to stay in and block in case Miami blitzed, which they did. Bob Brudzinski, a veteran outside linebacker, came at me. I hadn't been able to block him in all the times I practiced against him in Miami, but on this play I was able to."
That block was critical, as it allowed Theisman time to find Brown in the right corner of the end zone for the clinching touchdown, as Washington won the game 27-17.
The victors came home to a huge throng of fans at the airport well past midnight, and the celebration had just begun. In fact, many of these fans are still as ecstatic now as they were then 27-years ago.
The team was special, and it was the beginnings of a dynasty that went to four Super Bowls in 10 years.
Giaquinto played the 1983 season, and was another part of history. Gibbs offensive system now started to employ an H-Back for the first time in NFL history, a position used by all teams these days. Nick was the very first player to play the position.
He responded with a career-high 27 receptions for 372 yards, a 13.8 yards per catch average. Giaquinto also scored his first career rushing touchdown on 14 carries for 53 yards, and returned two punts for 12 yards.
He retired after the Redskins lost Super Bowl XVIII, because he wanted to "get out in one piece." He has been the head baseball coach at Sacred Heart University the past 21 years, and has won many awards for his coaching ability.
They were a team that overcame so much even before they played in the NFL. Many of them were unwanted by other teams, and they united to prove everyone that they were champions in their spirit and playing ability.
They had to go through a players strike, then play without having lost a stride in their play. This is a difficult task in itself, but especially for such a young team that most of the rest of the league thought didn't had what it took to be special.
They were better than that, and beloved by the entire Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area. This is an area burgeoning with loyal fans of the team, and hardly any were upset with the players when they went on strike. All they really wanted was for them to return to the field.
Return to the field they did, in both an historical fashion and one of lore that will never be forgotten by any Redskins fan.
The 1982 Washington Redskins were more than the beginnings of a special era of football in the NFL. They were the team that carried an entire Redskins Nation on their backs to a victory not seen by any in 40 years.