|Hall of Fame weekend takes on Washington look|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 31 July 2008 10:29|
Without Emmitt Thomas' lessons, they may not have excelled as long as they did.
On Saturday, all three, key components in the Redskins' dynamic run during the 1980s and early 1990s, will be inducted together into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
``We couldn't have done what we did, had that great run without them. That's for sure,'' Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs said before last weekend's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. ``One of the things you've got to be able to do as a coach is handle different relationships, and know how to motivate them. It's a really outstanding testament to Emmitt.''
Most fans remember the Redskins for their powerful offensive line, nicknamed ``The Hogs.''
Gibbs credits Green, a lightning fast cornerback with a knack for making big plays, and Monk, generally regarded as the league's first ``big'' receiver, as the leaders of the Redskins dynasty that won each Super Bowl with a different quarterback - Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien.
Thomas, one of Gibbs' assistants, had the enviable task of getting the most out of two eventual Hall-of-Famers. But it was Thomas who felt most fortunate.
``I know all of us feel blessed to go in, but to go in with those two young men that I had a chance to work with probably had some play in continuing my coaching career is the topping on all of it,'' Thomas said.
Green was a passionate, vocal leader on defense with talent to match. He won the NFL's fastest man competition four times and made an instant impression by chasing down Tony Dorsett from behind in his league debut on ``Monday Night Football.'' His recovery speed was unparalleled, showing it again in the 1987 NFC championship when he peeled off his assigned receiver and preserved the Redskins 17-10 win by jarring the ball loose from Darrin Nelson.
Now age 48, the oldest cornerback in league history, 42 when he retired after the 2002 season, is finally slowing down.
``From what I'm understanding, I think I'm officially the second fastest guy in the family, and there's only two of us in here,'' he said referring to his son, Jared, a receiver at Virginia who will introduce his father for Saturday's induction.
Monk, a receiver, was quiet but respected by teammates and players around the league for his professionalism.
He embraced the dreaded job of catching passes over the middle, an assignment many of today's receivers still despise because of the vulnerability to big hits. Monk also thrived in another role - blocker.
But despite retiring as the NFL's career receptions leader (940), his election was no certainty. Gibbs even wondered over the past several years, when Monk was bypassed by the Hall of Fame voters, whether the way he used Monk might prevent his selection.
``I felt we probably hurt Art some because we played him inside and he even blocked for us in there,'' said Gibbs, who plans to attend Saturday night's inductions. ``It probably cost him some yards on average per catch.''
Gibbs, a 1996 inductee, and running back John Riggins, inducted four years earlier, are the only other Redskins from that era in the Hall of Fame.
This weekend's ceremonies will more than double the total, and Green credits Thomas for helping both players reach a level they didn't always think possible.
``You know he coached Art first before he transferred over to defense and coached me. Now you talk about something interesting,'' Green said. ``What he brought to me was an appreciation and a knowledge of what I was doing and not to begin to try and adjust that but saying, you're doing it; you're doing what you need to do because I know what it takes at that position.''
Green, a first-ballot selection, finished his 20-year career with 54 interceptions.
Thomas actually had better numbers than Green. He picked off 58 passes in 13 seasons with Kansas City, still the Chiefs franchise record, and won one Super Bowl after coming to camp as an undrafted rookie out of tiny Bishop College in Texas in 1966.
While Thomas was one of the best cornerbacks of his era, he continued to make league-wide contributions on the sideline.
When he took a coaching job with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1981, he was one of only a few black coaches in the league. His next NFL stop was Washington, where Thomas got a chance to demonstrate his versatility.
Gibbs first paired Thomas, who played quarterback, receiver and defensive back in college, him with the receivers. Monk, then in his sixth NFL season, had already caught a league-record 106 passes in 1984 and had emerged as a solid player.
Thomas helped Monk reach two Pro Bowls, in 1986 and 1987, and Monk caught at least 70 passes in four of the next six seasons, 38 in the strike-shortened 1987 season.
``Emmitt came up in a time when you played both ways in college,'' said Tony Dungy, the only black coach to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. ``I think it goes back to what he had to do in his era, which was pretty much whatever it takes. That's the way he learned the game, and I learned a lot from him.''
And it was the coaches that helped Monk overcome some of his own concerns.
``There are times in my career where I just lost confidence,'' Monk said. ``I can even remember one point we were going into a meeting, he (Gibbs) pulled me aside and said, 'Hey, I know you're going through some hard times right now, but I still believe in you, I'm going to play you, I'm still going to count on you.' ``
With Monk, Green and Thomas all being honored this weekend and the Redskins playing Indianapolis in Sunday night's game, the weekend has a distinctively Beltway look.
Not everyone is from the Washington area, though.
Linebacker Andre Tippett, who spent his entire career with New England; offensive lineman Gary Zimmerman, who started his career in the defunct USFL before playing more than a decade in Minnesota and Denver; and defensive end Fred Dean, who started with San Diego and won two Super Bowls with San Francisco, are also in the 2008 Hall of Fame class.
Zimmerman was considered one of the best blockers of his era, Dean is credited with being the first situational pass rusher, and Tippett, who still works for the Patriots, always drew comparisons to Lawrence Taylor.
``I think we all wanted to play and do the things that he (Taylor) did,'' Tippett said. ``It really doesn't matter now because we are all in the same place.''
But having three of the biggest contributors in Washington's golden era inducted together will always have a special place in Gibbs' heart.
``Darrell and Art were two of our leaders with very different personalities,'' Gibbs said. ``Emmitt was a great player himself and carried a lot of respect with him. But what's most important to me is the kind of people they are, and they're all great people, so it's great to see them go in together.''