The Washington Redskins are one of the most legendary franchises in NFL history, and many stars have spent time playing football in the nation's capital. Originally established in 1932, the Redskins are one of just five NFL clubs to record over 600 regular-season and postseason wins. Earlier this offseason, we identified Washington's "Franchise Five" -- a part of a CBS Sports original series which dove into the five most impactful people in franchise history. This time, we are going to take an even deeper look at some of the best Redskins in franchise history.
Let's not ignore the elephant in the room -- it's very possible the Redskins could change their name before the 2020 season. Before there's a change to Washington's franchise moniker, let's take a look at the Redskins' all-time 53-man roster. This was a tough project, as there are so many Washington legends who were left off this list due to either talent ahead of them at the position, and then just because of the 53-player restriction. Either way, this roster comprised of these players in all of their primes would be one that could compete with any all-time NFL squad. Before we get started, let's examine a couple of highlights from this project:
- Two Super Bowl MVPs miss the cut
- "The Hogs" dominate the offensive line
- Hall of Fame starters at both cornerback and wide receiver
- We move a running back/flanker to slot receiver
- Sean Taylor is one of our starting safeties
Let's go ahead and jump in:
* denotes players that are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame
The quarterback position was one of the toughest to figure out since there are so many good names that have come through Washington. Since we are trying to put together a 53-man roster, we could only support three players. It's pretty incredible that we left two Super Bowl MVPs off this list (Mark Rypien and Doug Williams), but Williams was especially a tough cut. Sammy Baugh is listed as the "starter" because of how much of a legend he is in terms of NFL history. "Slingin' Sammy" out of TCU was a three-way player, as he found success as a quarterback, defensive back and punter. He was a first-round pick back in 1937, and helped the Redskins secure an NFL championship in his very first season -- making him just one of three players to lead his college team and pro team to a championship. Baugh was special because he was one of the first NFL quarterbacks to make the forward pass a key component of his game. Now look at the league today: it's all about deep passes and putting up points. Sonny Jurgensen gets the second-string spot because of his Hall of Fame status and Joe Theismann finishes out our imaginary quarterback room.
Larry Brown got the nod as our starting running back since he picked up an MVP during the 1972-73 season and shares the Redskins' all-time single game record with four touchdowns. Hall of Famer Cliff Battles is an absolute legend since he led the league in rushing during his rookie campaign in 1932 and became the first NFL player to rush for 200 yards in a game the very next year. Behind him on the depth chart, we have fan favorite Clinton Portis, who is second in franchise history when it comes to rushing yards. Who is first in terms of rushing yards? I'm glad you asked, it's John Riggins. We decided to put him at fullback since it was his original position and also gives us the ability to put him on the field with Brown or another running back. We are trying to maximize our talent here.
Tight end was another tough position to choose from. Jerry Smith was a key member of Washington's Super Bowl team in 1972 and is high on the list in several different franchise categories such as receptions and receiving yards. Chris Cooley was another fan favorite that we had to throw in there, but Wayne Millner is someone who deserves a special shoutout. The Hall of Fame two-way player led the Redskins to their first NFL Championship in 1937 and holds the distinction of being the first Redskins player to record a 100-yard receiving game. He starred on four Redskins divisional title teams and retired as Washington's top receiver.
As for the wide receivers and offensive line, those were fairly easy decisions. "The Hogs" gave us plenty of options and Hall of Famers Art Monk and Charley Taylor are leading our wideouts. We gave the nod to Bobby Mitchell at slot receiver since he was a versatile flanker who recorded many more receptions than rushing attempts during his seven years in Washington. Santana Moss also deserved a spot on this roster since he's the Redskins' fourth-leading receiver all-time.
Washington's starting defensive ends are quite a dynamic duo, as Dexter Manley is the Redskins' sack leader with 91 and Charles Mann is not far behind with 82. Ryan Kerrigan had to make the roster since he is just one sack from tying Manley's record. Additionally, we had to give a roster spot to Gene Brito, who received the Presidential "Seal of Approval" from both Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy for his high level of play. Both presidents referred to him as their favorite player! Chris Hanburger and Monte Coleman are our starting linebackers, as Hanburger made nine Pro Bowls and played 14 seasons with the Redskins -- which is not far behind Coleman's 16. We had plenty of trouble deciding between LaVar Arrington and Brian Orakpo for the backup linebacker position, so we opted to go with Arrington -- who earned three consecutive Pro Bowl selections from 2001-03 and set different single-season career highs in each year. He was also named second-team Associated Press All-Pro in each of those three seasons, which is something Orakpo never did.
The Redskins' all-time secondary wasn't too tough to figure out, as we have Hall of Famers Darrell Green and Champ Bailey starting at the cornerback spots. DeAngelo Hall also earned a position on the team and should serve as a nice nickelback. Ken Houston figures to be one of our defensive stars, as he was named to 12 straight Pro Bowls from 1968-79. The late, great Sean Taylor earned our other starting safety spot, as he spent his three-plus seasons as one of the league's most-feared hitters and one of the most athletic safeties in the NFL. He recorded 12 interceptions and eight forced fumbles in his 57 career combined regular season and postseason games.
No punter or kicker has played more games for the Redskins than Mark Moseley, as he holds the franchise record for most field goals made (263). He also had a hand in the Super Bowl XVII victory and became the only special teams player to win the NFL MVP award in 1982. He likely will go down in history as the only kicker to accomplish this feat.
As for the punter position, we considered going with Mike Bragg -- who has played in more games and recorded more punts than any player in Redskins franchise history. Instead, we opted to go with fan favorite Tress Way. The former undrafted product out of Oklahoma earned his first Pro Bowl nod this past season, and has recorded 437 punts for Washington and averaged 46.6 yards per punt. He's been one of the biggest bright spots in what has been a tough stretch recently for the Redskins.
We saved a spot on our 53-man roster for former Washington return specialist Brian Mitchell. In 159 games with the Redskins, he returned 317 punts for seven touchdowns while averaging 11 yards per return, and returned 421 kicks for two touchdowns while averaging 22.8 yards per return.