- - Sunday, August 11, 2019

The last shred of dignity is gone from the Washington Redskins.

Sonny Jurgensen did his best to keep the lone flame of class burning in the broadcast booth in an organization devoid of dignity and class. Frank Herzog was let go in 2004, replaced by Larry Michael. Sam Huff, Jurgensen’s friend and former Redskins teammate, retired in 2013, replaced by Chris Cooley.

With each departure, the special connection between Redskins fans and the organization diminished.

Jurgensen was the last sliver, the frayed piece of respect that reached back more than 50 years, before Joe Gibbs, before George Allen, before Vince Lombardi. He carried himself with an aura of warmth and intelligence, both in short supply at Redskins Park.

He was great on the field and off, and perhaps his real greatness was his relationship with fans, from the field to the broadcast booth. There was never a sense of distance between Jurgensen and Washington fans.



Tell me, who left behind in the Washington Redskins organization do you feel that connection with today?

Jurgensen tried to hold on to keep the candle burning, but at the age of 84, it was just getting too hard.

In a message before Thursday night’s preseason opener in Cleveland against the Browns, Jurgensen announced that he was retiring from the Redskins‘ radio broadcast.

“I’ve decided to hang up my headphones and my clipboard,” Jurgensen said. “It’s been a great 55 years in Washington. I want to thank our Redskin fans for being so generous to me and our teams, we owe it all to you. I’ve had so many wonderful memories of thousands of teammates I’ve played with and talked about during my years in radio and television in Washington D.C. The relationships with coaches and executives over the 50 years like Bill McPeak, Otto Graham, Edward Bennett Williams, Vince Lombardi, Jack Kent Cooke, Joe Gibbs, Bobby Beathard, Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder have been special. My special broadcast partners such as Sam Huff and Frank Herzog and later with Larry Michael, Chris Cooley and Doc Walker on radio and the great TV talents such as Glenn Brenner and George Michael.

“We lived through the glory years together — the NFC East championships and five Super Bowls, all great memories,” he said. “And I would be remiss if I failed to mention my good friend Andy Ockershausen who was responsible for bringing together the original broadcast team of Sonny, Sam and Frank. After 62 years in professional football, I still have my health and wonderful family with a special thanks to my beautiful wife Margo for letting me work the weekends for all those years. I’ll always be a fan of professional football and appreciative of all that it has done for me, my family and our city. I’ll leave you with these words, Hail to the Redskins!”

Hail Sonny.

The Hall of Fame quarterback arrived in Washington in 1964 in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles and began restoring credibility to an organization that had very little of it since the days of Sammy Baugh. He was considered perhaps the best pure passer in the history of the NFL, and, with receivers like Bobby Mitchell, Charley Taylor and Jerry Smith, put up offensive numbers that generated excitement.

He was a five-time Pro Bowler and named All-Pro in 1969 in that one glorious season with Lombardi, which Jurgensen has said was his most enjoyable season in Washington. Jurgensen led the league in passing yards in 1966, 1967 and 1969, yet they only had a winning record in 1969 under Lombardi during that stretch.

The legendary Redskins sellout record didn’t begin with George Allen. It started with Jurgensen in 1967. They weren’t winning teams, but they were fun to watch, and it was easy to root for Jurgensen.

When he retired in 1974 and eventually wound up in the Redskins‘ radio booth in 1981, thanks to the genius of WMAL executive Andy Ockershausen, Jurgensen, along with Huff and Herzog, became the soundtrack of the Redskins‘ Super Bowl glory days. With radio being such an intimate medium, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters welcomed the trio into their families every week during NFL season.

Now Redskins fans might feel like orphans.

• Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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