Via TORB (Gymnast of the Apocalypse!), Darrell Green is the people's choice:
The results are in on ESPN SportsNation’s “Franchise Players” poll, which purports to determine the “best of all time for every NFL team.” The winner for the Redskins is Darrell Green, although not by a particularly overwhelming majority: of 47,481 votes cast, Darrell has 29.7% of them, the lowest percentage of any team’s winner.
Updated numbers move Green even farther in the lead, now and finally with 37% of the vote, followed by Art Monk with 16.9%. In third is the actual greatest player in our franchise's history, Sammy Baugh with 16.3% of the vote.
I can't really blame the 53,077 people who couldn't correctly answer this question as the recent induction of both Green and Monk into the Hall of Fame no doubt played a huge role in their successful electoral campaigns. Also, most fans are like me; we aren't old enough to have seen Sammy Baugh play and thus don't have the same connection with him that we do with Darrell Green.
But, as far as facts go, Sammy Baugh was the greatest Redskin in the history of the franchise. Democracy be damned, I'm dictating:
Face of the Redskins franchise: Sammy Baugh
It's an old franchise, but it's greatest player also happened to be one of its first. None of this is a criticism of either Monk or Green, both impossibly talented players by all accounts, but Sammy Baugh was good enough to transform the entire game. Before he showed up, the forward pass was a novelty that seemed to distant to catch on. And, indeed, the kind of accuracy with which he threw the ball would not catch on for the better part of many people's lifetimes. Two of the better means of calculating a player's success and dominance are:
1. How well he played relative to his contemporaries (because comparisons across eras are usually unfair)
2. How long a player's records hold. When I say comparisons across eras are usually unfair above, it's because they are: records are broken over time. The longer a player's stamp remains relevant, especially when he played over 50 years ago, the more implicative it is of his dominace.
Speaking to the first, consider that Sammy Baugh led the NFL in passing yards more than any other player (tied with Steve Young) for 6 full seasons. No other player has done so for 5 seasons. Peyton Manning, perhaps the greatest quarterback of my lifetime, has led the league in yards three times. Only Dan Marino led the NFL in completions more times than Baugh (six to five in Dan's favor). He had a higher completion % than anyone else in the league for 7 seasons, more than any player in NFL history besides a truly underrated Len Dawson (8 seasons). Joe Montana, by comparison, only led the league in completion % 5 times.
But by far Baugh's most impressive feat, and since we're talking about a guy who once led the league in passing, interceptions, and punting that's saying quite a bit, was his single season completion % of 1945. Amazingly, in an era when the forward pass was still becoming an ordinary part of the game, Baugh completed 70.33% of his passes. That was an impossible enough feat that it took every single quarterback following thirty seven years just to match and surpass that number... by .22 percent. Ken Anderson in 1982 was both the first AND THE LAST person to complete more passes than Sammy Baugh -- back in WW2! -- over the course of a single season. Baugh, 53 years ago, remains the 2nd most accurate single season passer in the league's history. The most hallowed records in the NFL are, probably, Walter Payton's career rushing yards record (broken by Emmit Smith) and Dan Marino's either single season passing touchdown record or his career touchdown record, both broken recently by Peyton Manning/Tom Brady and Brett Favre, respectively. Marino's records could hardly be called untouchable since they were touched in my short lifetime -- 1984 was the older of his accomplishments, bested twice in the past four years. Walter Payton, huge credit to him, only managed to reign supreme for ~ two decades.
Anyways, none of that takes into account what I briefly mentioned above; that Sammy Baugh might be one of the greatest defensive backs in the franchise's history (saying quite a bit considering the company he'd keep with Darrell Green) and he might be the greatest punter in league history. Everything I said above about surpassing peers and maintaining dominace across eras remainstrue for Sammy Baugh... the punter. His four seasons leading the league in punting yards remains a league record (tied only by Jerrel Wilson). His 45.10 average punting yards over the course of his career remained the highest in league history for 50 years, broken only recently and only by Shane Lechler. A guy who started punting in 1937 is still the second best punter in league history? Kidding me? Mat McBriar, an admittedly monstrous punter of our time, is third with a 44.68 average. Baugh's 1940 season average (51.40) has yet to be broken. I'm serious.
I'm also serious: Sammy Baugh was the greatest Redskin in the franchise's history and is probably the greatest single player in the history of the entire league. The fact that his records remain relevant approaches unbelievability. He is the single player most responsible for the development of the passing game which is now so fundamental to us newbies. Darrell Green and Art Monk are both extremely near and dear to my heart, but they aren't better than Slingin' Sammy Baugh. There's no shame in that.
While we're on the subject of the people's choice, I just want to give love to Curly R for cracking 100,000 hits. Best Redskins' blogger out there, he is, and that's saying something considering 'Skins fans have such a robust selection of talented writers from which to choose, excluding this space. I've said it before and will continue to say it: Curly R is at the top of my blogroll by design.
Having written this post, a new poll is going up and I expect you guys to answer it properly.