Joe Bugel, a longtime NFL coach known for creating the Washington Redskins’ iconic offensive line known as “the Hogs,” died Sunday at 80, the team announced. The team did not disclose the cause of death.
“Joe had an incredible passion for the game of football. He came to work every day with such great excitement and his players had tremendous respect for him,” Joe Gibbs, Bugel’s former boss with the Redskins, said in a statement released by the team. “The strength of our coaching staff on both sides of the ball was a key reason we had so much success. Bugel was such a big part of that and his impact was felt not only by those Redskins’ teams, but truly across the entire league.”
Bugel was the Redskins’ offensive coordinator and offensive line coach in 1981 and 1982 and was named assistant head coach in 1983, retaining his offensive line duties and holding that position until he left after the 1989 season to become head coach of the Phoenix Cardinals. His offensive line helped the Redskins advance to three Super Bowls, including wins after the 1982 and 1987 seasons.
Bugel also served as head coach of the Oakland Raiders and spent time as an assistant for the Detroit Lions, Houston Oilers, Raiders and San Diego Chargers during an NFL career that spanned 35 years. Bugel returned to the Redskins when Gibbs arrived for his second stint as head coach in 2004, and he remained Washington’s offensive line coach through 2009, including two seasons under Jim Zorn.
“I am absolutely devastated by the news of Joe’s passing. Joe was a larger than life figure and a true legend of his profession,” Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said in a statement.
Bugel was known for molding players such as Russ Grimm, Joe Jacoby, Mark May, Jeff Bostic and George Starke into “the Hogs,” who plowed the field for Gibbs’s offenses. It was a term of affection from Bugel, who one day barked at his players, “OK, you hogs, let’s go down in the bullpen and hit those sleds.”
As that colorful quote indicates, Bugel was always a go-to guy for reporters and was never at a loss for words or energy. “Buges is tough to wear out,” Gibbs told The Washington Post in January 2010 after Bugel announced his retirement.
Jacoby recalled his first encounter with Bugel’s intensity in the lead-up to the 1981 draft.
“I just remember coming in after working out for him for 2 1/2 hours,” Jacoby said Sunday in a telephone interview. “This is just one-on-one. There’s nobody else. I sit down at the locker, and I’m just, ‘If this is the NFL, I don’t know if I want to play.’ “
Jacoby went undrafted, but he signed with the Redskins and under Bugel’s tutelage earned four Pro Bowl appearances and twice was named a first-team all-pro.
“I love the man passionately. He made me the player that I was,” Jacoby said. “He was a coach, [but] he was more than that. He cared about you.”
Bugel and his wife, Brenda, were the parents of three daughters: Angie, Jennifer and Holly, who died of bone cancer in 2008.
“He’s just a really likable guy,” Starke said Sunday. “Not to say that he wasn’t a tough guy, but he managed to be tough and likable at the same time.”