On March 31, 1964, the Washington Redskins acquired quarterback Sonny Jurgensen from the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for quarterback Norm Snead. The Eagles threw in linebacker/defensive back Jimmy Carr; the Redskins threw in cornerback Claude Crabb whom Jurgensen and other good NFL quarterbacks torched pretty regularly. (Crabb, though, became a good special teams player).
I still remember where I was when I heard the news on the radio — in bed with a bad headache. The good news instantly cured me.
Jurgensen was 29 years old, but his best years were still ahead. He quickly made the Redskins an offensive force to be reckoned with and a respectable team overall. Eventually, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Snead had a few decent years, but remained basically a so-so quarterback.
Fifty years later to the day, another Eagles problem player (Jurgensen reportedly lived pretty fast in Philadelphia and had orchestrated a quarterback strike against the Eagles) arrived at Redskins Park and was, according to reports, ready to join the Redskins. That player is DeSean Jackson, the ultra-explosive wide receiver whom the Eagles just cut. As of today (April 1), no deal has been completed but the two sides are said still to be negotiating.
Redskins are fans are divided on whether the team should sign Jackson. It’s a close call.
The signing would be high risk. Jackson reportedly has gang connections. In addition, he is a difficult player who, among other issues, sometimes skips meetings and has clashed with coaches.
The gang connections seem insubstantial. Unless there is more there than has been reported, they are a concern, but not a major one.
Jackson’s locker room issues are another matter. With a new coach who has never before been in charge of an NFL team, Jackson’s tendency toward insubordination could become a major problem for the club, whose psyche seems fragile. Clearly, the Eagles didn’t cut a player this talented for no reason.
But Jackson also brings the potential of very high rewards. His talent is off-the-charts, and the Redskins are in desperate need of a home run threat receiver and a game-breaking return man. Jackson is both.
On balance, signing Jackson — assuming the contract numbers work — is probably the way to go from a football perspective. But I would rather that he not join the Redskins.
As I become older, it becomes more difficult to overlook the character of the players on teams I support. I first noticed the phenomenon when the Washington Wizards traded Chris Webber who was a jerk during his time here. I knew we weren’t getting close to fair value for him, but nonetheless was relieved that he would no longer be on our team.
Jackson, I fear, would be a jerk for us. If so, then I’d rather he play for someone else.
Of course, Jackson might turn out to be a good guy. Sonny Jurgensen certainly did; he’s now a Washington D.C. institution. But recently, most players and coaches brought in by the Redskins with a “me first” reputation have, indeed, turned out to be jerks.