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Friday, August 28: The Dead Man Suit Award

Posted by Matt Terl on August 28, 2009 – 9:20 am

In the run-up to this year’s Welcome Home Luncheon, I talked to a few of the guys about their memories of last year’s event. They gave the answers I expected: good to meet the fans, great way to kick off the season, and so on.

Not one of the mentioned what is apparently one of the biggest draws of the day: the Dead Man Suit award.

Since Rocky McIntosh was the first one to spill the beans, on his Twitter feed Wednesday night, I’ll mash together a few of his updates here and let him explain what the award is about:

Dead Man Suit Awards..its givin to the player who wears a ugly 1960’s suit that looks like they stole it from a body at the graveyard. Past 2 yr winners were Andre Carter(sorry) and most recent Justin Tryon…Rick James was left freezing in his grave last yr cuz of this guy. Who will b next??? Stay tuned….. I will have flowers for this years winner.

And then this, from the bus on the way to the event:

Omg there r 2 many contestants for this years dead man suit awards.it’s going 2 be funny to see who wins we might have a repeat award winner. From d lineman to kickers nobody safe were checking all funeral homes for break-ins cuz we have suspects right here on the team……

At the event itself, I started asking who was likely to “win”; a lot of candidates were mentioned (Anthony Alridge and Eddie Williams being the most-suggested), but everyone said the final decision came down to one guy: Fred Smoot.
(One day, I will decide to cut out the middleman and simply turn this entire blog over to Smoot, and the world will probably be a better place as a result. But not today.)

Smoot refused to comment at the event itself, correctly pointing out that he hadn’t even had time to notify the winner yet, but promised to give me the details later in the day. He also promised that I’d be surprised, and that turned out to be completely correct.

“This year,” Smoot told me, “I think because I put a very forewarning thread out there two, three weeks ago that the Dead Man Suit Award would be given out, guys stepped it up. It was hard, man. Guys really stepped up their game when they’re talkin’ about putting total suits together.

“I didn’t really have a landslide guy to win this year’s Dead Man Suit Award,” Smoot continued, “but we had somebody different take it: Coach Jackson.”

That would be Safeties Coach Steve Jackson, and I cannot overstate how surprising this is. Jackson is not only stylish for a coach — a profession in which Bill Bellichick’s cut-off sweatshirt represents a daring fashion statement — he’s a stylish guy in general. Even his outrageous golf outfits are carefully selected and meticulously cared-for. To try to give some context, this is roughly on the level of Chris Cooley somehow winning a Most Private NFL Player award, and I told Smoot so.

“I know,” Smoot said. “He is always very stylish. That’s what we couldn’t understand. And what he did was a travishamockery. The fit he put together was effortless, evidently.”

This is not to say that the consensus of the room was totally wrong, though. “It was him, and, you know, we had to throw in ol’ [Eddie] Williams, the fullback. A young guy. He had on a collared jacket with elbow pads — an arm-wrestling jacket, you know. So we had some guys that really stuck out, but Coach Jackson, he’s the guy.”

I had only had one conversation with Coach Jackson at the Welcome Home Luncheon, and his outfit hadn’t stuck out to me as particularly offensive. (The outfit in question is pictured to the right, a royal blue blazer with a crest on the pocket; striped tie, light shirt, light pants. Click picture to enlarge.) In fact, what out conversation was about was rookie cornerback Kevin Barnes‘s ascot, a fashion choice of which Coach Jackson emphatically approved. I mentioned this conversation to Smoot, and he speculated that Barnes’s outfit might, in fact, have contributed to Jackson’s sartorial choices.

“See, that’s what it was,” Smoot said. “Once he saw Barnes with the ascot, it threw him off.”

I was still hung up on the fact that this award had gone to Coach Jackson. I mean, there were people with no ties, with tacky suits … all sorts of things.

Smoot shurugged. “Nobody can believe it. First of all, no tie doesn’t make you tacky. Not having on something that fits, or something that’s out of season, or something that’s just not good … that will force you to be taken as the Dead Man Suit winner.”

I had been wearing a wrinkled shirt with not tie and an out-of-season faux-suede jacket. I stopped for a second to review how many of Smoot’s rules I had broken with my outfit (HINT: all of them), and that’s when Steve Jackson walked up. Smoot broke the bad news to him gently.

“Hateful,” Jackson said, shaking his head sadly. “See, here’s the thing: there’s a season for everything. This is my Hyannisport boating outfit, for Ted Kennedy.”

I was somewhat mortified that an award named the Dead Man Suit award had been given to an outfit paying tribute to someone who had recently passed away, but Smoot was largely undeterred.

“I said how stylish you usually are,” Smoot said. “They say you switched up what you did because what’s-‘is-name wore an ascot.”

“Well, I liked the ascot,” Jackson said.

Smoot seemed affronted. “I wear ascots! I’m saying you didn’t wanna wear one because he wore one!”

“I got one in my office right now,” Jackson said.

“I got one in my bag right here,” Smoot said, “but what I’m saying is that you didn’t wear what you wanted to wear because he was wearing it.”

And the two walked off together, continuing the longest conversation about ascots I have ever heard.

I asked Chris Horton for his thoughts on his position coach winning the Dead Man Suit Award. “I felt bad,” he said. “Bein’ a part of the DB group you never want to see that. I thought it was a pretty classy look, real easy.”

For his part, Horton hadn’t been worried about his own outfit, a relatively conservative blazer-and-slacks combo.

“Not really,” he said. “Last year, I think maybe I was too dressed up. Now I know it’s more like a lunch, business kinda thing, so I look like I’m going into the boardroom to give a presentation or sit down with a bunch of businessmen. I don’t need to look like I’m going to prom or something like that.”

I saw Smoot again upstairs before he left for the team hotel, and he was being deluged with questions about who had won the award and why. He looked — maybe for the
first time I’ve seen — genuinely surprised, albeit pleased.

“The Dead Man Suit Award is really picking up,” he said. “We used to give a trophy with a guy holding a casket. We should bring that back.”

He turned to leave for the hotel. “Soon we’re going to have the Tyrone Hill Show,” he said. “Ugliest Redskin. That’s comin’ up.”

Something to look forward to.

Here are some more of the outfits from Welcome Home Luncheon 2009.

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