20 saddest moments in Washington Commanders history

Sean Taylor
Sean Taylor / James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
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Commanders saddest player/coach moments

Vince Lombardi

They don’t name the championship trophy after you if you’re not pretty special. Vince Lombardi was special.

When Edward Bennett Williams convinced Lombardi to leave Green Bay and take over the struggling Washington franchise, it signaled the end of decades of mediocrity. The team was back on the road to championships. Sadly, he wouldn’t live to see it.

He was diagnosed with cancer after his first season in Washington. He still arranged to watch practices from his hospital bed, but the disease eventually won out. Grown men cried when coach Lombardi passed away.

Joe Theismann - Former Commanders QB

Joe Theismann had a big ego and an equally big mouth, and that rubbed some people the wrong way. But he also was a tough guy and a quality quarterback who won Washington’s first Super Bowl. And that got him a lot of fans.

Everyone – whether they loved him or hated him – was punched in the gut by the gruesome injury he suffered when sacked by the Lawrence Taylor in 1985.

Taylor’s immediate desperate calls for help gave the indication that something was terribly wrong. Theismann’s leg had split in two and was now twisted at an unnatural angle. His career was over.

Washington would go on to have continued success with quarterbacks Doug Williams and Mark Rypien, but something ended that night. Theismann certainly wasn’t the only player to see his career conclude so abruptly. Memories of Yazoo Smith and Jess Atkinson always accompany thoughts of th signal-caller.  

When Alex Smith suffered a similarly catastrophic leg injury in 2018, it again recalled sad memories. Everyone who plays and watches knows about the danger. When it happens to a player with such a deep history with the team, and in such a public manner, it just hits that much harder.

Sean Taylor - Former Commanders S

Injuries are a sadly expected part of the game. What happened to Sean Taylor is not.

Every Commanders fan knows this story. Taylor was on the cusp of a Pro Football Hall of Fame career when he was murdered during a robbery attempt at his home on November 18, 2007. The team and its fanbase were devastated.

Back in 1954, another Washington player, 26-year-old Dave Sparks collapsed and died due to cardiac arrest a couple of hours after playing in a game. The team and its fanbase were also devastated.

There’s simply no rationale to explain those things away. Sometimes, very bad things happen. I considered writing about the team’s disappointing attempt to recognize Taylor with a memorial in November 2022, but decided to leave that one alone. You can put it on your list if you want.

Hopefully, that trip down nightmare alley was cathartic. Now we can all get ready for the happy memories sure to be manufactured by the 2023 Washington Commanders.