I made it 90 days into the lockout and offseason without leaning on this series to get us through. Of course, I made you all sit through Diary entries, Sixpacks consisting of almost zero Redskins stories and pictures of Kevin's favorite wheels of cheese.
Often replicated, but seldom duplicated (what?)...let's pick up where we left off. For those just joining the "Redskins By the Numbers" series, a few ground rules:
1. This isn't about picking the "greatest Redskin" to ever wear the number we are profiling. For evidence of that, please see The People vs Ken Meringolo and his selection of Brad Edwards over Ken Houston. I pick a guy that I can tell a good story about, or someone that causes me to wax poetic about something like the decline of Super Bowl halftime shows or Kevin's favorite cheeses.
2. In this space, we have cut our teeth on some groundbreaking interviews. It was here that we spoke to Todd Husak, Tony (or Max) Zendejas, and of course Tom Tupa's dad. If you want it straight from the horse's mouth via some other horse that at some point may have known the horse in question or knew that horse's friend at a neighboring stable, you have come to the right place.
3. I reserve the right to change, revise or flat out scrap any rules as I see fit.
#30 Brian Mitchell
For those of you out there old enough to remember a time when the Redskins were perennial winners, you will recall that there was always a real sense of team. Nobody was bigger than the team. We had plenty of good players, but team performance always seemed to trump individual performance. The offensive line was solid, which led to a good ground game, which led to a good passing game, which led to a general sense that our offense was, well...good. Our defense was generally stout and our special teams contributed positively.
This sense of team manifested itself in various ways through the years. But it is a story that former Redskins safety Clarence Vaughn told me that underlines my pick for #30. As we pulled back on a few cold ones very late into a happy hour one night, he asked me if I remembered the way Brian Mitchell used to go after opponents verbally.
Uhhh...yeah. Of course. We all remember that. It was his trademark.
Clarence said, "Back then, he knew he could get into people's faces because every single man in a Redskins jersey had his back. Nobody was going to mess with B Mitch because there would be 53 guys on the scene in a flash. It's not like that anymore. It doesn't seem like it is."
Man...that sums up so much of what we have watched over the last decade, doesn't it? The rest of the league has not been immune to the phenomenon Clarence Vaughn characterizes here, but in D.C. we have seen our sense of team get crushed. We watched as Jeff George got dragged across the turf in Dallas with no repercussions. We watched while LaRon Landry stood up to the Atlanta sidelines almost by himself. I am not saying that there needs to be more confrontations and fights for the Redskins to enjoy the same unity that previous teams had. I am not even saying that we need a guy like Brian Mitchell to be out there verbally blitzkrieging opponents to fire up his teammates. I am especially not saying that Jeff George didn't deserve to be dragged across the turf.
But this organization does need to dedicate itself to a core group of guys that will be around for longer than a cup of coffee if we expect there to be any semblance of the kind of team some of us grew up watching. In fact, that could very well be what Bruce Allen is doing at this very moment. I like to think that it is. We need to continue to move away from building a team with big names and focus on building a big game with team-first players.
When I think back on Brian Mitchell's time as a Redskin, I will always remember the touchdowns, the 3rd down conversions and the way he pretty much did anything he was asked to do with maximum heart and effort. As a player, he belongs in the Hall of Fame. Only Jerry Rice has more all-purpose yards than Brian Mitchell. Only Devin Hester has more special teams touchdowns. Only Jim Brown has led the league in combined yards more times than Brian Mitchell.
But his incessant yapping and trash talking will stand out for every Redskins fan that ever watched him play. We never thought, "Shut up B!" At least I didn't. Instead, I remember the lot of us right there behind him...right there behind 52 other guys in uniform ready to go.
Perhaps this team will find itself in the coming years and a player will grow into the role B Mitch filled as a Redskin. Don't get me wrong...we have respected leaders (London Fletcher) and we have trash talkers. But until we develop a little more as a team, we will not find ourselves back in that familiar place...where every man, woman, and child on hand was filled with the same fight and spirit that came to a head every time #30 touched the ball.
#30 Brian Mitchell