Playing 16 seasons in the NFL is extremely difficult.
But playing 16 seasons without ever being a consistent starter?
That seems downright impossible.
But that’s what Monte Coleman did.
There’s a proviso, of course. Although Coleman technically only started 62 of his 215 games, that’s because he was one of many situational substitutes the Redskins used on both sides of the ball in those days. While that seems to be a self-evident part of the game today (or even 20 years ago), it was fairly revolutionary when Joe Gibbs and company were doing it in the early 80s.
Back then, Coleman was a gifted special-teams player and sometime-linebacker who provided a tremendous pass-rushing boost for Washington. He grew into a regular at outside backer, helping the Redskins to some of their greatest triumphs.
Despite the fact that he was bigger than the Redskins’ starting middle linebacker of that era (#52 Neal Olkewicz), Coleman was actually a converted safety who only began playing linebacker as a senior in college. His roots in the defensive backfield were evident in his ability to cover and to rush with tremendous speed.
Coleman’s best individual season was probably 1984, when he logged 10.5 sacks, an interception, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown. But he contributed throughout his time in DC, and his 16-year tenure was longer than any player in Redskins history, except for Sammy Baugh (also 16 years) and Darrell Green.
Coleman’s combination of longevity and being a part of some great teams is reflected in the fact that he suited up in a whopping 21 playoff games. That total includes five NFC Championship Games and four Super Bowls, with Coleman being on the winning end of three of those.
If you have any questions about why Coleman makes this list, just glance at the Redskins’ record book.
Coleman finished his career with 999 tackles, second only to Darrell Green in team history. He had 17 interceptions, good for 19th in franchise history. His three defensive touchdowns tie him for second all-time. He’s tied for sixth place in fumble recoveries with 14. And his 43.5 sacks is good for #4 on the Redskins’ list, and is behind only Ryan Kerrigan among linebackers (and, really, a 3-4 OLB is more like a defensive end).
Coleman is a member of the Redskins Ring of Fame, and was also one of the 70 Greatest Redskins. For his excellence over a 16-year career spent entirely with the Washington Redskins, Coleman is an easy choice at #51.
Not bad for a “non-starter.”
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