For the last month, the battle to be the Redskins Best of the Best has been fought through a fan vote on Twitter. What started with a list of 16 Redskins greats of the Super Bowl era is now down to two: Darrell Green vs John Riggins. With fan votes pouring in, and the voting set to end Tuesday, July 28, Redskins experts Rich Tandler and JP Finlay weigh in with their vote for the champion, the one to be called Best of the Best.
I’m going to vote for John Riggins as the Best of the Best Redskins. I’d love to be able to tell you that it’s not close, that he is the clear choice over Darrell Green. But I can’t. Green’s 20 years of high-level play in Burgundy and Gold, two Super Bowl rings, and numerous unforgettable plays, including his leaping, twisting punt return in Chicago to help send the Redskins to their second Super Bowl title, make him very worthy of the title.
But the way I see it, none of that happens without Riggins. If he doesn’t go to Joe Gibbs at the start of the 1982 season playoffs and say, “Give me the ball” the Redskins probably don’t go on to win Super Bowl XVII. The Hogs aren’t household names over 30 years later. If that playoff run had not set the tone, what followed in the next 10 seasons probably doesn’t happen. That playoff roll, capped by his dramatic Super Bowl TD run, set up the glory days.
And, maybe if they don’t win the Super Bowl and are picking higher than last in the 1983 draft they bypass that small but speedy cornerback out of Texas A&I named Darrell Green and take someone else.
Again, this is not an easy choice by any means. It’s always hard to compare excellent play over a long period of time with historic, transcendent accomplishments over a relatively short period of time. But the choice here is Riggins, who got the whole thing going.
If Riggo is the rock, Darrell Green is the hard place. This decision is very tough, and for many of the reasons Tandler pointed out. It can be argued, though not definitively, that Riggo's ceiling was better than Green's. But to determine the franchise's best player of the Super Bowl era, the whole era must be considered. And in that consideration, nobody did more than Green.
For two decades Green produced at cornerback, a position not kind to aging veterans. Speed, speed and more speed for Green, and yet, even into his mid-30s that speed didn't wane. While Green was obviously blessed with natural athleticism and, well, speed, a 20-year career also shows commitment to his craft, his teammates and his franchise. Those same things are not the hallmarks of Riggins' career.
This is also a personal choice. As a kid, Green was my favorite player. In 6th grade, I wrote so many "articles" about Darrell Green that Mrs. Girard demanded I no longer write about sports for our weekly essays (I ignored that advice). I will never forget the fall of 1992, a season where an aging Redskins team was defending their last Super Bowl against an upstart Cowboys squad. Green suffered a broken arm that fall, but played through it. Known for his bluster, Cowboys WR Michael Irvin said he intended to exploit Green and his broken arm in a late December matchup, a key game for the 'Skins to make the playoffs. And yet, in the end, Green did the exploiting, stripping a ball from Irvin and cementing the Washington win. I will never forget that game, and even more so, that play.
Though their careers overlapped a bit, it seems the Green vs Riggo battle is a bit generational, and as a child of the 90s, I go with Green.