In our ongoing Best of the Best series, Rich Tandler makes a case for all four of the semifinalists.
You can use numbers to help make a case for Sonny Jurgensen as the Redskins’ Best of the Best. He led the NFL in completions four times, completion percentage twice, and in passing yards on five different occasions. Sonny is in the top two all-time for the Redskins in pass completions and passing yards.
But the numbers don’t do him justice. He played in an era when the rules favored pass defenses, with bump and run cornerbacks hindering his receivers all the way down the field and head-slapping defensive linemen working against linemen encumbered by very restrictive rules against offensive holding. Teams with strong running games usually ruled the day but the Redskins didn’t have one. All they had was Sonny.
Jurgensen engineered 14 fourth-quarter comebacks for the Redskins. The Redskins were never out of a game with Sonny behind center and he provided a lot of fun moments during some pretty dismal seasons in the late 1960’s. Here is the tale of one of them, in 1965 against the Cowboys in at RFK Stadium. The Redskins trailed 21-0 in the second quarter but rallied on a TD pass from Jurgensen to Charley Taylor and a Jurgy TD on a quarterback sneak.
Dallas quickly snatched the momentum back when Dave Edwards intercepted Jurgensen near midfield and quarterback Don Meredith threw a 53-yard TD to wide receiver Frank Clarke with six minutes left to put Dallas up 31-20. The comeback appeared over, especially when Dallas answered Jurgensen's 10-yard touchdown pass to Bobby Mitchell with three and a half minutes left with a 56-yard kickoff return to the Washington 41. The defense stiffened, however, and Jurgensen and the Redskins had one more chance from their own 20 with 1:41 left.
The Redskins scored quickly to take the lead—almost too quickly. Jurgensen recovered his own fumble and gained nine yards in the process. He then went back to the air, hitting tight end Jerry Smith first for 22 yards and Mitchell for 35 yards to the Dallas 5. On first down, receiver Angelo Coia ran towards the middle, faked a block and cut to the corner where Jurgensen hit him for the TD to make it 34-31 Redskins with 1:04 remaining. That would be the final after Lonnie Sanders blocked a 44-yard field goal attempt at the final gun.