It is at least a little fitting that we get to #14 on the heels of the departure of Jon Jansen. It gives us a chance to talk about how this franchise has handled the jettisoning of players over the years.
Jon Jansen's dismissal continues to be a big story because, prior to his release, he was the longest tenured Redskin on the roster (can you name the player who takes over that honor?) I don't know about you but since the news broke on Friday, I have not come across too many people who are beside themselves in shock. The timing of the move is what ends up dominating the debate. It did seem at least slightly odd--middle of a Friday afternoon, before June 1st. But if the team was serious about moving on without Jon Jansen, and they were genuine about Jansen having a chance to make it somewhere else, you could make the case it made sense. After all, it only took him a day to find a home right? He was able to beat all the guys (assuming there will be a few) who are about to hit the street this week. Don't get me wrong--I am sure that the team did not unnecessarily imperil its own situation to help Jon. But clearly Jansen will have his opportunity to spend a whole summer with his new team in the hopes he can crack the lineup.
Secondly, this move says a ton about Jim Zorn, and the responsibility and authority he clearly has in this organization. While making the call to cut Jansen was probably not the most difficult decision he ever faced, I have to believe there were people in the organization that were prepared to fight for Jansen to have a chance to show himself in camp. Bugel comes to mind. I could be wrong. Everything coming out of Zorn since Friday has been all about his evaluation process and the reality that Jansen simply was not wanted in the "competitive" phase of determining who the right tackle was going to be. I take that to mean that Zorn felt Jansen was not in line to compete for the starting tackle spot, and the depth chart at other positions were and needed to be manned by younger players.
So why have I hijacked the #14 post? Because today's #14 made an exit from D.C. that was handled in a completely absurd and utterly senseless way. And I thought it worth mentioning that in light of the way things are being handled lately, there is a sense of direction that seemed lacking in recent years.
We let Brad Johnson escape to Tampa Bay...so that Jeff George could start. Think about that. He was 2 years removed from 4,005 yards passing, 24 TDs, 13 INTs and a playoff win. The next year the team suffered a setback to be certain. An 8-8 record, and more INTs than TDs. We all remember when Brad left town right? Jeff George ended up getting benched and we went with Tony Banks! Brad Johnson went to Tampa Bay and got a Super Bowl ring.
I know there were salary cap issues, and if I remember correctly, Brad Johnson was pretty fed up with the Redskins' organization. This was right at the height of the insanity that was the Redskins franchise (though one could argue that this peak lasted for several years.)
Does anyone remember Brad Johnson flexing on the Jumbotron in the playoff win against the Detroit Lions (is there a better feeling in the world than playing Detroit in the playoffs for a Skins fan?).
What about the year he came back to town starting for the Vikings...a game which I believe they won in OT? I never saw it myself, but it was rumored that Brad wore his Redskins jersey as he left the stadium that night.
We do have some other notable #14's. Eddie LeBaron was drafted by the Skins in the 1950 NFL draft and played seven seasons (off and on) before becoming a footnote in the great history of the Redskins/Cowgirls rivalry. George Preston Marshall had forgotten to protect his Pro Bowl QB in the expansion draft and the Cowgirls took him. Inconceivable!
Finally, as you all know, we do our best to reach out to former Redskins who have worn these numbers and bring you some hard-hitting interviews. That legacy continues today with our recent sit-down with none other than #14 himself, Max Zendejas:
Sugar: Max, thanks for sharing your time with us. Let's get right to it...what stands out about that 1986 team you played on here in DC?
Max: Well you take the good with the bad. Replacing a guy like Mark Moseley is tough, but you do your best. That team was full of winners, and it was a winning team. I recently ran into Joe Theismann at a golf tourney out in Virgina.
[kind of an odd answer to the question...or not really an answer at all]
Sugar: Are there any stories that stand out to you from that year?
Max: Well I remember playing Green Bay and it was so cold. I said after that game that no matter what they paid me, I would never play in Green Bay. The next year, I was playing in Green Bay.
Sugar: I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ali Haji-Sheikh and I asked him about the burgeoning problem the NFL is dealing with.
Max: What's that?
Sugar: I can pronounce pretty much every kicker's name in the league, and I could probably spell 90% of them correctly on my first try. What happened to your once proud profession?
Max: (laughs) Haji-Sheikh...hehehe. Well, you know what is happening is that kids want to kick now. I run a camp for kids (http://www.zendejaskicking.com/) and I am seeing just some incredibly talented athletes pursuing kicking. Back in my day, we were kind of flaky, hippie guys. Now, kids want to kick the game-winning field goal, and they are going after it.
Sugar: Who was your favorite guy on the roster of that Redskins team?
Max: You know, that roster was jammed with good guys. I loved Dexter Manley, Mark Rypien, Gary Clark. I was very close with Eric Yarber (WR). Other guys who made an impression on me were Charles Mann and Darrell Green, both very religious guys, both always doing everything they could to help out a teammate.
Sugar: What are your thoughts on the current Redskins team?
Max: I do pay attention. The thing about the Redskins when I played there...they were used to winning. They were all winners. Those guys in the that locker room simply went after wins like you wouldn't believe. Coach Gibbs, the hardcore fans. You did your job and all those fans waited for you after the game to congratulate you and get your autograph. I wish I had stayed there longer.
Sugar: Last question: Who was the best Zendejas?
Max: (laughs) Well you know we were all different. Tony played the longest, working his way through the CFL, the Arena League and of course the NFL. Luis was just a fighter. We were very competitive with each other. We would compete against each other constantly, with the loser having to buy hamburgers. I was the only one of us who was drafted and I had the strongest leg.
So there you have it. "The Greatest Zendejas"...keep your eyes peeled for the major motion picture.