Numbers Game

For years the Redskins wouldn't hand out certain numbers. And it's crazy why this happened: because then equipment manager Jay Brunetti deemed them unworthy of a successor. So certain numbers -- players he idolized or was particularly fond of -- were so-called retired. Except that they weren't. Nor should they have been.

And that's why I'm glad Joe Gibbs said what he did earlier this month, that he's going to call some of the older players whose numbers once were protected and talk to them. He wants to bring these numbers out of retirement, mainly because the Redskins need them.

Obviously it was a nice way to honor some of these players. I understand why Brunetti did so. But this wasn't an organizational decision, which is why it's gotten to this point.

Some numbers should be verboten. Sammy Baugh's 33; Darrell Green's 28, Bobby Mitchell's 49. Maybe John Riggins' 44, Sonny Jurgensen's No. 9 and, after he gets in the Hall of Fame, Art Monk's 81. That's a lot.

And I wouldn't be against dropping Riggins -- yes he meant a lot to the team, but the others meant more. At some point you draw the line. Mitchell was the first black player here and served the organization well for many, many years. Baugh was the original great, Green one of the best ever and Jurgensen has been a terrific representative over the years as a broadcaster. I'm split on Monk -- he's not in the Hall and if you retire his, then what about Charley Taylor? And if you're going to hand out No. 49, then should No. 9 be sacred? Why?

But Joe Theismann's No. 7? Come on. Theismann was a very good player for several years, but his number should not be among those out of circulation. If his is gone, then players such as Joe Jacoby should be retired, too. And his isn't, nor will it be.

Thing is, the only officially retired number is Baugh's. He once was promised his would be the only one, a silly notion to uphold at this point. But you can't simply retire every great player's number. Part of me says they should perhaps keep those numbers out of circulation for a few years out of respect, then hand them out. Isn't it enough for players to have their names in the hung inside the stadium? And for only the very special ones should a number be retired.

Let's hope Gibbs talks some sense into the players in question. They've been honored long enough.

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