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Remembering Redskins Coach Bill Austin


The Washington Redskins said goodbye to an old friend this week, as former head coach William "Bill" Lee Austin passed away at his home in Las Vegas, Nev. He was 84 years old.

Austin oversaw a brief but important part of Redskins history, as he followed NFL legend Vince Lombardi to Washington to serve as the team's offensive line coach in 1969.

That season, the team enjoyed its first winning record in 14 years, further cementing the Lombardi legacy and setting up the roster for success in the 1970s and 80's.


Following Lombardi's abrupt passing from cancer on the eve of the 1970 season, Austin was charged with replicating the 1969 success with an emotionally deflated locker room.

Austin struggled in his one season at the helm, as the team sank from 7-5-2 and second place in the Capitol Division to 6-8 and fourth place in the NFC East.

Following the season, Redskins president Edward Bennett Williams fired Austin, replacing him with former L.A. Rams head coach George Allen, who ushered in a renaissance era of football in the Nation's Capital.

While the team struggled to win football games in 1970, Austin can be credited with a positive impact on the development of a young roster.

Second-year running back Larry Brown became the first running back in franchise history to rush for 1,000 yards, as his 1,125 yards on the season led the NFL and earned him All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors.

In many cases, it was the defense that let the team down, as the squad allowed the second-most rushing yards in the NFL that season and relinquished double-digit fourth quarter leads at home late in the season.

Washington Post columnist Bob Addie wrote after the team's 34-0 loss to Dallas in Week 12:

"The Redskins seem to have lost their spirit. It has been a traumatic year starting with the death in September of Vince Lombardi. It was too much to ask that Bill Austin assemble the stunned elements and mold them into a winning ballclub."

Despite taking the fall for the team's disappointing 1970 campaign, Austin found other coaching opportunities in Chicago and St. Louis before returning to Washington in 1973.

Recognizing his expertise on the offensive line, Redskins head coach George Allen hired Austin for five seasons as a unit coach.

In his return to the burgundy and gold, Austin worked with such players as tight end Jerry Smith and linemen Len Hauss, George Starke, Ron Saul and Terry Hermeling, as the team went to the playoffs three times in five years.

Austin leaves behind an enduring legacy as a football 'lifer,' with an NFL playing and coaching career that spanned four decades.

As an offensive guard for the New York Giants, Austin played seven seasons and was a part of the team's 1956 NFL Championship squad.

For two seasons at the end of his career, he played alongside former Redskins great Sam Huff, before retiring in 1957.

He did not last long away from the gridiron, taking up the coach's whistle in 1958 as the head coach at Wichita State University.

His first NFL coaching job was on Lombardi's Packers' staff in 1959, taking over command of the offensive line.




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