In 1981 Joe Gibbs took over the Washington Redskins. By my count, that was 25 seasons ago (last season was 2006). During that time period he led Your Washington Redskins to four Super Bowls, the first in 1982, winning 3 of them.
In the same time period -- and this is after only quick and impassioned fact checking, so please catch me in the comments section -- only one team won more Super Bowls, the San Fransisco 49ers. They are properly represented on the list at #1 and #2 with Joe Montana and Jerry Rice respectively. And Ronnie Lott. And Steve Young. That's fine.
Only two other teams, besides the 49ers, went to more Super Bowls. That would be the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos. The Pats get their Tom Brady, the Broncos get their John Elway. The Buffalo Bills get Bruce Smith, who we won't bother claiming. The Cowboys get Emmitt and Troy.
I don't have a problem with any of those selections. They were all great players who certainly belong in this conversation. What frustrates me is that one of the best franchises in the NFL of the past 25 years, with more SB wins than any team besides the 49ers, and more SB appearances than all but three teams (Patriots, Broncos, and 49ers) somehow gets left off the list entirely. Not a single player who helped the team earn a Super Bowl is showcased on this list.
As I'm the one with the complaint, it is incumbent on me to provide that player. Perhaps it really was exclusively a team effort, that not a single person distinguished themselves on those three Super Bowl teams, which would be a partial argument for Joe Gibbs as the greatest Coach of all time. I present Darrell Green as a worthwhile addition to this list, though invite reader(s) to provide their own suggestions. He's chosen for longevity, which would seem to speak towards his impact over the past 25 years, and his contribution to two of our three Super Bowl victories during that period.
So who should go? I think there are a number of people on this list less deserving of this honor than Darrell Green, though I'll strike the easiest target. Terry Bradshaw didn't do a damn thing in the last 25 years. He threw a grand total of 8 passes in the 1983 season before retiring. He had good, but not mind blowing, 1981 and 1982 seasons, though his teams didn't do anything in the postseason (in the last 25 years).
It's an evident problem for USA Today and will be for the Hall of Fame if they continue to snub Art Monk or else, unthinkably, snub Green, to tell the story of the Washington Redskins in the 80s and early 90s without distinguishing any players (besides John Riggins, who is in the Hall of Fame). They are essentially asking Redskins fans to forget that our teams were great and that we succeeded in spite of ourselves. As teams that were comparable or demonstrably worse than the Redskins enjoy adoration and praise in the form of individual recognition, I think we have every reason to be indignant.
I am willing to acknowledge that perhaps the Washington Redskins were simply a well coached team with great chemistry but no all stars. Our plethora of quarterbacks, and our ability to succeed in spite of those changes, speaks to that point. But if that's the case you need to identify the coaching staff as perhaps the greatest in NFL history. Belichick never won without Tom Brady. Shanahan never won without Elway. Walsh never did it without Joe Montana, and George Seifart perhaps proved, in a 55-10 landslide in the 1989 Super Bowl, that Montana would do it regardless of who coached. Neither Jimmy Johnson nor Barry Switzer did anything without Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin.
But Coach Gibbs did it with Joe Theismann, Doug Williams, and Mark Rypien. He did it with and without Gary Clark. He did it with John Riggins, George Rogers, Timmy Smith, and Earnest Byner. The team changed significantly yet the winning continued at a level barely matched by any other team over the same period. If we won all those games despite an apparently absolute lack of elite players, then give Joe Gibbs his due.
And if we really are going to get bumped off the Top 25 players of the past 25 years, it certainly shouldn't be because of Terry Bradshaw.