Sapienza: Hall of Famer Bruce Smith was a real Washington Redskin

Smith's career with the Redskins compares pretty favorably with some of the franchise's all-time greats

Last week, the Buffalo Bills announced they were going to retire Bruce Smith’s number 78. The Hall of Famer and, more importantly, the Madden 16 ultimate legend, was the most dominant defensive player in franchise history and one of the most ferocious players of the ‘80s and ‘90s. He is also the NFL’s all-time leader in sacks with 200. He broke that record as a member of the Washington Redskins. That incredible accomplishment became a bit of a joke as Smith was clearly holding on to the NFL in 2003 just to break the record. The marketing geniuses in Ashburn didn’t help his cause by creating a “collectible” record-breaking coin that was made available for purchase before the record was set on Dec. 7, when “The Bachelor” Jesse Palmer hit the Meadowlands turf. 

If Bruce Smith ever returned to run out of the tunnel for Redskins homecoming, it would elicit a “hee-hee-hee” from most diehard fans. While still others would say “there is NO WAY Bruce Smith is a real Redskin,” I’m here to tell those fans they couldn’t be more incorrect. We should not diminish his tenure as a Redskin. Smith wore the Burgundy and Gold 62 times in his career. He played more games than Mike Thomas (54), Terry Allen (52), Jason Campbell (52), Gus Frerotte (52) and Joe Washington (51). If you combined Timmy Smith’s 24 games played with Robert Griffin III’s 38 games played, that equals Smith’s appearances as a Redskin. If Mike Thomas, Terry Allen, Jason Campbell, Timmy Smith and RG3 were “real Redskins,” why not Bruce Smith?

While making sacks fun again for the Redskins, Smith was at his best when facing the NFC East. The sack king had 12.5 divisional sacks during his four seasons. Washington’s No. 1 pick in 2009, Brian Orakpo, had only seven divisional sacks in six years while Andre Carter had 1.5 fewer divisional sacks than Smith in 18 more games. If Carter and Orakpo are “real Redskins,” why not Bruce Smith?

Bruce Smith had 10 sacks in 2000, making him one of only 12 players in Redskins history to record double-digit sacks in a season. Smith also forced four fumbles that season. Only five players in team history have recorded 10 or more sacks with four or more forced fumbles in a season. That list includes Ken Harvey and Ryan Kerrigan. If Kerrigan and Harvey are “real Redskins,” why not Bruce Smith?

Smith ranks ninth all-time on the Redskins’ sack list, ahead of Darryl Grant, Wilber Marshall and LaVar Arrington. To put ninth all-time in franchise history into perspective, ninth on the interceptions list is Ken Houston, and ninth in career receiving yards is Chris Cooley. If all of those players are “real Redskins,” why not Bruce Smith?

Does Smith deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Redskins all-time greats such as Dexter Manley, Charles Mann or Ryan Kerrigan, or does he deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as selfish money-grubbers such as Dana Stubblefield or Albert Haynesworth? The truth is Bruce Smith wasn’t an all-time great in Washington nor was he just looking to get paid. What was Bruce Smith? The Hall of Famer was absolutely a real Redskin.  

Chuck Sapienza is the Executive Producer of the Naval Academy radio network and the former VP/Programming for ESPN980. He was also a part of the Washington Redskins Radio Network from 2009 to 2015, serving as the network’s Executive Producer. He can be reached at SapienzaChuck@gmail.com.

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