Our friend from Real Redskins, Rich Tandler, has just published his latest book, The Redskins Chronicle. He took the time this week to sit down with us and we peppered him with questions about the book as well as his personal history as a Redskins fan.
HH: How long did it take you to compile all of this information? From the time you thought of doing this book to the time it was ready to publish, how much time elapsed?
Rich: The short answer is about 15 years. I started to do my first book, The Redskins From A to Z, in about 1994. I published that in 2002. The Redskins Chronicle is an update, revision, and expansion of that book.
HH: In your opinion, what defines an "era" more for fans: coaches or players?
Rich: Coaches define eras. The players come and go, the coaches stay. Of course with the Gibbs era there was a core of players who helped define that era.
HH: Who were you able to get interviews with and of those you interviewed, who kind of stood out? What was something you learned while talking to some of these folks that really opened your eyes to an issue you may not have previously considered?
Rich: I did no interviews for this book. In the early going I decided that it was best to use sources from the time that the game or event took place. The effects of time, and the human tendency to tell versions of fish tales, tend to detract from the accuracy of contemporaneous accounts of events in the past. So, I did the research primarily from back issues of the Post, Times, and other newspapers. There are plenty of quotes from players and coaches but they were made at the time of the events being covered.
HH: Of all the teams you "Chronicled", what team is closest to your heart? Why?
Rich: I have to go with the 1972 team. That was the first time that had been really good in such a long time. Plus George Allen lived in McLean where I did and I would run across him from time to time. Of course, I was a dumb teenager and had no idea what to say to him, but it was cool making a fool out of myself. There were the added elements of Sonny vs. Billy and the Over the Hill Gang. Great times.
HH: You include a lot of news clips scattered throughout the book. Did you notice anything different in the way the beat guys covered the team through the years compared to today?
Rich: The D. C. sports writer has remained remarkably consistent over the years. He (and an occasional she) will recount a game that was well-played by the Redskins in stirring tones. When the Skins lay an egg there is no excuse making but they generally don't get beaten up too badly. The beat writers did get to develop a little bit of a homer tint during the 50's and 60's when the team was awful year after year; I guess the felt that they had to keep the sunny side up to maintain readers.
HH: Over the last 70 years, the Redskins have had some serious ebb and flow with regard to their record/on-the-field success. How would you characterize the passion of the fans as the team went through these ups and downs? How would you compare the fans of these different eras with the fans of the team today?
Rich: I think that Redskins fans--in fact, most football fans--get complacent very easily. I remember the two home playoff games for the 1983 defending champion Redskins. It would be a stretch to say that the crowd at RFK was lifeless but there certainly was a ho-hum attitude there. I think that passionate fans remain passionate fans but the folks on the fringes get into it when they're winning and are in shopping malls on Sundays when they're losing. I don't think that fans are that much different today than they were in the past. Certainly today it's more of a year-round deal with the NFL's off-season drawing so much attention and with so many avenues to discuss it. It used to be that you'd pay attention around the time of the draft and not tune in again until training camp started. Also, today's Redskins fans get much higher when things go well and have to be talked off of a ledge when a one-game losing streak takes place.
HH: Of the 7 decades you "Chronicle", can you pick out a player from each decade that serves as a favorite of yours? What made him stand out to you and how would he fare in today's NFL?
Rich: Certainly Sammy Baugh defined the team from when it moved from Boston through the 1940's. The team was mediocre to bad for most of the 50's but defensive end Gene Brito was the most accomplished player on the team. The 60's belonged to Sonny, although certainly he doesn't get it done without support from Charley Taylor, Bobby Mitchell and Jerry Smith. I'm going to give the 70's to Chris Hanburger even though he had a good chunk of his prime years in the sixties. Someone has to represent Allen's defense and Hanburger was Allen's extension on the field. With bows to Monk, Riggo, and a few others Joe Jacoby is the man of the 80's. Not only was he a Hog but he came in as an undrafted free agent, symbolizing the blue-collar nature of so many of the core members of those teams. Darrell Green gets the nod in the 1990's. He was a star player on some pretty bad teams. This decade, LaVar Arrington epitomizes the team--a lot of hype, some great moments but, in the end, a disappointment.
HH: Almost 50 years of Redskins/Cowgirls rivalry in this book. What can you share from the book that the casual observer may have missed regarding the history of these games?
Rich: It's very unusual for them to play with a lot on the line. There have been a few exceptions but of the approximately 80 games they've played there have been maybe half a dozen where a lot was on the line for both teams and another 10 or 15 where it was a big game for one team or the other.
HH: In the course of writing this book, was the current management/ownership responsive in helping you with your endeavor?
Rich: Since I used the media sources I didn't need the cooperation of the team, just the library.
HH: Finally, if you could go back and change one roster addition/trade/cut...who would it be?
Rich: I've got to go with two from the old school. First there was the trade of safety Paul Krause to theVikings for linebacker Marlin McKeever. Krause is in the Hall of Fame and is still the NFL's all-time leader in interceptions while McKeever never was better than just an OK player. Second, in the 1967 draft their first-round pick, 13th overall, was fullback Ray McDonald, who lasted a couple of mediocre years. Taken two picks later was defensive end Alan Page, who was a Hall of Fame defensive end for the Vikings. Taken two picks after that was Gene Upshaw, a Hall of Fame guard before becoming head of the NFLPA. If George Allen had Krause and either Page or Upshaw on his team we're talking about multiple Super Bowls.