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Flashback Friday—Lombardi’s Skins vs. the Saints

Flashback Friday—Lombardi’s Skins vs. the Saints


"Gentlemen," the coach said, "it is not true that I can walk across the Potomac. Not even when it is frozen."

The assembled media mass at the Sheraton Carlton in downtown Washington laughed on cue. It's not often that a man can have the Washington press corps, used to dealing with the world famous and the very powerful, eating out of the palm of his hand. But that's exactly where Vincent T. Lombardi had this group when he was introduced as the new head coach, general manager, and part owner of the Washington Redskins in February of 1969.

And why not? Even new presidents coming to town had just reached the pinnacle of their profession. Lombardi was already a legend, having guided Green Bay to five NFL titles in a seven-year span. Lombardi biographer David Maraniss said that the coach was "an American icon, a coach who transcended his sport."

With the adulation came expectations. The Redskins hadn't had a winning season since 1955, a situation that the coach was expected to remedy in short order. To do that, the coach had to find a running back. Gerry Allen, the team's leading rusher in 1968, had gained just 399 yards and, as a team, the Redskins were outrushed by over 1,000 yards. That's hardly running to daylight.

Lombardi found his man in unheralded rookie Larry Brown, an eighth-round draft pick. It didn't take long for the coach to identify Brown's talent. At the first practice in training camp, he told Sonny Jurgensen, "See that (rookie) over there in the overalls?" pointing at Brown. "When the rest of these guys are gone, he'll still be here."

The team started off well, going 4-1-1 and talk of Washington becoming Title Town East began to percolate. Such talk proved to be premature and Lombardi was realistic about the state of the team. "We can be outclassed. We can be overpowered."

That they were as the schedule grew tougher and they lost to NFL elites Dallas, Los Angeles, and Baltimore. They went into the last two games of the season at 6-4-2, so a split was needed to achieve a winning record, something that Lombardi had never failed to do. As the season finale would be in Dallas, it looked like the game at RFK Stadium against the Saints was a must win.

Two Charley Harraway touchdowns, one rushing and the other on a pass reception, spurred the Redskins to a 17-0 halftime lead and they held off the Saints in the second half to come away with the win

A 25-yard punt return set up Harraway's first score. From the Saints' 12, the Redskins lined up in a tight formation. In a role reversal, Brown threw a block that cleared the way for the fullback Harraway and it was 7-0.

A 47-yard return with an interception by Rickie Harris led to a 19-yard Curt Knight field goal. After a New Orleans punt, Jurgensen took to the air, completing three of four passes that accounted for all of the 47 yards in the touchdown drive. The last 30 came on a short toss to Harraway, who blew by the linebacker attempting to cover him and went into the end zone untouched.

During the first half, in addition to Harris' interception, Mike Bass picked off a Saints pass and Chris Hanburger recovered a fumble, but all the Redskins got off of those three turnovers was the three point's following Harris' play. It nearly cost the Redskins in the second half.

Rookie quarterback Edd Hargett, subbing for an ailing Billy Kilmer, brought the Saints' offense to life. As a taste of things to come in the second half, Hargett moved his team from its own 20 to the Washington five, but the gun ending the half sounded before he could get off a play from there. Hargett led TD drives of 53 and 97 yards in the second half to cut the lead to 17-14. In the game's last two minutes, he drove the Saints to the Washington 43, but linebacker Harold McLinton tackled Hargett for no gain on fourth down and the Skins were able to kill the clock.

After the season, Lombardi said of the team's 7-5-2 final record, "I thought we could have had a better won-lost record. I hope we can find some better people."

Maraniss tells of Lombardi and Jurgensen attending Super Bowl V in New Orleans. They sat too far apart to consult during the game, but they communicated with hand gestures, indicating what play they would have run. Coach and quarterback "nodded in agreement, both certain that soon enough they would be down on the field, playing for a championship, and winning."

Sadly, it would never happen. Before the 1970 season, Lombardi was gone, a victim of cancer.

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Risk vs reward when Redskins consider Alabama LB Reuben Foster in NFL Draft

Risk vs reward when Redskins consider Alabama LB Reuben Foster in NFL Draft

An undeniable talent, Reuben Foster seemed for months to be a lock for the Top 10 of the 2017 NFL Draft. The Alabama star is a sure tackler, playmaking force and winner of the 2016 Dick Butkus Award as the nation's best college linebacker.

The actual football season went great for Foster, he logged 115 tackles and was named the SEC Championship Game MVP. Since play on the field stopped, things have stalled. Foster had an unfortunate incident at the NFL Combine, where he was sent home after an altercation with a hospital worker. In the time since, it's come out Foster tested positive for a diluted urine sample and will enter the NFL in the substance abuse program. 

Still, despite a tough two months, Foster's talent is too rich to pass up for some NFL teams. And per NFL Network's Lance Zierlein, the Redskins could be that team

In his mock draft released Wednesday, Zierlein predicts Foster's draft day slide to end with Washington at the 17th pick. From NFL.com:

Foster could fall due to off-field concerns and worries about injuries, but he fits a need for the Redskins, bringing a tough playmaker into the fold.

Beyond the diluted sample and the combine altercation, Foster also has had stinger issues throughout his career at 'Bama. He has elite speed at the linebacker position and the type of athleticism defensive coordinators dream about, though some pro scouts question if he can handle the calls of a Mike linebacker in the NFL game.

The Redskins are not desperate for interior linebacker help, this season. The team added Zach Brown in free agency, re-signed 2016 defensive captain Will Compton earlier this week and Mason Foster remains under contract. All three players, however, are headed to free agency in 2018. Adding Foster would provide depth this year and a potential star in the future.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Final Redskins seven-round mock draft: Defense first, a surprise in the third

Final Redskins seven-round mock draft: Defense first, a surprise in the third

We’re a day away from the start of the NFL draft and all the questions surrounding the Redskins’ intentions will start to get answered when they go on the clock at about 10 p.m. on Thursday.

[More Redskins: Full Redskins Seven-Round Mock Draft]

Speaking at the team’s annual pre-draft news conference, Scott Campbell, the team’s director of college scouting, stuck with the company line when he was asked about making picks based on team needs.

“I’m going to frame the answer, and the age-old answer of ‘I’m going to take the best player available,’” he said. “And if that serves your needs, that’s a bonus.”

It would be a big “bonus” for the Redskins if a defensive lineman who can rush the passer and stuff the run was the best player on the board when their first-round pick comes up at No. 17. But it doesn’t look like the board will play out that way. That’s OK because the Redskins have plenty of needs.

In fact, it’s not hard to do a mock draft for the Redskins because they have needs at virtually every position. Certainly, some needs are more urgent than others. But once you get past the first couple of rounds there is enough doubt at each position, whether it’s immediate depth or possible free agency holes in 2018, to get that need “bonus” with every pick.

Campbell said that this is a strong defensive draft and this is reflected in these mock selections, with six of the 10 picks going to defense including the top two. The first offensive pick may surprise some but the talent was just too good at that point in the draft.

Go here to see the full seven-round mock draft.

Your comments are welcome, as always. Make them here in the comments or hit me up on Twitter and Facebook.  

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.