Last weekend, the Washington Redskins announced that they were retiring Bobby Mitchell’s #49 jersey. This will only be the second jersey number retired with Mitchell joining Sammy Baugh.
The Redskins have a history of considering certain numbers “untouchable,” but refuse to officially retire them. Those numbers include 7 (Joe Theismann), 44 (John Riggins), and 43 (Larry Brown).
You would think that with the storied history and type of players that have played for this franchise, more numbers would be retired.
Why is it that they would play this game of “untouchables?"
Now some exceptions have been made like with Sam Huff’s number 70 when Leonard Marshall wore it in 1994 and now with Dwayne Haskins wearing number 7 after Theismann gave his blessing.
Mitchell’s number 49 was inexplicably given to Leonard Stephens in 2002 which caused a rift between Bobby and the organization.
No one has been able to get a real answer to why the Redskins have refused over the years to retire more jerseys. The one reason I could think of is the NFL jersey number rule.
The NFL restricts which jersey number specific positions can wear. According to the NFL rulebook, players are restricted to their numbers by the following system:
Quarterbacks, punters, and kickers: 1-19
Running backs and defensive backs: 20 – 49
Offensive guards and tackles: 60 – 79
Wide Receivers: 10 – 19 and 80 – 89
Tight Ends and H-Backs: 40 – 49 and 80 – 89
Defensive linemen: 50 – 79 and 90 – 99
Linebackers: 40 – 59 and 90 – 99
While no one is expecting the Redskins to start hanging jerseys like Washington Capital division titles, it could potentially get a little tough down the line assigning jersey numbers to players. That is, unless the NFL change their jersey numbering rule.
If this is not the actual reason, then we need the front office to start showing they are in touch with the heritage of greatness that some of these players of yesteryear have displayed and honor them the right way.
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If they were to start adding additional numbers to the retired list, here are the top 5 that I would like to see added with some honorable mentions below them:
Sonny Jurgensen #9
Most of my generation knows Sonny from being in the booth calling Redskins games for the radio broadcast. But as the older generations know, Jurgensen is one of best quarterbacks in Redskins a history. We may not know these days, potentially pre-Haskins, what a franchise quarterback truly looks like, but Sonny epitomizes that. Jurgensen sits second in passing yards (22,585) and second in touchdowns (179). Additionally to being near the top of career passing yards and touchdowns as a Redskin, Jurgensen, at the time, broke his own record for passing yards in a season (3,747) and set the single season record for completions (288) and attempts (508). Sonny also had the most passing yards in the NFL at age 40 while splitting time with Billy Kilmer.
Ken Houston #27
Ken Houston is arguably a top 5 all-time safety the NFL has seen. Some might say that he did not play long enough for the Redskins to have his number retired. But it’s not like we are talking about Deion Sanders or Jason Taylor’s time here in D.C. Houston was named First Team All-Pro twice and made 7 straight Pro-Bowls when he came to Washington in 1973. 24 of Houston’s 49 interceptions and 16 of his 21 fumble recoveries came as a Redskin and appeared in the playoffs 3 times.
Art Monk #81
Because of the type of numbers that wide receivers have been putting up the past decade, some of the greats can tend to be overlooked. In 1984, Monk set the single season reception record (104) and hold four Redskins records in yards from scrimmage (13,053), receiving yards (12,026), receptions (888), consecutive games with at least one reception (164). Monk was also the first player to surpass 900 receptions and finished his career with the most all-time (940). Additionally, Monk was a first-team All-Pro in 1984, second-team All-Pro in 1985, 3 Pro-Bowls, and is a 3 time Super Bowl champion.
Darrell Green #28
Darrell Green is the greatest cornerback that has played in Washington and has been listed as one of the best cornerbacks ever to play in the NFL. Green was drafted out of Texas A&M-Kingsville in the first round of the 1983 draft where he made an immediate impression and impact chasing down running back Tony Dorsett. Green is a 4 time All-Pro and was elected to 7 Pro-Bowls and won four NFL Fastest Man competitions. Green holds team records with most career interceptions (54), longest fumble return for a touchdown (78 yards), most interceptions returned for a touchdown (6), most game starts (258), and most consecutive seasons (20). Additionally, Green has logged the most consecutive season with an interception (19).
Sean Taylor #21
Sean Taylor will unfortunately go down as one of the greatest “what-ifs” in NFL history. Upon his untimely murder protecting his family, Sean was having the best year of his young career. Taylor played with a ruthless aggression that has not been seen since. His number is all among one of the more controversial among the fan base when a new defensive back signs with the team. There are also young defensive backs that come into the league that always end up saying that Taylor influenced their game. Even in such a short period of time, the influence he had on this fan base, league, and future NFL players deserves to have his number retired.
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Doug Williams #17
Charley Taylor #42
Joe Jacoby #66
Brian Mitchell #30
Charles Mann #71
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Alan Lepore joins RedskinsReport.com while still doing outstanding work as an editor/writer at FullPressCoverage.com or @FPC_Redskins. You can follow him on Twitter @AlanLepore or on instagram @leporealan. Alan is a Villanova University MPA Nonprofit Management candidate and is a fundraising/development professional.