When the Washington Redskins reported to training camp is Carlisle, Pennsylvania on July 23, 1982, there was considerable uncertainty in the air. A player's strike loomed on the horizon. Nobody quite knew what to make of the Redskins including the players and coaches themselves. Was their 8-3 finish in 1981 an indicator of better things to come in '82? Or, was the 0-5 start to that season a better gauge of the team's talent level?
Even one of the constants on the team seemed to be in flux. Mark Moseley, the team's kicker for the previous eight seasons, was getting a stiff challenge from rookie Dan Miller, a rookie in whom the Redskins had invested an 11th-round draft pick.
"I think they are just trying to make a better kicker of me," Moseley said, of the Redskins' decision to draft Miller. "Was I so bad (last year) that I'm no longer an NFL kicker? Was I so bad that they had to use an 11th-round choice to replace me instead of using that pick to bring in the young talent they need more at other positions?"
Special teams coach Wayne Sevier let Moseley know that the challenge was quite serious.
"No one should sell Dan Miller short," Sevier said. "This guy is a quality kicker with a very strong leg and excellent accuracy. I'm confident he could make it from 60 yards."
Moseley displayed great bravado. "I'm a long way from being done, he said. "If I left here, I know there would be teams out there wanting me. But I don't want to leave. I want to stay in Washington. They want to motivate me, that's all. I can feel a great year coming, all the way to Hawaii (and the Pro Bowl)."
A possible trip to Hawaii seemed to slip further and further away from Moseley as camp wore on. Miller boomed field goals of 51 and 52 yards in an intrasquad scrimmage. Each successful boot cleared the crossbar with considerable room to spare, lending credence to Sevier's claim that Miller could boot one from 60.
Miller remained the humble rookie, realizing how difficult it is to unseat a veteran. "I'm just concentrating the best I can to show I'm consistent. I know this is a challenge. It's like a heavyweight championship. I have to score a clear-cut victory. If it's close, they will go with Mark, I know that."
Neither kicker got a lot of chances to shine during the first three preseason games as the Washington offense struggled. Still, Moseley's days as a Redskin appeared to be numbered. His name was floated in trade rumors and it was reported that Moseley had agreed to be dealt away for a defensive lineman. The area papers started to refer to Moseley's release being "likely" if the trade didn't go through.
Then things turned around for Moseley. Miller missed field goal attempts of 45 and 37 yards in the final preseason game. Joe Gibbs and Sevier felt that they had to go with Moseley to start the regular season. However, they still had their doubts about Moseley's age and leg strength so the kept Miller on the taxi squad.
With Miller watching in street clothes, Moseley seized his opportunity. He kicked three field goals in the season opener in Philadelphia. The second one erased any doubts about his leg strength. It was a clutch 48-yarder that would have been good from 60 and it tied the game at 34 at the end of overtime. His next kick, a 30-yarder, won the game in overtime.
Moseley never looked back. He went on to have the greatest season an NFL kicker has ever had. His field goals provided the winning margin in five of the team's eight regular-season wins. A dramatic field goal at RFK Stadium in the final seconds in a snowstorm against the Giants both broke the league record for consecutive field goals made and gave the Redskins a playoff spot on their way to a Super Bowl title. That not only helped him win that trip to Hawaii he had talked about in August, it earned him the NFL Most Valuable Player award, a first for a kicker.