Let me begin my writing career wishing the United States of America a belated Happy Independence Day. All Americans and hundreds of millions of people across the world should be grateful to the men and women of our Armed Services, whose personal sacrifices have secured our freedoms. Their heroic efforts are the reason that we are able to enjoy our "inalienable rights," including "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," as stated in Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, which was approved on July 4, 1776.
Last week as part of our family's July 4th celebration, my wife Kiersten and I went to a party with former and current Raiders to celebrate the great Al Davis' birthday, who fittingly was born on Independence Day. Beside sharing some great memories with the unique Raiders fraternity, it reminded me what a special and unique pioneer Al was. In my opinion, Al Davis was the ultimate competitor who cared deeply about the game of football and the people that surrounded the Raiders.
Al's commitment to excellence was not only his motto, it was his daily routine. Although he was well-read on all global issues, his life, job and hobby were the Raiders. Every waking hour, Al was trying to find a winning edge for the franchise he created, and he expected each employee to do the same.
During the Al Davis celebration it dawned on me how much I have learned from the NFL owners for whom I have worked. The Glazers of Tampa Bay are an extremely loyal and honest family, and are becoming the leading experts on sports franchise ownership around the world thanks to their time with Manchester United. Similar to the Davis family, they have a burning desire to win on the field (or pitch).
Today, I'm constantly impressed by the active, non-stop, brilliantly quick and witty mind of Dan Snyder. There is no better example of America being the land of opportunity than Dan's story -- a boy growing up rooting for his favorite team each Sunday alongside his hard-working father, then becoming owner of that team and striving for a championship for the fans and community.
Of course, it would be irresponsible of me to mention NFL owners and not bring up the original -- the one and only George Halas. Halas' list of contributions to the game is endless. Beside being the leader in the formation of the NFL, his coaching accomplishments will never be surpassed. Ironically, Coach Halas taught me my first "cuss" word.
In 1964 I was sitting in the back seat of his car on the way to Bears training camp at St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Indiana while he and my father were discussing personnel and objectives for the team. I caught him staring at me in the rear view mirror, noticing how intently I was trying to follow the conversation. He turned to me at one point and said: "That's great you want to learn about the team, I think it's time you learn your first cuss word."
After a slight pause, Halas looked at my father for approval (not that he needed it). He continued: "You can only use this word on a really bad person, someone you really hate or who did something very very bad." He then made me acknowledge that I understood, to which I responded: "Yes, Coach!" After what seemed like the longest minute ever, he turned around and said one word with an intensity that I had never seen: "PACKER." And then he added: "Don't tell your mom I told you!"
Having grown up in the world of football, I have come to see how clearly this game embodies the core of American values. Teamwork, effort, tradition, loyalty, unselfishness, commitment and passion are the necessary ingredients for success in football, as it is in any business or family. The fact that we have a scoreboard allows us to instantly understand our strengths and weaknesses against our competition.
As you can see, I appreciate the history and leaders of this great game. This year, the Washington Redskins will be celebrating our 80th anniversary season. I'm proud to be with the franchise in our nation's capital, one with such a rich tradition and gloried past on and off the field. The current Redskins players, coaches, fans and staff owe a big debt of gratitude to the people who have made the Redskins one of the flagship franchises in sports.
Each year it becomes more apparent to me that those active in the NFL must do everything in their power to love and respect the game of football. It's played between the lines by amazing athletes, under the direction of trained coaches. It is our job to make sure that the next generation players, coaches, fans and owners are handed this great sport in better shape than we received it.
"Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they've made a difference. The Marines don't have that problem"
Take the names off the back of the jerseys.
Jerry West. A Hall of Fame player, Hall of Fame executive and Hall of Fame citizen. Oh, and a logo.
As part of the Redskins' 80th Anniversary season, we will be adding 10 players or staff members to our distinguished group of previously named "Greatest Redskins" in order to expand our list to 80. If you are interested in voting, you still have time, the 80 days of voting will end on July 28.
• Sammy Baugh Award (Most Valuable Player)
• Deacon Jones Award (Defensive Player of the Year)
• Jerry Rice Award (Offensive Player of the Year)
• Gene Upshaw Award (for leadership)
• Roger Staubach Award (for sportsmanship)
• Don Shula Award (Coach of the Year)
• Paul Brown Award (AFC Coach of the Year)
• Joe Gibbs Award (NFC Coach of the Year)
• Jim Brown Award (most rushing yards)
• Sid Luckman Award (most passing yards)
• Move the kickoffs back to the 40-yard line. All of this talk about eliminating the kickoff is nonsense. The only question -- why was the kickoff ever moved from the 40-yard line?
• Get rid of the convoluted overtime rules -- return to sudden death.
• Same as scoring plays, all turnovers should be automatically reviewed.
• Major penalties should be eligible for coaching challenges.
• Punters, kickers and long snappers shouldn't count against the 46-man game day roster (each team must dress three quarterbacks).
Note: I'm sure some of you thought I would say the "Tuck Rule." The "Tuck Rule" doesn't apply when a quarterback has both hands on the ball and a defensive player strips him of it -- it's a fumble! It has been a fumble since Sammy Baugh played and it will be a fumble when Peyton Manning's son is starring in the league decades from now.
• Fearsome Foursome
• Monsters of the Midway
• The Hogs
• Purple People Eaters
• The K-Gun offense
• The Over-the-Hill Gang
• Maxie Baughan
• Bobby Beathard
• Larry Brown
• Tim Brown
• Pat Fischer
• Tom Flores
• Joe Jacoby
• Eddie Meador
• Jim Plunkett
• Joe Theismann
• Doug Williams
This is always a great topic for debate each January, and as I write this I feel the anxiety that the 44-person selection committee feels when making decisions about who will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It's a difficult process with no rewards to the selectors.
The bad news for the candidates is that the "senior committee" has the most challenging choices to make due to the large number of qualified candidates to select from. The good news is that their committee is extraordinarily organized and motivated to properly evaluate each person who has been previously over-looked. It might take some time, but at some point in the future, they will get every deserving candidate to the final ballot for an up or down vote.