Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Greatest Redskins Ever

A gilded age of football

Curly R is a little late to this party, I wanted to add my two cents on ESPN's online poll and the Redskinsland coverage of it.

At its core the question of who is the greatest anything is impossible to determine in a subject matter that spans decades, careers, lifespans and cultural and social evolution and upheaval. Something that is unique to an age, or so new that there can be relatively few peers, well that's different. I think the New York Times is pretty confident this is the greatest Guitar Hero player of our age; future games will be different and we will not be able to compare Chris Chike to a future virtual musician any more than we can compare the greatest Pong players of the 1970s to the greatest Wii Tennis players of today.

So it's specious to put Sammy Baugh and Darrell Green in the same poll. If anything the poll should be banded, with players only listed in, say, decade long bands, the better to compare players.

This is not simply because of the evolution of the game to bigger, faster players and galaxies more national popularity, it is also because there is expected and natural selection bias in the poll. Most of Sammy's original fans, the ones that would know him as more than an historical statbox, are at an advanced age or deceased and the ones that are still with us are likely not in ESPN's online demographic for polls.

So that's it, I'm off my horse.


Who's the greatest Redskin ever? Well I cannot add to Will at Hogs Haven: it's Sammy Baugh. The stats are just overwhelming, even adjusted for the era (less popularity, smaller league, more opportunity for a dominant player to stand out), he was like the Wilt Chamberlain of the NFL.

So now let's break it down by decade.

1970s: tough for me since I was small and although I was watching Redskins football at the feet of the other Redskins fan named Ben Folsom, I don't remember too much in the way of specific players. Maybe Sonny Jurgenson, his best years were in the 1960s, his and the team's success was in the 1970s. Linebacker Chris Hanburger, the last guy to wear number 55 for the Redskins, How about Chris Hanburger? Entire 14 year career with the Redskins, nine Pro Bowls, four of them in the 60s, five in the 70s. What about defensive back Ken Houston, he went to 12 Pro Bowls, including seven of the eight years he was with the Redskins.

1980s: easier though still tough, this is the coming of age of my Redskins viewing history. It comes down to three players: Art Monk, Darrell Green or John Riggins. Art and Darrell had the longevity, moving into the 90s. All were instrumental in the Redskins winning Super Bowls. Honorable mention to Jeff Bostic, Joe Jacoby and Russ Grimm, the hard core of the Hogs.

1990s: the Redskins were on a downward trajectory, going 10-6, 14-2, 9-7, 4-12, 3-13 and 6-10 before clawing back to 9-7 under Norval Turner in 1996. The decade ended with 8-7-1, 10-6 and 10-6. Players that excelled in this decade, Terry Allen, meh, two good seasons two mediocre seasons. A number of other players that did not play even half the decade, let's be real, it comes down to Darrell Green. Even as coaches and players came and went Darrell stayed in place, only missed 11 games in the entire decade, 30 interceptions over the 1990s.

2000s: we are still here so it is hard to view this decade very objectively. Champ Bailey? Four years in the decade with the team, did not miss a game, 13 INTs. Sadly the way he left and whether Clinton Portis is remembered as an all time great or merely a good player will affect our impressions of Champ. How about Stephen Davis? Two incredible years in 2000 and 2001 and a great 1999 are his hallmarks. Jon Jansen? 2004 and 2007 were a wash, missed one game in 2006, every other year this decade he played all 16 games. LaVar Arrington? Got screwed by a combination of injury, bad advice from his agent and an arrogant defensive coordinator, not before going to three Pro Bowls and helping to retire Troy Aikman in six seasons with the Redskins. Santana Moss? Only been here three seasons, the Redskins inarguably could not have made the playoffs in 2005 without Santana, he played through groin injuries the past two seasons to be the leading receiver on the team, and figures to do this again this season. The aforementioned Clinton Portis? Came at a high price in the Champ Bailey deal and is on the way to becoming the team's all time leading ball carrier. Has had injury and attitude problems the last two seasons and frankly I see it all flaming out here for Clinton.

No, the best choice for player of the decade so far, left tackle Chris Samuels, has spent his entire career, all this decade, with the Redskins, the man has missed four games this decade and been to five Pro Bowls.

Who will be the Redskins player of the 2010s? Do we already have him? Jason Campbell? Colt Brennan?

Time will tell, first we need to get through 2008.

Sammy Baugh from here.