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Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs' Washington Redskins. Get details and order at http://GutCheckBook.com
The Blog will not be taking the bye week off. I have no bumps and bruises that need to heal up and I can't afford to go out of town. Check back for some fun features, a look at some of greatest games in Redskins history that you don't hear much about, and some other good stuff as well.
October 22, 2004
Continuing along with a look at former Redskins nominated for the Hall of Fame:
Doug Williams-- One credential that will go a long way towards getting a player into the HOF is a signature moment. It's an achievement that makes for a memorable moment when it happens and then gets replayed over and over again by the various TV highlight machines and subsequently is immortalized by NFL Films.
John Riggins' signature moment, for example, is the fourth down TD run in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XVII. That put the Redskins into the lead. There's the great shot, immortalized in still and in video, of Don McNeal futilely trying jersey tackle the charging Riggo, and the unforgettable audio "He's gone, he's gooooone" call from Frank Herzog.
For a quarterback, the signature moment may well not be a single play, but a critical series. John Elway had The Drive against Cleveland, a dozen or so plays that put Elway on the map.
What such a moment does is create an impression in the minds of the Hall of Fame selectors. When the question "why should this player be in the Hall of Fame" comes up, that selector has something to grab on to. Not just a number, but an image and sounds that he can still see and hear many years later. The signature moment, by its very definition, is a very powerful persuader.
For a quarterback, the signature moment may well not be a single play, but a critical series. John Elway had The Drive against Cleveland, a dozen or so plays that put Elway on the map. Doug Williams had The Quarter. That game is recapped below from the pages of my book
Williams had gone out with a twisted knee the previous series, but he returned here. After week of hype about being the first black man ever to start at quarterback in a Super Bowl, of enduring questions like "Have you been a black quarterback all your life?" it was time for Williams, the other signal caller in this game, to shine.
The play that got The Quarter started wasn't supposed to be a bomb, it was a seven-yard pattern called Charley Hitch. "It wasn't a deep call," said Williams. "Ricky just felt the pressure (from cornerback Mark Haynes) and adjusted. He blew by him." Williams hit the receiver in stride at midfield and Sanders ran untouched for the score.
Denver went three and out and Washington took over at its own 36. After Timmy Smith, a surprise starter at running back, gained 19 yards on a second down run, Williams hit receiver Gary Clark on an out pattern at the goal line. 14-10 Washington, drive 64 yards, five plays, 2:44
"Doug was hitting everything," said Clark. "That helped open Timmy up."
Denver missed a field goal and then Smith took a handoff and burst off the right side. Tackle Joe Jacoby sealed off the inside and Smith was off to the races. Fortunately, he was racing Denver's Tony Lilly, a slow-footed safety. Smith easily won the duel and got down the sideline for the 58-yard touchdown run. 21-10, drive 74 yards, two plays, 51 seconds.
Denver went three and out again and the Redskins went sixty yards on three passes, all of them intended for Sanders. The first was overthrown, the next two found their target. After gathering in one for a 10-yard gain to midfield, Sander fielded Williams' perfect strike in stride at the ten and coasted in for the score. 28-10, drive 60 yards, three plays, 52 seconds.
After the Broncos punted, Smith tore off 43 yards into Denver territory. Williams took it from there, going to Sanders twice for 21 then seven yards. From the seven he tight end Clint Didier in the back of the end zone for the TD. 35-10, drive 79 yards, 7 plays, 1:10
The Redskins intercepted Elway with seven seconds left in the half, but Williams took a knee to end The Quarter. In just 5:47 of possession time and 18 plays, the Redskins gained 357 yards and ran up the most points ever scored in one quarter of a postseason game. Smith gained 122 yards on the ground and Williams passed for 228 yards, 168 of them to Sanders.
The Redskins rooters who had gathered in San Diego found themselves hoarse from singing "Hail to the Redskins" so many times in such a short period of time. The Elway fans, vocal in the game's opening minutes, had no such problems.
If it was a prizefight, they would have called it here, but NFL rules required that the teams take the field for the second half. After all, there were all of those expensive commercials that had to be run.
All that was left was for Smith to run up his rushing yardage total to 204, a Super Bowl record, for Sanders to gain the rest of his Super Bowl record 193 receiving yards, and for Williams to be announced as the game's MVP.
The Redskin defense made sure that the Broncos didn't mount a miracle of their own, pounding Elway often and shutting down his team.
"I was blessed," said Williams afterward. The rest of the team and its fans felt the same way.
October 21, 2004
Lessons to be Learned From Sox-Yanks
I'm not going to wander fully off topic here, but I must do some rambling on the biggest sports story in many years, the historic comeback of the Boston Red Sox to beat the Evil Empire, the New York Yankees. Their win in the AL Championship Series after trailing 3-0 is a feat that can never be topped. It would have been stunning if it had happened against, say, the Minnesota Twins. That it happened against the Yankees with the Curse of the Bambino, Bucky Dent, Aaron Boone, et al was, well, beyond shocking.
What lessons can the Redskins learn from this series? A couple of things come to mind. First, the players and coaches can learn from the Sox. Ironically, it was Yankee great Yogi Berra who said, "It ain't over ‘till it's over." And with New York up 3-0, having won Game 9 by more than a touchdown and a field goal, and holding a one-run lead with three outs to go, the series was over in the logical sense. But the Sox scratched out a run off of Mariano Rivera and there was a slight pulse. Boston won it in the 12th and it wasn't over. It wasn't over until last night, when the 27th out of Game Seven had been recorded and the Red Sox were celebrating on the turf of the House that Ruth Built.
At 0-3, the chances that such a celebratory dance happening seemed about the same as the Redskins chances of making the playoffs are right now. OK, maybe the Skins' postseason chances are slim and the Sox' chances were none, but you get the point. You have to keep playing the games. You have to keep fighting. You never know when things might turn in your favor. If you keep fighting and keep scratching good things have a chance to happen.
The other lesson out there comes from the Yankees and it is something that Dan Snyder needs to take heed of. New York is not the "best team money can buy". The Yankees are a collection of talented individuals. When it came to nut cuttin' time, they were lost and clueless. They had no history of playing with each other to draw on, no faith that the next guy in the order would be able to move things along. Every time up in Games Four through Seven, A-Rod, Sheffield and Matsui seemed to be swinging for three-run homers every at bat—even when there was nobody on base. They had absolutely nothing in common with Yankee tradition save the pinstripes.
The connection to the Redskins here is obvious. Great players don't necessarily add up to a great team. The whole of the Yankees is far less than the sum of its parts. The same can be said of the Redskins since the 2000 season. Hopefully Snyder was watching the ALCS and taking notes.
Hall of Fame: First Cuts The first round of nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's class of 2005 was released today. The list consists of 89 former players, coaches, and contributors. Of particular interest here, of course, are the former Redskins on the list. Here they are:
For quite some time there has been a book in the back of my head about the Pro Football HOF with some serious research into what gets players and coaches elected for enshrinement while others are on the outside looking in. That book is a number of years away from being written, however, so I don't think that I'll be making much of a dent in future sales if I go into some of my theories about why and why not in the course of evaluating the former Skins' prospects for wearing a yellow jacket in Canton next August.
RB Gerald Riggs 1982-1988 Atlanta Falcons, 1989-1991 Washington Redskins
QB Doug Williams 1978-1982 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1986-1989 Washington Redskins
WR Henry Ellard 1983-1993 Los Angeles Rams, 1994-1998 Washington Redskins, 1998 New England Patriots
WR Art Monk 1980-1993 Washington Redskins, 1994 New York Jets, 1995 Philadelphia Eagles
G Russ Grimm 1981-1991 Washington Redskins
T Joe Jacoby 1981-1993 Washington Redskins
CB Lemar Parrish 1970-1977 Cincinnati Bengals, 1978-1981 Washington Redskins, 1982 Buffalo Bills
Over the next few days, I'll discuss the nominees in order of their chances of selection from least to most likely.
Gerald Riggs--One credential that will help get a player into the HOF is having been considered among the very best players at his position for a number of seasons. Of course, the more seasons a player is considered an elite one, the better the chances. For three years, from 1984 through 1986, Riggs was one of the best running backs in the league. His peak year was in the middle of those three seasons when he gained 1,719 yards for the Falcons and caught 33 passes for another 297 yards. He was an ideal end of power and speed.
Riggs misses out badly, however, on a second credential that is nearly a must have. Before and after his peak as one of the best, he didn't sustain excellence. He had seasons of about 300 and 400 yards before spiking up to his three peak years of averaging nearly 100 yards a game. In the strike-shortened '87 season he was pretty good, picking up 875 yards in 12 games, but he never averaged more than 70 yards a game after than and had trouble staying on the field.
It seems that Joe Gibbs thought that Riggs had HOF potential when he persuaded Bobby Beathard to give up a first and a second for him in 1989. Riggs did lead the team in rushing that year albeit with a total of 825 yards. And he did score 11 TD's as the short yardage goal line back for the Redskins' champion 1991 team. Pretty decent accomplishments if, say, the Skins had surrendered a fourth-round pick for him.
For the sake of both the Redskins and his HOF chances he needed to have a several good-to-great seasons following his peak. Because he didn't, the trade was a bust and his chances of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame are zero.
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