Reporting David Elfin
The Redskins will honor the 10 newest members of their all-time greatest this weekend as part of an 80th anniversary celebration that will be capped by Sunday’s game against Carolina.
Congrats are in order to former general manager Bobby Beathard, former assistant coaches Joe Bugel and Richie Petitbon, and former players LaVar Arrington, Terry Hermeling, Jon Jansen, Roy Jefferson, Clinton Portis and Chris Samuels as well as to the family of late safety Sean Taylor, who was just 24 when he was shot to death five years ago this month.
Their elections – joining the 70 players and coaches who were selected for the all-time team a decade ago – got me thinking about who’ll be next. In other words, which 10 men will be chosen as part of the 90th anniversary celebration in 2022.
While there are some deserving candidates who were bypassed this year such as offensive lineman Willie Wilkin, running back Stephen Davis, receiver Henry Ellard, linebacker Brad Dusek, cornerback Joe Lavender, trainer Bubba Tyer, and GM Charley Casserly, I only considered names who weren’t on the ballot in 2012.
So here goes:
By 2022, Robert Griffin III will have, if all goes well, played 10 seasons at quarterback for Washington. That’s the minimum length of service for an active player to be eligible. And if RGIII’s next nine and a half years are anything like his first half-season, he’s a cinch.
A decade from now, linebacker London Fletcher will be 47 and finally done with football. His three straight Pro Bowls from 2009-11, his status as the Redskins’ leading tackler during all five of his full seasons here and his strong leadership make him a gimme, too.
While Fletcher has been a warrior inside, 2009 first-round draft choice Brian Orakpo and 2011 first-rounder Ryan Kerrigan have sparkled as outside linebackers. They were a dynamic duo for a year-plus until Orakpo suffered a season-ending torn pectoral in Week 2 of 2012. Assuming Orakpo is 100 percent next year and that he re-signs with Washington for 2014 and beyond, he and Kerrigan should become a latter-day version of the 1980s pass-rushing tandem of Dexter Manley and Charles Mann for a few more seasons.
Although they were apart for the first seven games of 2012 after seven years as teammates, it’s hard not to think of receiver Santana Moss and tight end Chris Cooley together. Moss will finish behind only Hall of Famers Art Monk and Charley Taylor and possibly four-time Pro Bowl pick Gary Clark in both catches and receiving yards in franchise history. Cooley has already caught more passes than any Redskins tight end and is second in receiving yards behind the late Jerry Smith.
That’s six all-timers: Griffin, Fletcher, Orakpo, Kerrigan, Moss and Cooley. Four to go.
If Trent Williams continues to progress towards fulfilling the potential that made him the fourth overall choice in the 2010 draft and sticks around for a while, I’d put the left tackle in this group.
The final three are less obvious.
I’ll start with jack-of-all-trades Lorenzo Alexander, who began his time in Washington on the practice squad in 2007 and has since played defensive line, offensive line, tight end, fullback, outside linebacker and inside linebacker while becoming one of the NFL’s top special-teamers, a captain and a locker room leader.
Next, I’ll go with a true surprise. Under defensive bosses Gregg Williams and Greg Blache, the Redskins ranked fifth, ninth, 11th, sixth and 18th in points allowed from 2004-09 (the exception was 2006 when the defense collectively slumped). The only constant during that time was a man as quiet as Alexander is quotable, but one no less of a leader, Cornelius Griffin. The defensive tackle missed just 10 games during those six seasons and was the unit’s bedrock.
The last one was even more of a projection than RGIII, especially considering how running backs can shine and then suddenly disappear – remember Timmy Smith and Reggie Brooks? — but Alfred Morris’ terrific first half and his humble nature bode well for his eventual inclusion among Washington’s greatest
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since last March. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin