- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 25, 2006

At the next NFL meeting, maybe Dan Snyder could lobby for a new rule: Any player who transfers within his own division has to sit out a year.

That certainly would discourage guys like Antonio Pierce and now LaVar Arrington from jumping from the Redskins to the Giants. Of course, the argument could be made that Snyder started this “fight” with the New Yorkers by prying Cornelius Griffin away from them two years ago. The Giants struck back last March when they signed Pierce as a free agent, and now they’ve added Arrington to their already formidable defense.

Good thing the Redskins have brought in Al Saunders to punch up their offense. The one time Pierce played against them last season, they gained 125 yards and scored zero points. Two Giants linebackers with Xeroxes of the Washington playbook would have been too many.

It’s bad enough Pierce and Arrington play a position that calls for them on occasion to kill the quarterback. And make no mistake, LaVar will get a clear shot or two at Mark Brunell this year. Teams love to flaunt free agent signings; it’s the NFL version of “up your nose with a rubber hose.” Remember Brian Mitchell’s first game against the Redskins after he went to Philadelphia, when Andy Reid had him throw an option pass (which B-Mitch completed for 21 yards)?

Everybody’s playing up the revenge angle with Arrington, and the prospect of facing his old team twice a season (and possibly a third time in the playoffs) obviously figured in his deliberations. But the most important factor, I’m convinced, was the market: New York … as opposed to Miami, Jacksonville or Green Bay. An outsized ego like LaVar’s requires a big stage, and what stage is bigger than the Big Apple?

No. 56 may or may not be closer to the Super Bowl with the Giants, but he’s definitely closer to getting his own reality show, not to mention a spot in the broadcast booth when he hangs ‘em up. LaVar Arrington and New York are made for each other. And with Pierce, his former teammate, there to hold his hand for a few months until he gets the defense down, well, what could be better?

But let’s not get carried away with the impact of this signing — on either club. The Redskins, after all, managed nicely when Arrington was indisposed the past two seasons, and it’s uncertain exactly what he’ll bring to the Giants. He’ll snap some heads back with his jarring hits, as he did here, but will his performance ever equal his potential (or even his paycheck)? We’ll see.

Besides, this is an outside linebacker we’re talking about, not a quarterback. LaVar going to New York isn’t nearly as earthshaking, old-timers will tell you, as the Redskins trading Frank Filchock to the Giants in 1946 — or Charlie Conerly to them two years later.

A little-known fact in pro football history is that much of the Giants’ success has been thanks to QBs they got from Washington. Filchock took them to the title game in his first season, and Conerly led them to four title games — and one championship — in the ‘50s. New York got both passers for a pittance because Redskins owner George Preston Marshall already had Sammy Baugh and figured he was set at the position.

But there was more to it than that. As broadcaster Harry Wismer, who was also a part-owner of the Redskins, recalled in “The Public Calls It Sport,” “Marshall did a great deal for the NFL and helped teams that were floundering by deliberately passing top-notch talent to them. He shipped Frank Filchock and Charlie Conerly to the New York Giants when [Tim] Mara’s team needed help in the ‘40s, [even though] he could have kept them or driven much harder bargains for them. George had learned what … Bears owner George] Halas and [commissioner Bert] Bell passionately preached — keep the league balanced; bolster the weak clubs; above all, do not let the New York franchise flounder.”

Nowadays the NFL has things like free agency and the salary cap to keep the league balanced and make sure no franchise flounders for long. Still, Arrington trading burgundy for blue adds some juice to the Redskins-Giants blood feud. Indeed, the Redskins haven’t been in a situation like this they swapped quarterbacks with Philly and came away with a fellow named Sonny Jurgensen. Only this time, it seems, they’re on the giving end.

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