I’ve done about 20 of these articles now.
This is the first time I’ve seen a tie.
A tie in “Approximate Value,” that is. That’s the system that Pro Football Reference uses to assess the contributions a player made to his team. In this case, both Casey Rabach and Fran O’Brien scored a 36.
O’Brien played for the Redskins during some of the leanest years the franchise has ever known. The first part of his career with Washington took place in the era when the Redskins were the last holdout for signing black players. As you might guess, that didn’t work out so well, and the Redskins went 2-21-3 during O’Brien’s first two seasons. That’s not a typo. They went 2-21-3.
Things got better over the next few years, as the Redskins’ hiring practices caught up with the rest of the league. Still, though, Washington never made the playoffs or even posted a winning record during O’Brien’s 1960-1966 tenure. He finished with 83 games as a Redskin under his belt, mostly playing right tackle, although he spent one season on the left side.
Meanwhile, Rabach joined the Redskins from the Ravens in the second year of the Joe Gibbs II era. With Rabach starting at center, Washington made the playoffs for the first time in six years, going 10-6 and then beating Tampa Bay in the Wild Card round. The Redskins got back to the playoffs two years later after a near-miraculous end-of-season winning streak on the heels of the tragic death of Sean Taylor.
Although the team’s success declined after Gibbs retired for good, Rabach’s contributions continued. He played for the Skins from 2005 through 2010, finishing his career in Washington. He played in 95 games during that stretch, starting at center in every single one.
The question is: why Rabach over O’Brien? Evaluating offensive linemen is always tough, but team success (especially offensively) goes a long way toward separating them. Since they both had careers with the Redskins of roughly the same length and without any All-Pro or Pro Bowl selections, it matters even more. The bottom line is that Rabach played during an era in which the team was generally more competitive, while O’Brien’s teams never posted a winning record.
But maybe I’m being too arbitrary. If so, tell us in the comments. But the pick here is Rabach as the all-time Redskins #61.
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Who is the greatest #61 in Redskins history?
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