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Joe Bugel dies at 80; Redskins coach led the vaunted 'Hogs' offensive line

The team did not reveal the cause of death.

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. “He exemplified what it meant to be a Redskin with his character and ability to connect with his players along with a work ethic that was unmatched. We shared a special bond and he was a great friend. He was a man who not only gave me a better understanding of the game of football, but who also gave me perspective on what is truly important in life. I absolutely adored him and will miss him terribly. Tanya and I would like to extend our deepest condolences to Brenda and the entire Bugel family during this time.”

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, “Okay, 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’s Barry Svrluga in January 2010 upon Bugel’s retirement.

Derrick Dockery, a veteran guard, told Svrluga that beneath a gruff exterior, Bugel was a caring person. “He’s so passionate — and loyal, man,” Dockery said. “He cares a lot about his guys. He’ll do anything for his guys.”

As Svrluga noted, the trick was getting to become one of Bugel’s guys. Edwin Williams, a Washington native who played at the University of Maryland, recalled working out for Bugel during the coach’s second stint with the team. “He’s like, ‘Hey, stud,’ ” Williams said in 2010. “And I’ve known about Buges, because I’ve always been a [Redskins] fan. And I’m like: ‘Oh, my God, man, he’s calling me stud and horse. He must love me.’ I felt so comfortable coming here.

“Then I got here, and I found out he calls everyone ‘stud’ and ‘horse.’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, maybe I’m not special.’ ”

Bugel’s conversation was peppered with four-letter words and, center Casey Rabach told Svrluga, he was “never politically correct. Never.”

But he was respected and even loved in the way gruff football coaches so often are by their players.

“Joe Bugel was a friend as much as a coach,” former quarterback Joe Theismann tweeted. “For those of us who had the privilege to know him we were blessed. He’ll have the best Oline in heaven. RIP Joe.”

Bugel and his wife, Brenda, were the parents of three daughters: Angie, Jennifer and Holly, who died of bone cancer in 2008. Despite Holly’s illness, Bugel kept coaching his guys.

“We obviously had some heart-to-hearts,” Rabach told Svrluga. “Tears were shared between us all. But he kept persevering. He was a lot stronger than I think I would be in that situation. He coached right through it.”

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