Time Machine-Doug Williams
Excerpts taken from Quarter-Black, the autobiography of Doug Williams.
Douglas Lee “Doug” Williams was born on August 9, 1955 in Zachary, Louisiana. Doug was the sixth of eight children growing up, Doug’s oldest brother, Robert attended Grambling State University, and his oldest sister, Josephine, was married and had moved out, which still left Doug parents and six children in a small three-bedroom house. Doug’s parents often worked long hours to support their children, Doug’s father worked in construction, and his mother, who he affectionately referred to as M’Dear, which is short for Mother Dear worked as an orderly at Lane Memorial Hospital in Zachary. Money was scarce in the Williams’ so the kids got by on what they had. In his autobiography Quarter-Black, Doug describes a “jam sandwich” to his future wife, she thinks it’s jam on two pieces of bread, but Doug describes it as, “ You jammed two slices of bread together and ate it.”Buying sporting goods were out of the question, so Doug and his brothers improvised, like using a wire coat hanger, shaping it into a basketball hoop and hanging it on the top of the door, or taking a broom handle to use as a bat, and picking these hard berries that grew on trees, which they referred to as “cucklebugs,” in the back yard to use as a baseball.
Doug’s first introduction to sports was to baseball, Doug admired his oldest brother Robert, who playing minor league baseball in the Cleveland Indians organization, and Doug’s father was a baseball fanatic. Doug played the position of pitcher, and excelled in the Little Leagues, Pony Leagues,and even the American Legion after high school. Doug attended Chaneyville High School where he made the football team in his freshman year, Doug played free safety, linebacker, and was the third string quarterback. His brother Robert became a coach at Chaneyville High, and he felt that Doug playing linebacker would toughen him up to face the world ahead. Doug didn’t like to hit or tackle people, he preferred to run away from people so after making a tackle against Second Ward, Doug made the tackle, but decided after that that he didn’t want to play defense anymore. Doug would not become the starting quarterback at Chaneyville until his junior year, when the starter, Wedell Braxton, went down with an ankle injury. Doug would become the starting quarterback and lead Chaneyville to the playoffs as a junior, but he wouldn’t get to play because of an broken ankle suffered in the season finale. Doug would remain the starting quarterback during his senior year,where he threw for 1800 yards and 22 touchdowns. Doug really became interested in college football after attending a Southern University game versus Tennessee State, and seeing future NFL pro “Jefferson Street” Joe Gilliam, at halftime, as he walked back to the locker room. At the time, Doug was about 6’2” 180 pounds, and he was physically bigger than “Jefferson Street” Joe. Doug thought to himself, “Shoot, if he can play college football, I know I can play. I’m bigger than him.”
Despite his impressive numbers in his senior campaign, Doug wasn’t recruited heavily after high school, however, one person who did come to recruit him was the legendary college football coach Eddie Robinson, who was the winningest coach in college football of all time when he retired in 1997, with 408 victories. “Coach Rob,” as Doug Williams calls him, only promised Doug that he would only get an opportunity to play, unlike some coaches who will guarantee a starting position and other perks for coming to their university. Doug found the transition from high school to college difficult at first, he was homesick, and on top of that, he would be red-shirted in his freshman year. This didn’t sit well with Doug, and as a result, his grades began to slip all the way down to a 1.5 GPA, which placed him on academic probation. His grades were sent to Doug’s father, which made his dad say, “Well, shoot, let him get a job.” Which meant Doug was going to have to take care of himself. Doug didn’t want just any old job, he wanted to play football, so in the Spring, he was able to bring his GPA up to a 2.5, and he would never had a problem with his academics again.
Doug came into his sophomore season still slated as the No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart, which became even more frustrating after Grambling dropped their one of their early games to start the season. Coach Robinson kept switching between the starter Joe Comaux and the No. 2 quarterback Terry Brown. So one day, Doug decided that he was going to quit the football team by not attending practice. He even tried to purposefully miss an actual game versus Prairie View. Fortunately, Coach Hobdy, the head basketball coach, assistant football coach, and a good friend of Doug’s older brother Robert, wouldn’t let Doug quit. He would make sure Doug got to practice, and he even had Doug’s equipment bag packed, and on the team bus when Doug tried to miss the game Prairie View game.
Doug would actually get to play in the Prairie View game, as Grambling was winning in a rout. Doug was 6 of 7 passing, and he even threw his first collegiate touchdown pass! Things would finally start to go Doug’s way in the next game versus Tennessee State. Starter Joe Comaux would go down with a wrist injury, and backup Terry Brown was ineffective, so Coach Robinson turned to Doug, who led Grambling on a long scoring drive and a 21-0 win over Tennessee State. For the next game versus Mississippi Valley State, Coach Robinson would not name a starting quarterback until game day. Doug would be named the starter based on a vote by the Grambling coaches. but like high school, he never gave up the starting position again. Grambling would go on to win or share four straight Southwestern Athletic Conference Championships, and win a total of 35 out of 40 games while Doug was the starting quarterback.
Doug graduated on Mother’s Day in 1978, with a B.S. in Health and Physical Education. He would become the first black quarterback ever to be drafted in the first round, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected him 17th overall. Doug held out for the first week of training camp for a $50,000 rookie salary for his first year, he signed a 5-year contract worth $565,000, which was low, considering many of the first round picks were getting nearly $1million dollars for the same amount of years as Doug had. Doug always thought that if he would just play and not get too vocal about his contract, that the Buccaneer’s organization would reward him on his next contract.
Doug would earn the starting quarterback position Opening Day, against the New York Giants, but he would suffer a shoulder injury early on in the game, and would have to come out. The Bucs would drop their first two games of the season, as Doug was trying to recover from the injury. Doug would return to lead the Bucs to three wins out of their next four games. Despite his early success, some fans were still judging him on his skin color. Doug received all kinds of hate mail, including a rotten watermelon, with a note that read, “Try throwing this to your niggers. Maybe they can catch this.” Doug led the Bucs to a .500 record after eight games, but he would miss the next 7 games because of a broken jaw, suffered against the Los Angeles Rams, at the hands of former NFL player, turner actor, Fred Dryer, who starred on the ‘80 series Hunter. The Bucs would end the season 5-11, and Doug would be a unanimous choice for NFL All- Rookie quarterback, and the be the NFL Player of the Week, for his game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Doug would also have his first 300 yard passing game of his career versus the Minnesota Vikings.
The 1979 season saw the Bucs start undefeated at 5-0, and they would improve to 9-3 before hitting a slump, and dropping three straight games. With a Central Division Championship, and a trip to the Playoffs on the line, the Bucs needed to beat the Kansas City Chiefs. In a driving rain storm in Tampa, neither offense could get anything started, as the game was a scoreless tie heading into the final minutes. Doug was able to lead the Bucs on a long drive that ended with a game winning 19 yard field goal from kicker Neil O’Donughue. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the Central Division Champions for the first time in franchise history, and finished with a 10-6 regular season record.
The Bucs first playoff game in franchise history was against the Philadelphia Eagles in Tampa. The Eagles were the odds on favorites to win even though the Bucs had home field advantage. Doug threw two touchdown passes to wide receiver Jimmy Giles, as the Bucs stunned the Eagles 24-17. The Bucs would play host to a familiar foe in the NFC Championship Game, the Los Angeles Rams, who the Bucs beat earlier in the season 21-6. Doug felt that having the home-field advantage plus having already defeated the Rams earlier in the season, that the team was overconfident, and wasn’t properly prepared to take on the challenge of winning the NFC Championship. The game was close throughout, unfortunately, Doug was injured in the third quarter, and the team never could muster any offense, the Rams won 9-0.
The 1980 Tampa Bay Bucs were held to high expectations coming off of their NFC Championship run a year earlier. They got off on the right foot, winning their first two games against the Cincinnati Bengals, and in a rematch of the NFC Championship Game versus the Los Angeles Rams. The Bucs just couldn’t get going, winning only three more games and finishing 5-10-1, with the tie coming against the Green Bay Packers. Doug had an excellent individual season throwing for 3,396 yards and 20 touchdowns. He has never been a big fan of players’ statistics, preferring to use overall team success as the benchmark for a quarterback. In Quarter Black, Doug describes how he feels about his individual success versus the overall team’s success with the quote, “Those are good statistics, but they don’t mean anything when you lose.”
The Bucs started to feel some fan pressure going into the 1981 season, after being so close to the Super Bowl only two years ago. The Bucs would have an 8-7 record going into their regular season finale against the Detroit Lions. It would be a winner-take-all for the Central Division at the Silverdome in Detroit. The Bucs would lead 17-7 at the half, Detroit would make a comeback to get close, but the Bucs would hold on to win 20-17, to win their second Central Division title in three years. The Bucs would face the Dallas Cowboys in the Divisional Playoffs, and would be crushed by the Cowboys 38-0. Doug would be named the team’s Most Valuable Player by the Tampa media for the second consecutive year.
The 1982 season saw the players’ union strike against the owners for 55% of the overall profits. The first two games of the regular season was played, then an eight week players’ strike began, when the strike ended, the Bucs would drop another game to the Cowboys, to start 0-3, then the light would come on, and the Bucs would win 5 out of their next 6 to move to 5-4, and would qualify for the postseason. Once again, the Dallas Cowboys stood in their way. The Bucs actually had the lead in the second half, but two costly penalties and a turnover gave momentum back to the Cowboys, who would go on to win 30-17.
In 1983, Doug Williams was a free agent, and he thought that the Bucs would pay him what he deserved, after all, he had shown his loyalty to the organization, even after several of his teammates voiced displeasure over their contract situations. Out of all of the NFL quarterbacks, Doug Williams was 54th in salary, which meant that he was making even less money than most of the backups in the NFL. In his final year with the Bucs, Doug made $125,000. He wanted another five year contract, worth about 3 million, or a $600,000 per season. Bucs owner, Hugh Culverhouse would not budge over $400,000 per season, and even tried to get Doug to sign a shady real-estate deal, that would’ve put Doug $250,000 in debt, and would force him to sign whatever contract Culverhouse wanted to pay off what he owed. Doug declined the real estate offer, which would later go bankrupt, and moved back to Zachary, Louisiana to become a substitute teacher at Northwestern Middle School. Doug also planned to break into the coaching industry the very next year. In 1983, a new football league was formed to rival the NFL, called the United States Football League, or the USFL. The owner of the Oklahoma Outlaws, Bill Tatham wanted to sign Doug for his five year $3 million asking price, to play in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Doug would later sign with the Outlaws, to continue his football career. The Tampa Bay Bucs would go on to finish 2-14 in 1983, and would not have another winning season until 1997.
In the Spring of 1984, Doug Williams went to training camp with the Outlaws. Doug enjoyed the USFL, as it gave him a fresh start, even if the facilities, pay, and most of the team talent was a notch below the NFL level. The problems with the USFL was that some owners could pay big contracts to the better players, while other owners could not, there wasn’t a salary cap. Another problem with the USFL was the lack of attendance league wide. Doug’s team didn’t have enough talent or money to compete with the owners who could simply buy the upper echelon players. Doug however threw for 3,000 yards and 15 touchdowns during the season. At the end of the 1984 season, the Oklahoma Outlaws merged with the Arizona Wranglers to become the Arizona Outlaws. The team was relocated from Tulsa Oklahoma to Tempe, Arizona.
In 1985, the Arizona Outlaws would finish the season 8-10, 4th in the Western Division, the merger did bring more talent to the Outlaws, but at the same time other USFL teams merged to become even stronger. The final straw for the fall of the USFL was trying to move their games to the Fall to compete with the NFL, the USFL even filed an antitrust suit against the NFL, which they won for $1. After the 1985 USFL season, Doug would become a volunteer coach at Southern University.
After the USFL folded, several USFL quarterbacks were picked up by NFL teams. Jim Kelly went to the Buffalo Bills, Steve Young was picked up by the Tampa Bay Bucs, and Bobby Herbert signed on with the New Orleans Saints. By training camp 1986, Doug Williams had yet to be offered an NFL contract, or to be asked to workout for any of the NFL teams. Washington Redskins Head Coach Job Gibbs, who had been Doug’s offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay, called Doug and ask him if he wanted to be a backup to Jay Schroeder in Washington D.C. Doug agreed and negotiated a contract with the Redskins’ General Manager Bobby Beathard for three years 1.35 million. Doug enjoyed the Washington Redskins organization because everyone was friendly, and management had an open door policy all the way up to the owner, basically, the Washington Redskins operated like one big family. On the field, Doug had to get used to the idea of not playing, which was very foreign to him, since he had been a starter everywhere he played. But Doug, being the ultimate team player, remained positive and cheered on the starter Jay Schroeder, along with using the scout team to compete against and sometimes beat the first team defense. Doug would only appear in one game verses Dallas, with the Redskins comfortably ahead 41-14, Doug would throw one pass, which was incomplete, and his season stats totalled 0-1 for 0 yards. The Washington Redskins would make the playoffs, defeating the Los Angeles Rams, and the Chicago Bears, before falling to the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game.
Going into the 1987 season, Doug knew that the Redskins had the pieces to make a long playoff run. Doug was still the No. 2 quarterback, and he wanted more playing time. During the preseason, the Redskins almost traded Doug to the Los Angeles Raiders, with Coach Gibbs having the final say so. Coach Gibbs slept on it a night, and called Doug into his office to tell him that he decided not to trade him because he believed that Doug would lead the Redskins to a Super Bowl down the line. Doug was upset because he felt that the Raiders would’ve given him the best chance to play that season, instead of being the backup in Washington. In the first game of the regular season, Jay Schroeder would injure his shoulder against the Eagles, and Doug would get his opportunity to play. The Redskins would beat Philadelphia 34-24. Doug would not get another chance to play until eight weeks later versus Detroit. Coach Gibbs pulled Schroeder for being ineffective. Meanwhile, Doug had a second good game, leading the Redskins to victory. In the regular season finale, Jay Schroeder was pulled once again, and Doug Williams once again pulled the game out against the Vikings in overtime. The game did not have much significance as the Redskins had already clinched the NFC East Division, but it did help to build momentum for the playoffs. Coach Gibbs decided to make a quarterback change prior to the Redskins first playoff game, naming Doug the starter. The opening game for the Redskins was against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago, the temperature at game time was a bone chilling 14 below zero with the wind chill. The Bears jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but Doug Williams would bring the Redskins back to tie the game at 14 at the half. The second half saw a defensive battle, the Bears managed a field goal to take the lead 17-14, but it was Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green returned a punt for a touchdown late in the game to defeat the Bears 21-17. The Redskins would have home-field advantage against the Minnesota Vikings, who beat the San Francisco 49ers, who had the NFL’s best record. Doug didn’t have a great game statistically completing 8 of 24 passes, but he did have a very clean game he did not give up a sack or interception, and the Redskins would pull it out 17-10 to earn a trip to Super Bowl XXII, in San Diego, against John Elway and the Denver Broncos. Despite having a root canal and injuring his knee,when he slipped on a wet spot during the game, the Redskins dominated the Broncos 42-10, and Doug Williams was named the Super Bowl MVP. Doug Williams finished the game 18 of 29 for 340 yards and four touchdowns. The Redskins were Super Bowl Champions!
The 1988 season was tough on Doug and the Washington Redskins.First Doug was out most of the season with an appendicitis, and then he ended up losing him starting position to Mark Rypien, which was an unprecedented move by Coach Joe Gibbs, given the fact that he had a rule about starters returning to their starting positions after injury. The Redskins on the field finished 7-9, and missed the playoffs.
The 1989 season was even tougher for Doug Williams, first he injured a disk in his back that required surgery, next Doug would lose his father due to cancer. Doug would come back from his injury to play against the Dallas Cowboys, but he re-aggravated his back injury versus the Philadelphia Eagles. Coach Gibbs would name Mark Rypien the starter for the rest of the season.
In 1990, Coach Gibbs would name Mark Rypien the starter going into training camp, Doug expected to compete for the starting position in preseason, but the Redskins would go in another direction and cut Doug Williams to save money.
After the NFL, Doug would go on to become the head coach and athletic director at Northeast High School in Zachary, Louisiana in 1991. In 1993, Doug led the Vikings to a 13-1 record and the state semifinals. In 1994, Doug was the running backs coach at the Naval Academy. In 1995, Doug was the offensive coordinator of the Scottish Claymores of the World League of American Football. Doug also was a scout for the Jacksonville Jaguars. In 1997, Doug became the head coach of Morehouse College. In 1998, Doug returned home to replace a living legend, Eddie Robinson, as the head coach at Grambling. Doug would lead the Tigers to three consecutive SWAC tittles from 2000-2003. In 2004, Doug would head back to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which was now owned by the Glazer Family, as a Personnel Executive. In 2009, Doug would become the Coordinator of Pro Scouting for the Bucs. Doug would leave Tampa Bay to become General Manager of the Virginia Destroyers of the United Football League (UFL). In 2011, Doug Williams would leave the Destroyers to return to Grambling as the head coach. The season started off rocky for the Tigers at 1-4, but they would turn it around to become the SWAC Champions, with Doug’s son Doug Williams Jr., or D.J Williams as the starting quarterback.