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Bugel's 'Hogs' Had Deep Impact


There was the "Doomsday Defense" in Dallas. The "Purple People Eaters" in Minnesota. The "Steel Curtain" in Pittsburgh. Even the "Killer B's" in Miami.

All nicknames of great defenses--and primarily defensive lines--in the 1970s.

In the 1980s, Washington countered those dominant defenses with a dominant offensive line that would do the grunt work of a team that would win three Super Bowl championships in nine years.

The game of football changed as a result.

Washington drafted Russ Grimm and Mark May in 1981 and discovered Joe Jacoby as an undrafted free agent that year. They joined veteran George Starke, second-year lineman Jeff Bostic, running back John Riggins and the team's tight ends to form the "Hogs," the nickname given to the group by renowned offensive line coach Joe Bugel.

A new class of Hogs would emerge in the mid- and late-1980s, including Raleigh McKenzie, Ed Simmons, Jim Lachey and Mark Schlereth.

Bugel directed "The Hogs" from 1981-89 in Washington and then returned to the franchise to coach the offensive line again from 2004-09.

In his first tenure with Washington, Bugel's impact proved to be far-reaching in how offensive linemen are portrayed in the game.

"Back in [the 1970s], people always talked about the great defenses--the Doomsday Defense, the Purple People Eaters, and all that stuff," McKenzie said after Bugel's retirement press conference at the team facility. "It was Joe Bugel who brought recognition to the offensive line."

Although McKenzie wasn't an original Hog, he quickly became synonymous with the group because he played all five positions on the line.

"It was not just the way that we played, it was also the whole temperament that we played with," McKenzie recalled. "Joe was such a great teacher that he had all the guys doing one thing together.

"When [television commentator] John Madden picked up on it at the time, it seemed like everyone took it in and rolled with it. The Hogs were formed. And it wasn't a fluke. It was a whole dynasty of years of greatness."


Starke joined Washington in 1971 as an 11th-round draft pick and would establish himself as a regular contributor two years later. When the Hogs gained prominence during Washington's Super Bowl XVII run in 1982, Starke was given the nickname "The Head Hog" due to his veteran status.

Since Starke played the bulk of his career in the pre-Hogs era, he remembers how playing offensive line was often a thankless job.

Now, current players often seek out Starke and other Hogs to thank them for changing how offensive linemen are perceived.

"Whenever I go to a training camp, whenever the linemen see me come in the door, the first thing they always say is, 'Thanks,'" Starke said. "It was the Hogs that made it so that offensive linemen make a lot of money in today's game.

"No one ever talked about the offensive line before the Hogs. It changed how people look at football. Now everybody knows you have to have a good offensive line."

Talking to reporters after his retirement press conference, Bugel said that giving his offensive line a nickname was a challenge of sorts.

"When you give a group a nickname, they better back it up," Bugel said. "Also, if you give a group a nickname, you have to understand there can be a lot of jealousy on a football team. But this team accepted it. The whole team did, and they thought it was really neat.

"When other teams started saying, 'We're going to butcher the Hogs,' and stuff like that, I think [the Washington offensive linemen] took it as a personal affront. They were nasty, and that was a great bunch to coach."

They were so good and so close as a group--their headquarters was "The Five O'Clock Club," a small tool shed at the team facility --that they took practical jokes to another level.

Bugel laughed at how he felt like he needed to wear a helmet inside the dormitory during training camp because a brick might fall on his head as he opened his dorm room door.

Even the "Boss Hog" was not immune from their hijinks.

He had their respect, though.

"The Redskins have been to the Super Bowl with different running backs, different quarterbacks, but for a long spell the offensive line didn't change--it was the Hogs," Starke said. "That's Joe Bugel. He created a name and a brand of football and a history that changed how people looked at football.

"Everybody wants to be the Hogs today."

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