Ray Flaherty Washington Redskins & New York Yankees (AAFC) & New York Giants
"If I were still coaching I’d still be stressing fundamentals. You’ve to block and tackle and play defense. It’s a specialist’s game now but it’s still a game of fundamentals. That’s how you win.”
Ray Flaherty put himself squarely on the spot in one of his first public utterances after being named head coach of the Boston Redskins in 1936. On hearing of the signing of Wayne Millner, Ray wired his boss, George Preston Marshall: "With that big Yankee playing end, please accept my resignation if we do not win the championship this year!"
History shows, however, that while the Redskins did not win, neither did Flaherty resign. Instead he stayed on with the Redskins, who moved to Washington in 1937, for six more years. In all, he led the team to two NFL championships and four divisional titles.
He guided the Redskins during the period that the Chicago Bears dominated pro football. Yet, Flaherty's Redskins defeated the Bears two out of three times in NFL title showdowns. Two important football innovations are credited to Flaherty and each played an important role in his two NFL championships.
In 1937, Ray introduced the behind-the-line screen pass against the Bears. Redskins quarterback Sammy Baugh threw three touchdown passes against the unprepared Chicago defenses for a 28-21 victory. Later, Ray developed a 1940s version of the two-platoon system. Both units played both ways but one unit emphasized the passing offense while the second platoon featured the ground game. This substitution plan was particularly effective in the 1942 championship year, Ray's last season in Washington.
When Ray returned to civilian life after World War II, he opted to join the New York Yankees of the newly formed All-America Football Conference and there he won two straight divisional crowns. He closed out his coaching career in 1949 with the AAFC’s Chicago Hornets. For his entire coaching career, Ray's record shows 80 wins, 37 losses and five ties, for an excellent .676 lifetime winning percentage. Ray was also an outstanding end for nine seasons, most of them with the New York Giants, before he started coaching.