Former Redskins LB Chris Hanburger, the “Hangman,” finally makes Pro Football Hall of Fame

August 9, 2011

Former Redskins linebacker Chris Hanburger is the latest Redskin to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Hanburger was enshrined into the Hall Saturday in Canton, Ohio. The humble Hanburger gave his Hall of Fame speech one week shy of his 70th birthday.

Hanburger’s son Chris presented him into the Hall of Fame.  The modest Hanburger started by mentioning former teammates in attendance Billy Kilmer, Ron McDole, Brig Owens, Pat Fischer, and Larry Brown. He also congratulated the other inductees, and even thanked the volunteers at the Hall of Fame. Hanburger went on to thank men and women who are members of the armed forces, firefighters, and law enforcement, calling them the the true Hall of Famers.

“I don’t consider myself a true Hall of Famer,” Hanburger said. “It’s not so much what I did. I look at it as what the people around me did on the field that let me try to be somewhat of a loose cannon out there.”

To read the rest of my article on Examiner.com, click here.

Best Redskins of Super Bowl era: Monk, Jurgy, Riggo, Taylor, Theismann

July 26, 2011

Art Monk received the longest standing ovation in the history of the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he was inducted in 2008. Photo by Mike Frandsen.

The Washington Redskins have one of the greatest histories of any NFL team.  Picking the Redskins’ ten best players is nearly impossible, so here’s a list of the ten best Redskins of the Super Bowl era, based on one observer’s opinion.  Receiver Art Monk tops the list, Sonny Jurgensen comes in second, and John Riggins rounds out the top three.

Sammy Baugh was the greatest Redskin, but this list only includes players who played since 1966. Sam Huff and Bobby Mitchell didn’t make the list, only because by the time the Super Bowl era had begun, their Hall of Fame careers were almost over.  Only two defensive players made the list, though Dave Butz, Pat Fischer, Chris Hanburger, Dexter Manley, Charles Mann, and Wilber Marshall would have likely made the next ten.

Special teamers Brian Mitchell and Mark Moseley also warrant consideration.  Among Redskins from the past decade, Chris Cooley, Santana Moss, and Chris Samuels would probably make the top 30, but just barely.  So without further ado, here are the ten greatest Redskins of the Super Bowl era.

1. Art Monk

When Art Monk was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008, he received the longest standing ovation ever at the Hall, lasting more than four minutes before he stopped the crowd.

Monk played 14 of his 16 seasons for the Washington Redskins and led them to three Super Bowl victories and four appearances. His 106 catches in 1984 were an NFL record that stood for eight years.  At one time, Monk also had the records for most catches in a career and most consecutive games with a catch.

Monk was nicknamed “Money” for his uncanny ability to make crucial catches in big games. If there were a statistic kept for most critical first downs receiving, Monk would surely be at the top of the list. Monk had excellent hands, speed and height, ran precise routes, and was a fearsome blocker. He sacrificed his body to get the tough yards over the middle.

Monk was one of the most respected players on a three-time Super Bowl winning team. In 1990, with the Redskins’ season on the line, the normally reserved Monk called a now legendary team meeting that lit a fire under the Skins. The Redskins went on to win four of their next five games to make the playoffs and won the Super Bowl against Buffalo the following year. Washington’s record was 6-5 before the meeting and 22-4 after.

In the playoffs, Monk had four 100-yard games as well as seven touchdowns for an average of 26 yards per catch for those touchdowns.  In Super Bowl XXII against Denver, with the Redskins down 10-0, Monk caught a critical pass after missing the previous two playoff games with an injury.  Monk caught a 40-yard pass on a 3rd and 16 play.  Without that catch, history might have been different, but the Redskins went on to win, 42-10. In January 1992, Monk had seven catches for 113 yards as the Redskins beat Buffalo 37-24 in Super Bowl XXVI.

If coach Joe Gibbs gets credit for three Super Bowls with three quarterbacks, Monk should too. He didn’t play with a Hall of Fame quarterback, but he was a Hall of Fame receiver, and the best Redskin of the Super Bowl era.

2. Sonny Jurgensen

Sonny Jurgensen has been called the greatest pure passer in the history of the game.  Longtime Redskins fans say Sonny would heave the ball long, get sacked behind a porous offensive line, and then dust himself off to learn that Charley Taylor, Bobby Mitchell, or Jerry Smith had come down with the ball.  The 1964 trade that brought Jurgensen to the Redskins from Philadelphia for Norm Snead was one of the most lopsided deals in NFL history.

Jurgy passed for more than 3,000 yards three times as a Redskin, in an era that did not favor aerial attacks and led the NFL in passing three times.  Jurgensen set NFL records for yards, attempts, and completions in 1967.  By the time the Redskins became a playoff team in the 1970s, George Allen had given the job to the more conservative Billy Kilmer.  But in his prime, Sonny was one of the game’s great signal callers. Today, Sonny is still one of the most recognizable Redskins, three decades after first calling games on the radio.

3. John Riggins

Riggins, a former track star at Kansas, possessed a rare combination of power and speed on the way to rushing for 11,352 yards and scoring 116 touchdowns. Riggo played like a runaway truck, and his nickname of the “Diesel” was never more fitting than during his famous run through the playoffs in January 1983.  Riggins’ iconic bow to the RFK Stadium crowd after rumbling for 185 yards in a playoff win over Minnesota is etched in the minds of Redskins fans everywhere.

Redskins fans will always remember “70 chip,” the 4th and 1 play In the Super Bowl against Miami, when Riggins ran for a 43-yard touchdown to seal a 27-17 victory.  Riggins finished with 166 yards rushing and took home the MVP trophy. Riggins was one of a kind, once telling former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to “loosen up, Sandy baby.” After Riggins sat out the 1980 season in a contract dispute, Washington’s new coach, Joe Gibbs, traveled to Kansas to convince Riggins to return. “I’m bored, I’m broke, and I’m back,” said the running back upon returning to the nation’s capital.  The rest is history.

To read the rest of my article on Examiner.com, click here.

Lay off Snyder – he has made mistakes but deserves a second chance

February 12, 2011

Last week I wrote an article that basically said that even though Redskins owner Dan Snyder hasn’t done a great job — he has made some of the same mistakes over and over — and even though multiple reports say that he has at times treated people unfairly or not been the nicest guy, people should lay off him a bit.  The criticism has been relentless and ruthless.  It’s all you hear on sports radio nowadays.  So from here on out, any move the Redskins make will be scrutinized and criticized much more than before because of the missteps of the past 12 years.

The latest controversy has been Snyder suing a writer from the City Paper for defamation.  I simply pointed out in my article on Examiner.com that there were several items in the article that were exaggerated.  I also said that listening to the drivel on sports radio about how Snyder made a mistake in suing, and all of the other anti-Snyder talk just gets ridiculously boring.  Whatever your take, there were a lot of comments.

I probably didn’t make it clear enough that the article in the City Paper was on target on a lot of items, but even that is old news. Snyder has hurt himself, I believe, by rarely doing interviews, and not responding to criticism in the past. When he does do an interview he comes across as a good guy so he should do more of them.  If I were him, I just wouldn’t ever listen to sports radio and try to forget the past and just move forward.

Yesterday I was interviewed on the afternoon drive talk show on Toronto’s AM 640 about this.

It has been frustrating being a Redskins fan for the last 12 years – make that the last 18, during which time they have only made the playoffs three times.  But two of those times were under Joe Gibbs 2.0, so you can’t fault Snyder for that hire, which at the time was a great coup.  The Shanahan hire may ultimately also pay dividends though it got off to a rocky start last year.

Here’s my article on Examiner.com.

Former Redskins linebacker Chris Hanburger elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame

February 7, 2011

Former Redskins linebacker Chris Hanburger was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday.

Former Redskins linebacker Chris Hanburger is the latest Redskin to make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Hanburger was voted in as a senior candidate, 32 years after the outside linebacker retired.  Hanburger played 14 seasons for the Redskins, making the Pro Bowl nine times and winning the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 1972 when Washington made it to the Super Bowl.

In the 1970s, Hanburger was part of George Allen’s “Over the Hill Gang,” a group of veterans who led the Redskins to five playoff appearances and seven winning seasons in a row from 1971 to 1977.

Hanburger intercepted 19 passes in his career, returning two for touchdowns, and recovered 17 fumbles, returning three for scores. He was named All-Pro four times.

Hanburger becomes the fourth Redskin in the last four years to make it to Canton, Ohio.  Last year, guard Russ Grimm made it to Canton.  Two years ago, receiver Art Monk and cornerback Darrell Green were enshrined.

Hanburger, like Monk and Grimm, was a humble player who did not promote his accomplishments during or after his career.

Modesty may have hurt them in being overlooked for the Hall for a number of years.  Like Monk (inducted in his eighth year of eligibility) and Grimm (inducted in his 14th year of eligibility), Hanburger was bypassed for many years, making it 27 years after he was first eligible.

Is there an anti-Redskins bias that prevents players from making the Hall of Fame in favor of players from Pittsburgh and Dallas?

There are many other Redskins who should be in the Hall of Fame and others who at least deserve consideration.  Click here to read the rest of my article on Examiner.com to find out which other Redskins may belong in Canton, Ohio.

Will former Skins linebacker Chris Hanburger, of Over the Hill Gang, make the Hall of Fame?

February 5, 2011

Former Redskins linebacker Chris Hanburger may be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame tonight.  Hanburger was nominated as a senior candidate.  The voting takes place today. Hanburger made nine Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro four seasons.  He was NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1972 when the Redskins made it to the Super Bowl.

Hanburger was part of teams that made five playoff appearances in seven years in the 1970s for George Allen’s Redskins.  Click here to see my article on Examiner.com.

NFL Network: way too many Cowboys

February 5, 2011

Just watching an NFL Network “roundtable.”  The four guests?  Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders, Daryl Johnston and Brian Billick. Three of the four are ex-Cowboys.  The NFL Network, ESPN and other networks go way overboard with all their former Cowboys on TV.  It’s sickening.  At least Emmitt Smith is no longer on ESPN.  He was awful.  It’s bad enough that the Redskins are mediocre. It’s even worse to constantly get Troy Aikman or Johnston as our game announcers.  And of course, every time the NFL Network or ESPN replays old Super Bowls or regular season games, they ignore the Skins and play Dallas, or Green Bay (Favre).

And what about Favre being the 20th best football player ever and Sonny Jurgensen not even making the list on NFL.com’s list of Top 100 players?  Pathetic.

Don’t make McNabb a scapegoat – Shanahan deserves some blame for Redskins’ disappointing season.

December 19, 2010

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan deserves some blame for Washington's 5-8 season. Photo by Mike Frandsen.

Donovan McNabb deserves part of the blame for the Redskins’ disappointing season, but Washington could have been successful with the six-time Pro Bowl quarterback if coach Mike Shanahan had made better personnel and coaching decisions.

Shanahan benched McNabb for the final three games of the year Friday.

If the Redskins had avoided a few disastrous mistakes, McNabb could have led the Redskins to a respectable season this year.  In that scenario, McNabb could have continued to start next season while a rookie quarterback drafted in 2011 would have been groomed a year before starting.  Now the Redskins will play Rex Grossman or acquire a veteran next year to hold the fort down anyway before a draft pick starts.

McNabb didn’t perform up to expectations, with 14 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, but he didn’t have much help, and he shouldn’t be made the scapegoat for the Redskins’ problems.

To see how the Redskins could have won with McNabb at the helm, and which mistakes could have been avoided, click here for my article on Examiner.com.

Cooley talks about Redskins’ season, Shanahan, Dallas, and Mitchell

December 15, 2010

Chris Cooley participated in a promotional event for FedEx Office Tuesday in Washington. Photo by Mike Frandsen

I caught up with Redskins tight end Chris Cooley Tuesday at FedEx Office in Washington for a brief interview for Examiner.com. Cooley was participating in a FedEx promotional event.

Cooley, in his seventh season with the Redskins, said that the team is very motivated to play Dallas this week.

He likes the discipline Shanahan has instilled in the team and is optimistic about the future.

Cooley defended himself against criticism by former Redskin Brian Mitchell.

The former Pro Bowl tight end said he’s 100 percent healthy now and he hopes and expects to end his career in Washington.

When asked about ex-Redskin Colt Brennan, Cooley said the former quarterback is up and walking around after his car accident last month.

Click here to read the interview on Examiner.com.

Graham Gano is the latest in a long line of bad to mediocre Redskins kickers

December 15, 2010

Redskins kicker Graham Gano probably won't be signing autographs for Redskins fans next year. Photo by Mike Frandsen.

Is Graham Gano the worst kicker in the NFL?  There’s no doubt that he is – the statistics back that up.  Gano has missed 10 field goals on the year, which leads the NFL.  But a more important question to ask would be:  How much better would the Redskins have been in recent seasons with kickers who were merely average or above average instead of bad?

Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gano missed two field goals that any high school kicker should make.  Either of the chip shot field goals Gano missed, a 24 and a 34-yarder, would have given the Redskins enough points to win a game that they lost 17-16.  Never mind the botched snap and hold on what would have been a game-tying extra point – the Redskins should have never been in that situation.  True, it was rainy, but those are kicks that have to go in.

In fairness, Gano did kick a game-winning 33-yard field goal in overtime to give Washington a 16-13 win over Green Bay.

This brings up an often overlooked issue:  the Redskins have had some of the worst kickers in the NFL during the Dan Snyder era, a time when NFL teams have been so close in talent that special teams can make a huge difference.  Kick returner Brandon Banks has kept the Redskins in several games this season, but during the previous decade, Washington had one of the worst kick return units in the league, and its punters were nothing to brag about either.

(This just in – the Skins today cut Hunter Smith, whose failed hold cost the team an extra point that would have sent the game against the Bucs into overtime.  Smith was one of the worst punters in the league – par for the course for Washington the last 15 years or so.  I might even be underestimating the importance of special teams.  If Skins kickers, punters, and return and coverage units were good the past decade, maybe the Skins would have even averaged 10-6 instead of 7-9.)

This inattention to detail has been symbolic of a franchise that was once known for its blue-collar work ethic, but has gained a reputation of overpaying stars at glamorous positions.

Talk all you want about Tom Brady, but he hasn’t won a Super Bowl without Adam Vinatieri.  Neither has Peyton Manning. So when you complain about questionable coaching decisions or Donovan McNabb, don’t forget double G.

To see the rest of my article on Examiner.com, click here.

Redskins get passing grades at halfway mark; McNabb and Shanahan each get a B-

November 7, 2010

At the midway point of the season, the Redskins are 4-4 and have as many wins as they had all of last season.  Coach Mike Shanahan has improved the discipline and attitude of the players, and the Redskins are 2-0 in the NFC East.  But before calling this season a success so far, remember that last year’s team lost several close games, and when coach Jim Zorn was stripped of play calling duties, it signified Washington essentially throwing in the towel.  Otherwise the 2009 Redskins might have easily won seven or eight games.

With that in mind, here are the Redskins’ mid-term grades.  There aren’t any A’s but no units have failed either.

Quarterback: B-.  At first glance, Donovan McNabb isn’t having a great season.  His passer rating of 76.0 is the worst of his career and his accuracy has been up and down.  The six-time Pro Bowl quarterback has more interceptions (eight) than touchdowns (seven).  However, McNabb is playing behind a porous offensive line with inconsistent, inexperienced running backs and a receiving corps that is one of the worst in the NFL.  Still, McNabb’s leadership has helped Washington to as many wins as it had all of last season, and he has already become the Redskins’ best deep passer since Mark Rypien played nearly 20 years ago.  There may also be something to what coach Mike Shanahan says about McNabb being banged up and having hamstring problems, because power and accuracy on throws stem from the legs.

McNabb has also had to learn a new offense as well that is very different than the short passing game he ran in Philadelphia.  Despite media reports that McNabb will move on via free agency at the end of the year because of his recent benching by Shanahan, there’s no reason he can’t stay and in fact it would be hard to find a better option in free agency or coming out of college.

Here are a few other excerpts from my article on Examiner.com:

Wide Receivers: D. Santana Moss is a solid pro and is having his usual strong season but is best suited to being a number two or slot receiver.  Moss’ 48 receptions are 19 more than the rest of the team’s receivers combined.  Other than Moss, this may be the thinnest receiving corps in the league.

Cornerbacks: B-.  Carlos Rogers is a solid cover corner but couldn’t catch a cold if he spent the season teaching kindergarten.

Coaching: B-. Shanahan is a good football coach who wins games.  Unfortunately, his alter ego, “Shenanigan,” plays games that hurt the team.

For the rest of my article on Examiner.com, click here.