This is the final post in Kurt’s series to identify the NFL’s Ultimate Franchise Player of All-Time.
For an explanation of his methodology for choosing each franchise’s ultimate franchise player, and then how you and he will choose the NFL’s Ultimate Franchise Player from that list, click here.
Larry Fitzgerald, Deion Sanders, Ray Lewis, Bruce Smith, Steve Smith, Walter Payton, Anthony Munoz, Jim Brown, Bob Lilly, John Elway, Barry Sanders, Brett Favre, Andre Johnson, Peyton Manning, Fred Taylor, Tony Gonzalez, Dan Marino, Alan Page, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Lawrence Taylor, Joe Namath, Marcus Allen, Reggie White, Mean Joe Greene, Merlin Olsen, Junior Seau, Jerry Rice, Steve Largent, Derrick Brooks and Bruce Matthews. Those names represent the 31 automatic bids for the Ultimate Franchise Player Tourney.
They breakdown like this: seven quarterbacks, five running backs, five wide receivers, one tight end, two offensive linemen, six defensive linemen, four linebackers, and one defensive back. In my pieces over the past year-plus, I have chronicled close to 1,000 players, only a small fraction of whom got the call to the UFP Tourney.
There is one last automatic slot available. Stay tuned in the coming days as I unveil my entire 64 entrant field, including the coveted 32 at-large players and those all important seedings and first-round matchups. If you’re a bracketologist, feel free to put those RPI numbers to work now.
This article concerns the Washington Redskins UFP over 80 years of franchise history. Since I decided to go with a 43-entrant field in my recent Titans/Oilers piece because Jerry Glanville dabbled with stock cars, I definitely had to do another list for Coach Joe Gibbs – who is the Bo Jackson of two sport management. Gibbs has been in the NFL Hall of Fame since 1996, I would expect him to make the NASCAR Hall as well in the future.
Besides, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been known to ask for Redskins scores from his crew chief during races. No word on whether Robert Griffin III has ever asked for the up to the minute running order of the Helluvagood 400 during the two minute warning.
Here is my final UFP countdown.
43. Jack Pardee (OLB 1971-72)
The recently-deceased Pardee actually spent most of his career in Los Angeles, but was an omission from my Rams UFP segment.
Not only did Pardee play 15 seasons, but he also beat cancer in the middle of his career, then went on to some very successful stints in the coaching world. Included were stops with the Bears (he was Walter Payton’s first head coach), Redskins, and Oilers, along with the University of Houston and stops in the WFL, USFL and CFL.
Jack gets my Champions Provisional as the first entrant in the field.
42. Mark Murphy (S 1977-84)
There was always confusion back in the day, like when there were two Gene Washington’s playing wide receiver in the league. This is the Mark Murphy who is now a Green Bay Packers executive, not the other Mark Murphy who played for the Packers from 1980-91 and who had a condition that rendered him bald from birth.
The Redskins’ Mark Murphy intercepted nine passes and earned a Pro Bowl berth in 1983, but left the league not long after that. Murphy was one of the main player reps in the 1982 strike and it is thought his role in the work stoppage led to him being shunned by the league.
41. Terry Allen (RB 1995-98)
Allen should actually have the pole position. In July 1997 he was clocked doing 133 MPH in his Ferrari, which might qualify as an unofficial NFL record. But in the ensuing police pursuit Allen ultimately drove his car into a tree – so he is going to have to go to a backup car and start from the rear of the field.
Allen’s driving escapades came after a season in which he rushed for 1,353 yards and had 21 touchdowns.
40. Stephen Davis (RB 1996-2002)
Davis was said to actually have become a NASCAR fan after he moved to the Carolina Panthers in the later portion of his career. As a Redskin, Davis made the Pro Bowl three times and averaged over 100 rushing yards per game in 1999, scoring 17 times.
39. Sam Huff (MLB 1964-69, HOF)
In all honesty, the majority of Huff’s playing legacy remains with the New York Giants. But he spent his final six years with the Redskins still playing at an elite level. Huff eventually became part of the Redskins radio team, a role he remains in to this day.
38. Darryl Grant (DT 1981-90)
A converted offensive linemen from college drafted in the ninth round, Grant became a mainstay on the team’s front four throughout the 1980s. His most memorable moment was his interception return for a touchdown against the Cowboys in the 1982 NFC title game.
37. Mark May (OG-OT 1981-89)
The first of the original Hogs makes an appearance here. You may know him better as an ESPN College Football talking head these days, but May had a 13-year run in the league and was a first-round draft pick.
36. Alfred Morris (RB 2012-present)
A sixth-round draft choice, Al Mo makes the list on the basis of his 1,600-plus yard, 13 touchdown rookie season. The yardage total was best in the league for anyone not named Adrian Peterson.
What this means for the future is anyone’s guess, as Mike Shanahan running backs are known to vanish just as quickly as they appear.
35. Robert Griffin III (QB 2012-present)
The other rookie star of 2012 completes my 18th row. Griffin has obviously been stellar in the short run, but hopefully we’re not talking years from now how his knee got needlessly destroyed in the 2013 Wild Card round loss. The most impressive stat of all was how RGIII was only picked off five times in 393 pass attempts.
34. Jim Lachey (OT 1988-95)
As a San Diego Chargers fan, Lachey is not a personal favorite. He was three years in when he went to management on the eve of the 1988 regular season opener and respectfully requested a trade to a team that would be closer to his wife in Columbus, Ohio. Chargers owner Alex Spanos then promptly traded Lachey to the division rival Los Angeles Raiders, which got him a whole eight miles closer to Ohio.
A few weeks later, Lachey would be traded to Washington, and went on to earn All-Pro recognition three times in his career.
33. Billy Kilmer (QB 1971-78)
His passing form might not be something you would show to your kids, but the veteran was very effective in the latter portion of his career playing for George Allen. As the Skins starter, Kilmer went 50-23-1 with 103 touchdowns and 75 interceptions.
What you may not know is that Kilmer came into the league as a running threat with the San Francisco 49ers before a car accident robbed him of most of his mobility.
32. Gene Brito (DE 1952-53, 1955-58)
I didn’t think it was possible, but I finally got Loyola Marymount University represented. Brito took a one-year sabbatical to Canada early in his career, but soon returned and become a three-time All-Pro selection.
31. Chuck Drazenovich (MLB 1950-59)
Chuck completes the old, old school Row 16. He started his career as a short-yardage runner, but soon became a trend-setter as a middle linebacker in a 4-3 alignment, which was new at the time. Drazenovich played almost the entire decade and made the Pro Bowl four times while making the Skins somewhat respectable in a down cycle in franchise history.
30. Mark Moseley (K 1974-86)
What is a kicker doing so high on the list? Well, Moseley was named NFL MVP after the nine-game, strike-shortened 1982 season, when he made 20 of 21 field goals. Moseley’s accuracy began to wane the following season, starting with a last-second miss in a 48-47 loss at Green Bay, and continued when he missed three field goals in the NFC Championship Game that year.
The pride of Stephen F. Austin University, Moseley is now a franchise director for the Five Guys burger empire. He was the last of the now-extinct “straight-on” kickers.
29. Brian Mitchell (RB/ST 1990-99)
Mitchell gets in solely based on his return prowess. He remains among the league’s career leaders in return yards and on eight occasions he took kicks to the house during his time in Washington. You could argue that he remains among the best return aces ever.
28. Dave Butz (DT 1975-88)
It seemed like Butz played 30 years in the league. The actual number was 16 – still, Butz seemed like the Dick Trickle of the NFL by the time he was through. Butz’s career year came in the 14-2 season of 1983, as he recorded 11.5 sacks while earning his lone All-Pro selection.
27. Jerry Smith (TE 1965-77)
Smith was a prolific pass-catching tight end, grabbing 67 passes in his third year in the league. Smith’s final legacy however was his early passing at age 43. He was believed to be pro sports’ first casualty of the AIDS virus in the early days of the disease when a diagnosis was a death sentence.
26. Champ Bailey (CB 1999-2003)
A sure-fire future Hall of Famer, Bailey established himself as a shut-down corner earning Pro Bowl recognition in four of his five years with the team.
25. Clinton Portis (RB 2004-10)
Bailey had become unhappy by the end of the 2003 season and would soon be dealt in a rare straight-up trade for Clinton Portis, who had rushed for 1,500-plus yards in his first two years with the Denver Broncos. Portis had some solid years with the Skins, but his high mileage as a running back eventually caught up with him, while Champ Bailey continued to rack up All-Pro nominations in Denver.
24. London Fletcher (ILB 2007-present)
London comes calling here. Fletcher is no doubt one of those guys who goes by announcing the name of his high school on Sunday Night Football, as he went to tiny John Carroll University.
Fletcher has now played 240 consecutive games in his career, but did not get Pro Bowl recognition until arriving in Washington. Fletcher is truly one of the all-time great undrafted players.
23. LaVar Arrington (OLB 2000-06)
The second-overall pick of the 2000 Draft, Arrington was an intimidating specimen and in the early-2000s appeared on track to reach his projected superstar status. Injuries would end up cutting LaVar’s career short though.
22. Timmy Smith (RB 1987-88)
Can I put a one-hit wonder this high up on the list? Considering his 204-yard performance in Super Bowl XXII (still a single-game Super Bowl record) the answer is yes. Unfortunately, Smith’s post-career resume isn’t as shiny, he’s coming off a recent federal prison stint.
21. Doug Williams (QB 1986-89)
It’s fitting to put the other Super Bowl XXII star in Row 11. Coach Joe Gibbs (who had coached Williams with Tampa Bay) tapped Doug as a starter over Jay Schroeder for the playoffs following the 1987 season, and the rest was history. Williams would come down with appendicitis early the following season, and ultimately be supplanted by Mark Rypien, disappearing from the scene as quickly as he appeared.
Still, Williams’ historic Super Bowl performance pretty much ended what stigma was left regarding African-Americans playing quarterback.
20. Ricky Sanders (WR 1986-93)
‘Where’s Ricky Sanders?’
That was President Ronald Reagan as the Redskins made a White House appearance after winning Super Bowl XXII. It was Sanders’ 80-yard touchdown reception that ignited Washington’s 35-point second quarter. Sanders career year was the following season in 1988, as he accounted for 1,100-plus receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Rickey’s staying power in the league gets him past Williams and Timmy Smith on this list.
19. Chris Samuels (OT 2000-09)
The Skins somehow got the second and third overall picks in the 2000 Draft. After Cleveland used the top pick on Courtney Brown (one of 983 reasons the Browns remain the Browns), Washington got it right with Samuels, who wound up a six-time Pro Bowler in his nine seasons with the team.
18. Mark Rypien (QB 1988-93)
Another guy who is ranked highly because of a single career year. In 1991 Rypien led the league, averaging 8.43 yards per completion. The 1991 team is quietly ranked by some as one of the best championship teams ever. In one game of that season, Rypien threw for six touchdowns and rushed for a seventh, cha-ching.
17. Joe Jacoby (OT 1980-93)
Another of the Hogs who played on all three of Gibbs’ title teams. Jacoby earned All-Pro recognition twice in the early 1980s and has been a three-time Hall of Fame semi-finalist.
16. Dexter Manley (DE 1981-89)
Manley had a somewhat checkered career and is ranked somewhat high here. What can’t be disputed is that he was one of the team’s most popular players ever. He earned his lone Pro Bowl berth with 18.5 sacks in 1986.
15. Charles Mann (DE 1983-93)
You simply cannot Manley without Mann. Mann was a four-time Pro Bowl selection who recorded 82 sacks in his career. He ended his career by earning a third Super Bowl championship ring as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
14. Gary Clark (WR 1985-92)
Clark burst onto the scene with a 241-yard performance on Monday night football in 1986, a single-game total that still ranks second in franchise history. Clark would go on to break the 1,000-yard barrier five times while with the club.
13. Sean Taylor (S 2004-07)
Perhaps I’m ranking Taylor too high, but he had the potential to end up as one of the franchise’s best if not for his passing late in the 2007 season. Taylor had already become known as one of the hardest-hitters in the league, but also had some off-field missteps before he was shot to death in his home while recuperating from an on-field injury.
12. Larry Brown (RB 1969-76)
Brown overcame a hearing deficiency to become a dominant runner in the league over his first four seasons. His peak season came in the Skins NFC Championship season of 1972, when he averaged over 140 yards from scrimmage per game. Although his time in the league was relatively short, he remains a Washington icon.
11. Joe Theismann (QB 1974-85)
Everyone knows how his career ended, what most do not realize though is that Theismann actually cut his teeth playing in Canada for three years and was also a part-time punt returner during his first two years in Washington. As a starter, the Skins went 77-47 with the No. 7 car under center.
10. Ken Houston (S 1973-80, HOF)
Now we’re getting into the Hall of Famers. Houston played the final eight seasons of a stellar 14-year career in Washington after being acquired for five players. With the exception of his final season, Houston made the Pro Bowl every season he was with the Skins, being named All-Pro twice in the process.
9. John Riggins (RB 1976-85, HOF)
Riggins is another guy who ranks as one of the ‘most iconic’ players in franchise history. If you watch the replay often enough, you think that Don McNeal is going to at least bring the Diesel down on that game-clinching Super Bowl XVII TD run. Riggins had incredible longevity in the league for his position, playing 15 years and starting through the age of 36.
8. Russ Grimm (OG 1981-91, HOF)
Simply put, Grimm was the leader of the original Hogs. He earned four consecutive All-Pro selections during the 1980s, and was a part of all three Super Bowl-winning teams. Grimm has become a highly respected coach over the past two decades, and his name remains constantly in the mix for head coaching positions in the league.
7. Bobby Mitchell (WR 1962-68, HOF)
By the early 1960’s, the Redskins had taken their lumps on the field for nearly a generation. Ownership was also under pressure as the franchise was the last NFL team to employ an African-American player, and had just moved into what became known as RFK Stadium on a site built on federal land. It is an amazing history lesson especially, considering the African-American representation in the city of Washington D.C.
The Redskins wound up trading the first overall pick in the 1962 Draft for Mitchell, who proceeded to lead the league in receiving yards the following two seasons, and caught at least 58 passes in six consecutive seasons. Beyond the raw stats, Mitchell’s arrival helped marked a new winning culture for the franchise.
6. Charley Taylor (WR 1964-77, HOF)
An All-Decade selection for the 1960s, Taylor led the NFL in receptions twice early in his career, and was still very much a factor with the George Allen-led teams of the 70s. By the time his 14-year career was done, he had made the Pro Bowl on eight occasions. Taylor remained in the organization in a coaching and scouting capacity through 1994.
5. Sonny Jurgensen (QB 1964-74, HOF)
Other quarterbacks from his era such as Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, and Joe Namath got more publicity, in part because their teams won championships. Statistically however, Sonny had perhaps the best arm from that time-frame. Jurgensen actually had a couple of solid seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles before arriving in Washington. He led the league in passing yards three times, and twice threw for more than 30 touchdowns in a 14-game season. As a Skin, he would throw 179 touchdowns against just 116 interceptions.
For his time, Jurgensen was the closest comparison to the pass-happy quarterbacks of the current league.
4. Art Monk (WR 1980-93, HOF)
Nearly a decade-and-a-half on the team and being a part of three Super Bowl championships should get Monk very high on this list. After years of traditionally trading most of their draft picks for veteran contributors, the Skins wisely kept their first-round pick and drafted Monk in 1980. His peak came catching a then-record 106 passes in 1984. By the time he retired, Monk also held league’s all-time marks in career catches (888) and had caught passes in 183 straight games. If I have to nit-pick, Monk was only a three-time Pro Bowler in the mid-1980s
3. Chris Hanburger (OLB 1965-78, HOF)
Hanburger simply does not get the publicity that many of the linebackers of his era got. For one, he was considered to be quiet and not an over-intimidating presence, as he played at just over 200 pounds. But after getting past that, one realizes Hanburger was one of the best players in franchise history, with nine Pro Bowl nominations and four All-Pro selections. He finally earned a long-overdue enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 2011.
2. Darrell Green (CB 1983-2002, HOF)
If he was still faster than half the corners currently in the NFL it would not be a surprise. Green remains a freak for playing his position at an elite level for two decades, or basically an entire generation. Even late in his career, Green returned interceptions to the house in four consecutive years. Another signature moment was Green’s key(and gutty) punt return for a touchdown in a 1987 playoff game in Chicago. He was also a stud off the field, being named the 1996 NFL Man of the Year.
With seven Pro Bowl selections, Green will be a very compelling at-large argument.
1. Sammy Baugh (QB/S/P 1937-52, HOF)
Out of all the greats to come through Washington in the last couple of generations, I have chosen to go very-old school with my final UFP selection. The year before Sammy arrived in 1937, the previous year’s quarterback threw the ball a grand total of 44 times. Baugh would throw 171 times in his rookie year. He simply changed the culture of the NFL by using the forward pass as a true weapon.
In 1945, Baugh completed an incredible 70 percent of his passes, but there was much more. One year he intercepted 11 passes in just 10 games, and one season he averaged 51.4 yards per punt (one of five times he led the league in that category). As others have said, just think of Tom Brady, Ed Reed, and Brian Moorman wrapped up into one.
One caveat was that Baugh played against watered-down competition during the war years. As a rancher, Baugh was given a pass from entering active duty and spent most of week during the season back in Texas before commuting for game weekends.
I quibble with a lot on the All-Time NFL Top 100 list, but ranking Baugh No. 14 isn’t far off the mark. He and Don Hutson dominated their era, and Baugh makes it to the top as my final Ultimate Franchise Player.