Washington Commanders NFL Legacy: History, Rivalries & Fans

The Washington Commanders’ legacy stretches back to their inception in 1932, making them one of the NFL’s storied franchises. With a history that includes pioneering the league’s first marching band and radio network, they’ve been at the forefront of football culture. However, recent seasons have seen the team struggle to recapture its former glory, with the latest campaign proving particularly challenging.

As the Commanders face a daunting December schedule, starting with a clash against the high-flying Miami Dolphins, fans are bracing for what could be a defining moment in their season. This article will delve into the team’s current predicament, the historical context that has shaped them, and the crucial decisions that loom on the horizon.

History of the Washington Commanders

Founding of the Team

The origins of the Washington Commanders stretch back to 1932 when the franchise began as the Boston Braves. George Preston Marshall, their original owner, took the team onto the field for the first time in the nation’s pastime’s home, Fenway Park. After just one season, the franchise relocated to Griffith Stadium and adopted the Washington moniker. This move not just solidified the team’s geographical roots but also marked the beginning of its long-standing relationship with the nation’s capital. In its formative years, the team set the pace in the NFL with their innovative spirit being evident not only in their game play but also in their contributions to the culture of football such as pioneering the NFL’s first marching band and establishing the first league-wide radio network.

Team Name Changes

Throughout its history, the team underwent several name changes, reflecting a journey through evolving cultural contexts and branding identities. When the franchise moved to Washington D.C. in 1937, it became known as the Redskins—a name that would become contentious later in its history. This name endured for decades until societal perspectives and advocacy for change prompted a fundamental rebranding. In a historic move in 2020, after years of controversy and changing public sentiment, the franchise discarded the Redskins name. A temporary moniker, the Washington Football Team, served as a placeholder while stakeholders sought a more permanent identity. This rebranding effort culminated with the official adoption of the Washington Commanders in 2022, a name reflecting the city’s association with leadership and the nation’s military history.

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Retired Jersey Numbers

In honoring the legacies of the most distinguished players who have donned their uniforms, the Commanders have retired several jersey numbers. These numbers serve as a hallmark, reminding fans and players alike of the indelible mark these sports icons have left on the franchise. The team’s dedication to preserving the legacy of past players demonstrates the deep sense of history and respect for those who helped build the franchise’s reputation. Each retired number hangs as a banner, symbolizing excellence and inspiring current and future Commanders to reach the heights of those who played before them.

Team Records and Achievements

Super Bowl Wins

The Washington Commanders, under the expert guidance of Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach, Joe Gibbs, have a rich history of success in the league. Highlighting their achievements are the three Super Bowl victories they clinched in 1982, 1987, and 1991. The 1991 team, especially, is revered as one of the best in NFL history, notching up an impressive 485 total points during the regular season while allowing just nine sacks, a testament to both their offensive prowess and their rock-solid defense.

Conference Championships

While Super Bowl wins are often the most celebrated benchmark of success, the path to those victories is paved with conference championships. The Commanders have had their share of conference success, earning multiple trips to the Super Bowl via hard-fought contests in the NFC Championship. These moments have solidified their position as a formidable force in the National Football Conference over the years.

Division Championships

Beyond the conference level, the Commanders have also showcased their skills within their division, claiming the NFC East title multiple times. Each division championship has served as a stepping stone to greater postseason achievements, including their aforementioned conference and Super Bowl victories. The team’s dominance in their division is one of the clear signs of their enduring competitive spirit and ability to consistently perform at a high level.

Hall of Famers

Legacy is often measured by the individuals who transcend the sport, and the Washington Commanders are represented by several luminaries in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. These Hall of Famers have been celebrated for their remarkable contributions to the game, including their time with the Commanders, where they left an indelible mark on the franchise and its storied history.

Pro Bowl Players

Recognizing individual excellence, many Commanders players have been selected to the Pro Bowl over the years. This honor, voted on by coaches, players, and fans, indicates that Commanders’ athletes are among the elite at their respective positions. Their selections to this prestigious event underscore the high level of talent that has been a part of the Commanders’ roster, contributing significantly to the team’s successes and the delight of their fans.

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Rivalries and Key Games

The fierce competition and storied histories between NFL teams often transcend the field, giving rise to intense rivalries celebrated and dreaded by fans alike. For the Washington Commanders, two rivalries stand out, capturing the essence of competition and camaraderie in American football. The team also has had key games that have defined its legacy and shaped its future.

Rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys

The Washington Commanders’ rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys is one of the most storied in the NFL, oozing with history and intensity. This rivalry goes beyond just the games; it encapsulates cultural and regional pride. The Commanders and Cowboys have met over a hundred times, with each game often having significant implications for the standings in the NFC East. Their clashes have been marked by memorable plays, come-from-behind victories, and sometimes even playoff spots hanging in the balance.

When the Commanders meet the Cowboys, the air is thick with anticipation. Dallas, branded ‘America’s Team,’ ignites the competitive spirit of the Washington fanbase. The Thanksgiving matchups, in particular, have become a ritual, with families across the country tuning in to witness these gridiron battles.

Rivalry with the New York Giants

Equally riveting is the Washington Commanders’ rivalry with the New York Giants. Geographic proximity and decades of competition have fueled this rivalry. The Giants, like the Cowboys, are fellow NFC East contenders, making each meeting a high-stakes endeavor. While the intensity may fluctuate with the ebb and flow of the teams’ successes, the rivalry remains a constant.

Their encounters often prove to be tipping points in their seasons. Whether it’s scrapping for a division title or fighting to avoid the basement of the standings, games against the Giants are invariably charged with emotion and urgency.

Key Games in Team History

The Washington Commanders’ annals are replete with key games that have left an indelible mark on the franchise. From playoff victories to monumental upsets, certain games stand out.

  • Super Bowl XVII: The 1982 championship win over the Miami Dolphins was headlined by the iconic “70 Chip” play, catapulting the Commanders to their first Super Bowl victory.
  • The NFC Championship Games of the 1980s and early 1990s: These games forged the team’s reputation as a dominant force, leading to three Super Bowl victories under coach Joe Gibbs.
  • Recent head-to-heads against the Cowboys: They signify more than just traditional rivalry games but can signal coaching and player changes depending on the outcome. For instance, a heavy loss on Thanksgiving can have ramifications that resonate beyond the season, exemplified by coaching staff adjustments in response to underperformance.

Such moments aren’t just milestones; they’re melded into the legacy of the Commanders, forming the narrative that threads through the fabric of NFL history.

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Team Traditions and Fanbase

Fight Song

The Washington Commanders boast a legacy of vibrant team traditions, one of which is their distinctive fight song. Its origins trace back to the team’s early days, serving as a rousing anthem that fuels the competitive spirit of both the players and supporters alike. Fans often sing the fight song in unison, creating an electrifying atmosphere that reverberates throughout the stadium, rallying the team ahead of fierce gridiron battles.

Fan Traditions

Fan traditions are the lifeblood of the Washington Commanders’ game-day experience. Tailgating outside the stadium has become a ritual, where fans clad in burgundy and gold share food, music, and camaraderie hours before kickoff. Custom chants and cheers learned over generations resonate through the crowds, reaffirming their unwavering dedication to the team. Inside the arena, wave upon wave of deafening support rises from the stands, providing the Commanders with what’s often referred to as the “twelfth man” on the field.

Fanbase Demographics

The demographic landscape of the Commanders’ fanbase showcases a vast and varied portrait of devoted followers. Spanning different ages, genders, and backgrounds, the fanbase unites under a mutual passion for their team. They’re known for their loyalty, often sporting vintage team memorabilia that evokes eras of past glories. This diverse group gathers at the stadium and in living rooms across the nation, each game day displaying their support and hoping for another victory to add to the team’s storied history.


The Washington Commanders carry a legacy rich with tradition and triumphs. They’ve not only made their mark with Super Bowl victories but also through cultural contributions that resonate with fans across the nation. Their evolution from the Boston Braves to the Commanders reflects a franchise responsive to change while maintaining a deep respect for its past. With fierce rivalries fueling the competitive spirit and a fanbase unwavering in its support the Commanders continue to be a formidable presence in the NFL. The team’s commitment to excellence and honoring its history ensures that the Washington Commanders will remain a storied part of football for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

When did the Washington Redskins become the Washington Commanders?

The Washington Redskins officially became the Washington Commanders in 2022, after undergoing a thorough rebranding process initiated in 2020.

Why were the Washington Commanders originally named the Boston Braves?

The team was originally named the Boston Braves in 1932 because they played in the same stadium as the baseball team with the same name, creating a synergy between the two sports.

How many Super Bowl victories does the Washington Commanders franchise have?

The Washington Commanders franchise, formerly known as the Washington Redskins, has won three Super Bowl titles: XVII (1982 season), XXII (1987 season), and XXVI (1991 season).

Who are the Washington Commanders’ main rivals?

The Washington Commanders’ main rivals include the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants, reflecting historical and divisional competitions within the NFL.

What is the most famous tradition of the Washington Commanders’ fans?

The most famous tradition among Washington Commanders’ fans is the singing of the team’s fight song, “Hail to the Commanders,” a custom that dates back to the team’s earlier iterations.

How has the Washington Commanders franchise impacted the NFL historically?

The franchise has played a pioneering role in the NFL, establishing the league’s first marching band and the first league-wide radio network, offering significant contributions to the league’s culture and promotion.

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