The Washington Times - July 16, 2008, 08:27AM


What if… ?



Robert Janis


When you were a kid or even now as a grown up have you ever played “What if?” You take a moment in history and determine that if something did NOT happen, what would have been the result. 


Well, the Redskins have a lot of “What ifs?” in their past. The first I encountered as a fan occurred in 1964 when the Skins made a block buster trade that shook up two cities — Washington and Philadelphia. They traded Norman Snead to the Eagles for Sonny Jurgensen. 


Most people probably don’t remember that Jurgensen had some very good seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. For example, in 1961 he set an NFL record throwing for 3,723 yards and completing 57 percent of his passes. And don’t forget to include the 32 touchdown passes. He was getting paid a puny $14,000 a year. Although, I guess back then, $14,000 was pretty good. 


His contract was up and the team and Jurgensen had to negotiate a new agreement. At first, the negotiations were not going well. It was during training camp. So Jurgensen gathered up the second string quarterback, King Hill, who was also negotiating for a new contract, and the two left camp. Many say it was the first holdout in the history of the NFL. 


While Jurgensen and Hill played golf, the team stewed. The next day Jurgensen sat down with the Eagles execs and a new contract was hammered out. Jurgensen got a grotesque raise of …… $5,000. I don’t know what Hill got. But both then returned to camp. 


Two years later, in 1964, the Jurgensen-Snead trade took place.  


What if Jurgensen did not hold out in 1962? Would the Eagles have traded him?


Here’s another “What if?” The Redskins played the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas in the last game of the 1979 season. If they win, they end up 11-5, title winners of the Eastern Division and the team with homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. If they lose, they are out of the playoffs. That’s because the Chicago Bears had the tie breaker and they would go to the playoffs instead.


With just seconds to go in the game, Staubach completes a pass in the endzone over, I think Lamar Parrish and the Cowboys won 35-34. What if the Cowboys did not win that game?


The head coach at the time was Jack Pardee. The Redskins would have gone into the playoffs in good shape. I already said that they would have had homefield advantage. They would have had a good chance to go to the Super Bowl that year. if they had won that, then it would have been Jack Pardee who was the hero and no one in Washington or perhaps no fan of the NFL would have ever heard the name Joe Gibbs. 


Here’s another one. It’s January 17, 1988 and the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos are playing for the AFC championship in Mile High Stadium. The Browns are on the goal line about to score. Only 1:12 was left in the game. If the Browns score, the game is tied. Ernest Byner takes a handoff and fumbles the ball on the goal line. The Broncos recover and take a safety. Broncos win the game and go on to the Super Bowl. What if Byner did not fumble the ball and went on into the endzone? Would the Cleveland Browns have traded him to the Redskins in 1989?


One more. Larry Brown is drafted by Otto Graham who was head coach of the Skins at the time. But Graham is fired before the start of the 1969 season. Vince Lombardi is hired as head coach. During practice during training camp, Lombardi notices that rookie running back Larry Brown was a little slow getting off the snap. He inquired of Brown what the problem could be and Brown didn’t come up with an answer that satisfied Lombardi. So Lombardi had Brown’s hearing checked. Turns out that Brown is deaf in one ear. Lombardi petitions the NFL to allow a hearing aide be put into Brown’s helmet. The NFL agreed, the hearing aide was installed and the rest is history. 


What if Lombardi just let things go and didn’t check Brown’s hearing? Would Brown have made the squad? And, if so, at what capacity? We may not have seen the Larry Brown that we came to see and admire. 


I’m having so much fun, I got to do one more. It’s January, 1973 and the Redskins are playing the undefeated Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VII in Los Angeles. The Dolphins are winning when the Redskins are driving. Kilmer passes the ball to Jerry Smith who is waiting in the endzone wide open. The ball strikes the goal post (back then the goal post were on the front endzone line) and falls unthreateningly to the ground. I know that if Smith had received that pass the game would have been tied, but who knows?


Do you have a “What if?” Describe it in the comment box below.