The final verdict on Michael Westbrook’s career with the Washington Redskins rests firmly in the eye of the beholder.
Star-crossed? Underachiever? Solid?
One’s perspective may be a matter of personal taste.
There’s no question that expectations were high for the All-American wideout when the Redskins took him with the fourth overall pick of the 1995 NFL Draft. Injuries hampered Westbrook from the outset, as he missed five games his rookie year. He was fairly productive when he played, but the pattern of missing time would continue throughout his Redskins career.
Westbrook had recorded just over 1,000 yards—total—during his first two seasons, when perhaps the most memorable moment of his NFL career took place during training camp in 1997.
That August, Westbrook took exception to something injured teammate Stephen Davis said. In what may have been a harbinger of Westbrook’s future MMA career, he pounced on Davis, pummelling him so severely that Davis and the team considered pressing criminal charges. They eventually decided against doing so. Westbrook apologized and paid a hefty, $50,000 fine.
That season was another so-so, injury-impacted year. Likewise, Westbrook missed five games for the third time in his first four seasons in 1998. However, his production went up, as he caught 44 passes for 736 yards.
Westbrook was finally healthy in 1999. Playing every game, Westbrook had 65 catches for 1,191 yards and nine touchdowns. His receiving yardage and touchdowns led the team—and those efforts helped propel the Redskins to the playoffs for the first time in seven years. Washington won the NFC East and beat the Lions in the playoffs before falling to Tampa Bay.
Unfortunately, both the Skins and Westbrook reverted to form in 2000, with Washington missing the playoffs and Westbrook playing in only two games. He was back in the lineup in 2001, but a coaching / offense change was one of the reasons why Westbrook had only 664 yards on 57 catches, despite playing every game.
That was Westbrook’s last year with the Redskins. He left for the Bengals after 2001, played one season there, then left football. With Washington, he caught 277 passes for 4,280 yards and 24 touchdowns.
His only real competition at #82 is Antwaan Randle El, who played four seasons with Washington and didn’t record a 1,000-yard campaign. Randle El rates a 20 on the Pro Football Reference Approximate Value scale, while Westbrook more than doubles that figure at 42.
In the end, maybe winning the battle for #82 is a fitting tribute to Westbrook. He never achieved the level of success a team hopes for with a top-five pick. However, he did play fairly well when he was healthy, and he was an important part of a divisional title run in 1999.
And that’s just good enough to earn him the honor of being the Redskins’ all-time #82.
Agree? Disagree? Vote and comment below!
Who is the greatest #82 in Redskins history?
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Antwaan Randle El
Other (comment below)