Sunday, February 03, 2008

"It's a Redskin Day, Baby"

"It's a Redskin day, baby.'' That was how Darrell Green put it yesterday.

Yes, it was.

The Hall of Fame voters finally got it right; they selected Art Monk yesterday. It is still a travesty that Michael Irvin was selected before Monk by these same guys last year. I still think the voting process needs to change. Sports writers are full of biases and apparently vindictiveness if you read any quotes in the past few years from one voter—Zimmerman. Sports writers are also susceptible to campaigning, which is the only explanation for Irvin’s selection last year. Here is Peter King on the Monk selection:

The dogged strength of Monk's candidacy -- buttressed by an unending stream of e-mails and phone messages to the selectors -- probably knocked out Carter and Buffalo's Andre Reed.

King didn’t mention that Andre Reed said he would not want to be selected for the Hall if Monk was not in.

Watching Darrell Green make his speech and hearing Monk’s over the phone made a few other things very clear. These were not just great players, they are also great people. Green and Monk could not have been more humble or grateful.

Green speech included this line:
"For my whole career, I was overpaid, over-respected and over-cared for, so I just want to say to all of you, thank you so much."

Green and Monk were/are the epitome of the classy players with which Gibbs populates his teams. Gibbs has always said character is the first thing he looks for when evaluating talented players and he found it spades in these two. He has also found it in Campbell, Thrash, Randle El, Rogers, and dozens of others that he brought in over the past four years. Gibbs put together a very good core of young guys who could win an NFC championship next year. I hope Snyder does not screw this up.

For Darrell Green to be selected with the first ballot is an honor that few receive. I think the selectors were trying to make up for past wrongs with respect to the Skins. In eleven seasons from 1981 through 1991, the Redskins made five trips to the NFC Championship game, won four NFC championships, and won three Super Bowl titles. Yet, prior to yesterday, the only Redskins player in the Hall of Fame from that era was John Riggins, and he was only around for two of their five NFC Championship games (1982 and 1983 seasons). By contrast, Monk was there for all five and Green was with the team for four. The Hall has not finished its work.

I do not know why special teams’ players are rarely considered for the Hall of Fame when it is clear special teams often make the difference between champions and also-rans. Mark Mosley was the only kicker in NFL history to be named league MVP (1982). When he retired, he owned the record for most consecutive field goals and was way up there in points. Brian Mitchell retired as the player with the most yards gained in NFL history, which was broken by Jerry Rice in 2004, but not by much (23,546 to 23,330). Mitchell still holds the NFL record for touchdown returns, although Hester is a good bet to break it. These guys should be in the HOF.

The Redskins had some outstanding defensive players then, too. Dexter Manley was the all-time sacks leader for several years and was passed by Lawrence Taylor who is in the HOF already. Dexter always had a left tackle over him and often a tight end would help block him. Unlike with Taylor, there was never any surprise when Dexter was coming. Dave Butz took on double teams and still consistently stuffed the run. Unfortunately, defensive tackles don’t have flashy stats that they can use to impress the HOF voters.

Then there are the Hogs. They set the standard for offensive linemen that is still being emulated today: Bigger and stronger players who are quick enough to pull (as in the counter trey) and protect the quarterback. At least two of the Hogs—and probably three—should be in the HOF: Jacoby, Grimm, and maybe Bostic. They didn’t just have a catchy name; they were dominating in their era. That is the only explanation for three Super Bowl championships with three different quarterbacks and running backs. It is the only explanation for Timmy Smith, who still holds the Super Bowl rushing record with 204 yards in his first and only start in any NFL game.

Super Bowl
Today is Super Bowl Sunday. I just caught four minutes—and only four minutes—of Fox’s pregame and it coincidentally included the part where they honored former NFLers who passed away this year. It took me about twenty seconds before I realized that the picture of one of my favorite players of all time was about to be flashed on the screen. I still cannot believe that the Redskins’ 24-year old safety--a guy who I thought would be in their secondary for many more years--is dead. They ended the segment with Taylor’s picture in uniform with his right arm raised high and the years of his life scrolled underneath. It made me very sad once again. I thought I was over it.

I am going to root for the guys with the “21” on their helmets today. Go Giants! They understand what it means to honor a great player.

Sean Taylor was a guy who would have been inducted in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in the class of approximately 2023. RIP.


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