Skip to main content

News | Washington Commanders -

Joe Bugel, Legendary Coach And Leader Of 'The Hogs,' Passes Away


Joe Bugel, the legendary offensive line coach who had two stints with the Redskins and coined the nickname "The Hogs," passed away Sunday morning. He was 80 years old.

Bugel, who held coaching positions at the college and professional levels for 46 years, was mostly known for his times with the Redskins from 1981-89 and 2004-09. He won two Super Bowls working on head coach Joe Gibbs' staff, and is widely recognized as one of the greatest offensive line coaches in NFL history.

Bugel first joined the Redskins as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach after stints with the Detroit Lions and Houston Oilers. The offense saw immediate success under Bugel by finishing the season 10th in scoring after finishing 25th the previous season. On the ground, they were seventh in total touchdowns and 12th in total yards.

Heading into the 1982 season, the Redskins' offensive line featured franchise greats like Joe Jacoby, Jeff Bostic and Hall of Fame left guard Russ Grimm. One day during training camp, Bugel told Grimm and Bostic, "Okay, you hogs, let's get running down there." The nickname stuck, and from then on, the entire offensive line was known collectively as "The Hogs."

"He took a lot of young football players and taught them how to play the game instead of just going out there and playing the game," Bostic said. "He taught us how to play the game. It's like instilling habits into your children; if you do it at an early age they won't go away."

Later that year, "The Hogs" helped lead the Redskins to an 8-1 record and a Super Bowl victory over Miami Dolphins. The group cleared the way for running back John Riggins to rush for 166 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that gave the Redskins their first lead of the game.

The following season, Bugel and the "The Hogs" continued their dominance over defensive fronts, finishing the season third in rushing yards and with a league-best 30 rushing touchdowns. They rushed for 100-plus yards in 15 games en route to a 14-2 regular season record and a Super Bowl appearance against the Los Angeles Raiders. That year, the offense scored a then-NFL record 541 points.

"Joe had a great relationship with his players while coaching them very hard," said former assistant coach Don Breaux. "They really cared about him, and he was able to mold them into a group -- like a family."

In nine seasons leading the Redskins' offensive lines, Bugel helped produce eight winning records and participated in four conference championships. In 1987, he was back in the Super Bowl after his offensive line led a rushing game that finished with 2,102 yard on an average of 4.2 yards per carry. The Redskins blew out the Denver Broncos, 42-10, and rushed for 280 yards.

After the 1989 season, Bugel spent time with the Phoenix Cardinals, Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers before returning to the Redskins in 2004. Once again, Bugel's offensive lines produced standout rushing attacks. His offensive lines finished in the top 10 in yards per game in 2005 and 2006 while helping running backs Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts rush for 1,000-yard seasons.

With Bugel's offensive line clearing running lanes, Portis became one of the NFL's top backs, rushing for 6,597 yards and 44 touchdowns and averaging at least four yards per carry in all but two seasons. He finished with four top 5 rushing performances, including a league-best 1,262 yards in 2008.

Bugel, also known as Buges, retired at the end of the 2009-10 season, concluding a 15-year career with Washington. Two years later, he was recognized as a member of the "80 Greatest Redskins" of all time.

"It has been a great, great privilege for the Bugel family and myself to be able to retire as a Washington Redskin," Bugel said upon leaving the organization. "That means a lot to a lot of people, and it means a lot to me. ...The job is consuming, but I loved it. My family knew I loved it."