Former Washington Redskins quarterback best known for single-bar facemask and never shutting up. A solid analyst of television football games. Appears to wear tailored shirts. Career ended in gruesome broken leg from Lawrence Taylor. Started two Super Bowls, winning one of them
Washington Redskins Robert Griffin III‘s torn knee ligaments are getting a lot of attention right now. However, anything short of broadcasts from his hospital room are an example of DC sports media showing restraint. To put it in perspective, here’s a clip from 1985 after Joe Theismann broke his leg:
Memory is a fickle thing, but I’m pretty sure Theismann’s injury was the lead story on the local news for a few nights with live shots from his hospital room. That’s because Redskins football…is serious business. More so back then. Why, in the 1980s, the biggest three possible stories in D.C. were the following (in no particular order):
Sadly, the cubs never survived, but SNOW was always big (theoretically just like now, haven’t been able to confirm lately) and the Redskins dominated everything.
Do long-time Washingtonians agree with me that the Redskins were a bigger deal back then than now? Let me know.
Yesterday, just for laughs, I asked former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann on Twitter if he’d be okay with new kicker Billy Cundiff wearing #7. Nobody has worn #7 for the Redskins since Theismann in 1985, but Cundiff wore it with the Baltimore Ravens last year. Hours late, I got an answer:
Okay, not a surprising one and certainly a fair one. While the Redskins have only officially retired Sammy Baugh’s #33, several numbers are not in circulation. We haven’t seen #21 (the late Sean Taylor), #28 Darrell Green, #42 Charley Taylor, #44 John Riggins, #49 Bobby Mitchell and #81 Art Monk and of course, Theismann’s #7. All but Taylor and Theismann are Hall of Famers.
Had I been in front of my PC at home, I probably would have blogged the first tweet and then gotten stuck changing the post after the second tweet.
Also, if you want to get retweeted a lot, get a question answered by a former NFL MVP and Super Bowl champion. I don’t think I could get the same result out of a current or former player from any of D.C.’s red, white and blue teams.
Wow. Robin Ficker heckled Joe Maddon (DC Sports Bog), who responded with a ball smeared with pine tar and “Stick up for those you care about” written on it. Everybody wins! I’ll say it, Maddon saved a little face there. He had taken the task of taking attention off of the player who got caught a bit far. See you in October!
Tweeter was down yesterday. If Davey Johnson was on it, I’d tweet at him the following Peter Angelos and MASN tags because this was a disappointing revelation (CSN Balmer), but it probably endeared him to half of the D.C. sports media who have the same feelings.
Would it have killed the Rays to wear a traditional gray jersey at least once?
My friend Brad (a New York Giants fan from New Jersey) mentioned in a status update that today was the 25th anniversary of Lawrence Taylor breaking Washington Redskins quarterback’s Joe Theismann‘s leg. While I did not watch the game (it was a school night) my father left me a note on the kitchen table that I saw the next morning. The text of it was something along the lines of “Redskins 23 Giants 21 — Joe Theismann’s leg broken by Lawrence Taylor.” He went on to say how upset Taylor looked on the field after the sack.
This was huge. One of the newscasts (probably WRC Channel 4) had live coverage from Joe Theismann’s hospital bed for what seemed like 3 nights in a row. The only thing even remotely as important as the Redskins to Washington back in those days was panda pregnancies or snowstorms. Someday, I hope somebody gets those newscasts on youtube, they’d be fascinating to watch. This of course, segues into the infamous video of Taylor breaking Theismann’s leg. Here is the original Monday Night Football telecast with Frank Gifford at the top of his game doing play-by-play and O.J. Simpson groaning. This is a very graphic video, so you many not want to watch it.
The second with Thiesmann and Carl Banks commentary as well as Taylor walking around looking ill after what he had done. Once again, this is a very graphic video, so you many not want to watch it.
Five years ago, Theismann said the standing ovation while being wheeled off the RFK Stadium field was an epiphany that led him to be a better person and not so self-involved. I cannot say whether that happened or not, but I do remember that back in the day Theismann was not universally loved around here. Fans generally respected what Theismann did on the field, but did not think much of his personality off of it. I kind of get the impression his teammates were the same way, because how often do you ever see him around with any of them or hear him mentioned by other Redskins?
Theismann and I lived in the same Northern Virginia town, Vienna, in the 1980s. At least one of his kids went to the same preschool (Parkwood represent!) as my brother and I. We saw him at the May Day* festivities they did there annually and elsewhere around town in places like the post office. There was a suburban legend going around Vienna in the mid-80s about Theismann’s old house. The story goes that a family who bought his house discovered a pile of autographs left behind for them and burnt them the first time they had a fire in the fireplace.
I grew to like Theismann as an analyst for Sunday Night Football over the years and think he got a bum rap by ESPN when they fired him from Monday Night Football after a season working with Tony Kornheiser. As for Taylor, he is sadly still having trouble with life off the field.
*It is interesting to think about that in what was then a strong Reagan Republican area Vienna was back in the ’80s. Also, my father said May Day was just awful, I don’t remember much about them, but I trust him.
Riggins is not making a leap of logic coming to the conclusion that this will be it for the Sonny and Sam. I don’t think I am making a leap of logic that Riggo is campaigning for a job. I’m okay with that too, because Riggins is as insightful a football mind as you will find, plus he does have a tendency to offer unique perspectives. I think he’d be the perfect third man in the booth. I’d make Joe Theismann the second man.
Back in 2006, when Tony Kornheiser joined Monday Night Football with Theismann , I noted that if there were two Washingtonians in the booth and one of them wasn’t Riggins, it was a mistake. While that will never be corrected on Monday Night Football, a changing of the guard in Redskins radio is an excellent opportunity pair the two together. I know that not everybody likes Theismann, but I’m okay with him. I think Riggins and Theismann would keep each other in check for the most part and when they didn’t, it would probably be quite entertaining.
There are probably two major stumbling blocks keeping this from happening. The first one is a big one — Riggins ongoing feud with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. The specifics of the feud are not publicly known, but it probably has to do with let go from Snyder’s ESPN radio station. However, given that Riggins has gone of the reservation before, most notably in 1980 when he sat out the season in a contract dispute, it isn’t inconceivable that he could mend fences. Snyder would have to be willing to overlook the past as well and while we’ve been seeing the softer side of Snider of late, I’m not sure if he’s quite willing to forgive and forget. Theismann on the other hand might still prefer to do television, though he’s been out of calling games every week since Monday Night Football let him go. He apparently has good relations with Snyder too.
Last November, Riggins and Theismann met with each other and discussed the state of the Redskins. They apparently got into a snit after the fact, but here is how the worked together then:
When ESPN realized that play-by-play announcer Al Michaels might leave Monday Night Football for NBC’s Sunday Football (USA Today) they decided to hire Tony Kornheiser of The Post/WTEM/ESPN as the third man in the booth. Kornheiser joins new former Redskins QB Joe Theismann, who parlayed his experience analysing American Gladiators and Terps basketball into the Sunday night gig when ESPN held the rights, and new play-by-play man Mike Tirico. While it might sound great having two Washingtonians in the booth, I cannot get too excited because John Riggins is not one of them.
Riggins, the Super Bowl XVII MVP is a natural choice, in fact he is signed on for Sunday Night Football on Westwood One radio. Perhaps that is what is keeping him off MNF, but one would think his contract would accommodate leaving for the superior MNF gig. He is a Hall of Fame running back, a contributor to Redskins report and occasional soap opera actor. Most of all he’s a showman and a larger-than-life character on and off the field.
When Joe Gibbs went to Kansas to talk Riggins out of a holdout in ‘81, Riggo opened the door with a can of beer in his hand. Despite it being 9 a.m. Gibbs accepted the offer a beer and soon after Riggins signed and released a statement: “I’m broke. I’m bored. I’m back.” After an` epic performance in the ‘82 playoffs he bowed to the RFK crowd. In ‘85 he made perhaps his most memorable comment, “C’mon Sandy baby. Loosen Up. You’re too tight” to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. He then fell asleep under the table. Later, he would apologize with a bouquet of flowers. Years later, O’Connor would in turn send flowers to Riggins when he made his stage debut in Olney.
MNF blew it this time, but hopefully in a couple of years, they can correct the mistake and put Riggins in the booth where he belongs.
Another day, another anniversary, this time it is a major one in Redskins history. Twenty years ago tonight, QB Joe Theismann’s (nee Theezman) career ended on the turf at RFK Stadium when Giants LB Lawrence Taylor broke his leg in two places. Theismann’s brutal injury is one of the memorable in the annals of pro football. He was wheeled off the field to a roaring RFK ovation.
Len Shapiro has an excellent article in today’s Post about the injury, but what is left unsaid is the reaction in Washington. Nothing illustrates how big the Redskins were in this town more than this particular moment in time. If you think the Redskins hype is too much now, it cannot hold a candle to what it was back in the 1980s when for all intents and purposes, the Skins were the only game in town. Back then, the hype was generated by the media, not by the team like it is now, and the public ate it up and asked for more. For days afterward Theismann was the lead story on every newscast with broadcasts live from his hospital bed. It was probably the biggest story of 1985 in Washington.
Theismann says the injury changed his whole outlook on life. He says, presumably with a straight face, that before he was “all about Joe Theismann.” His “me, me, me” attitude probably kept him from ever being loved by Redskins fans and possibly even his teammates. I have yet to hear one former Redskin ever say anything nice about him because he is barely talked about at all. Despite the lack of affection, Theismann was a leader and competitor who had the respect of his teammates and fans.