John Riggins wanted the ball in the 1982 playoffs, and he got it


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, 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 “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.

28 responses to “John Riggins wanted the ball in the 1982 playoffs, and he got it

  1. John Riggins is the best RB to ever live and no one can tell me otherwise. The flair, passion, unrelentless agressive style. Top 5 RBs in NFL History – Riggins, E.Campbell, B.Sanders, W.Payton and Clinton Portis in that order. #Herecomesthediesel

  2. I remember watching him just run people over. Drag defenders with him.
    I’m glad I got to see it…

  3. The only player that was ever worth a damn on the soon-to-be-ex-Redskins, new name to be the Washington Politically Correct Cowards

  4. He was a true football player. There was no self glorification with that guy. I miss his style.

  5. A true HOF who dose not get the respect that he truly deserves. Just to let all you guys know his best years were with The Redskins and did all of his greatest accomplishment in his early 30s. I can’t think of too many RBs in today’s football doing what he did. Setting records that still stand today.

  6. Did you purposely not use the word “Redskins” in this article?

    You used “Washington” about 8 or 9 times, it seems.

    I didnt realize this was a political website.

  7. I’ve followed football for 35 years, and I’ve never seen anything like what Riggins did. The Redskins made no attempt to hide that they would had him the ball on first down, on second down, and on third down, over and over and over until they’d run out the clock. Riggins’ per-carry average was lower because of this, but he churned out yardage, despite defenses knowing for certain that the team wouldn’t pass.

    Riggins was one of the very greatest players in NFL history, and a delightful character off the field.

  8. Redskins baby,the team everybody seems to hate as of lately….After this season they gonna hate even more when the Redskins go on a rampage!!!

  9. Yea dude. its called doing your job. You were a running back. They hand you the ball.

    You want a pat on the backside for that?

    Ottis Anderson would say the same thing when he was in his 30s in 1990.

  10. Riggins; great RB, definitely on a short list of the best. One consideration during the 82 season was the strike. Riggins didn’t have a full 16 games of “wear” and was just hitting mid season form when the playoffs started. Still a very good performance by an “old man”.

  11. Thank you for writing a positive article devoid of the bashing about the Redskins name. My hat is off to you sir.

  12. Trivia question of the day:

    Who broke the Kansas state 100-yd dash record held by Gale Sayers?

    Answer: John Riggins



    Frank Herzog’s moment in the sun, forever.

    Riggo is one of the NFL’s true individuals. An iconoclast who could back up his individuality with real talent.

  14. Another factor that played in Riggins late career impact was that he did not play in 1980. He sat out the year due to a contract conflict.

  15. flash forward to the dan snyder era…

    snyder has alienated several of the greatest redskins of all time including john riggins.

    snyder needs to bring in guys like antwaan randel el to be team spokespersons —

    at the games i yell for antwaan to go back to pittsburgh, he never did nothin here

    snyder uses highlight reels of larry centers, guss frerotte and bruce smith to stroke his ego, what a joke but hopefully shannahan can keep the play on the field pointed correctly…


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