Thirty years ago, John Riggins’ rushing helped carry Washington through the playoffs and to a victory in Super Bowl XVII, and his 1982 postseason play becomes all the more amazing to ponder with each passing year.
For starters, Riggins carried a staggering workload, racking up 37, 36 and 38 carries in Washington’s final three playoff games, per Pro Football Reference data. Overall, he gained 610 yards on 136 carries in Washington’s four playoff games. His 38 rushing attempts in Super Bowl XVII remain an overall game record, and this could be a standard that continues to stand for a long time, given how teams are more apt to use multiple backs these days.
Also, Riggins was 33 in January 1983, which isn’t exactly young by NFL standards. To put this in some current context, the 49ers’ Frank Gore will be 33 in the 2016 postseason.
In a recent interview with Rich Tandler of CSNWashington.com, Riggins said he takes pride in how he told coach Joe Gibbs he wanted all of the work he could get in the 1982 postseason.
“I’ve never been the guy to step forward and volunteer for anything. But there was a lot on the line . . . it was my 12th year in the league and I knew this was the moment,” Riggins told CSNWashington.com. “If you don’t stand up, the rest of your life you’re going to be sitting there going, ‘I wish I would have said something.’ ”
“So at least I had what it took in that moment to raise my hand and say, ‘I’ll go.’ ”
And then he went out and backed up his words in a four-game stretch that epitomized what being a workhorse back is all about.