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David Elfin Discusses Presenting Russ Grimm's Hall of Fame Case

Posted by Matt Terl on February 9, 2010 – 3:31 pm

This will probably be the last Russ Grimm post for a bit, maybe until his old offensive line coach Joe Bugel presents him for enshrinement in Canton this summer. But I was curious to hear from the guy who was responsible for making Grimm’s case to the Hall of Fame committee. David Elfin was the longtime Redskins beat writer for the Washington Times until that paper stupidly folded its sports section; he’s now moved on to become the NFC East beat writer at AOL Fanhouse.

But back in February, he was in Miami covering the Super Bowl on a freelance assignment for NFLPA.com, and also to act as advocate for the Redskins’ candidates to the Hall of Fame during the voting. When I caught up with him by phone the Tuesday after the Saints won the championship, he was STILL in Miami, his return to the D.C. area blocked by canceled flights and the endless succession of snowstorms.

Elfin successfully made the case for Darrell Green and Art Monk two years back; it was (obviously) a long and difficult fight to get Monk enshrined, but at least there were available statistical milestones. My first question about this year’s vote was also the most basic: what on earth do you point to when trying to make a Hall of Fame presentation for an offensive lineman?

“Obviously it’s a lot harder for an offensive lineman,” he said. “I think football in general in harder. Baseball is such an easy sport [for determining these things]; if they had this process in baseball — and maybe this is one reason they don’t have it in baseball, because the stats speak for themselves for almost anybody.

“I mean, [baseball defensive standout] Ozzie Smith was probably a tough sell because he’s a defensive player, but most people have seen him play. If you’re trying to sell a defensive player from the ’30s, it’d probably be hard. Almost everything in baseball is quantifiable, and pretty much everything in basketball is quantifiable. Football’s a lot harder, because — forget offensive linemen for the minute; we’ll get back to them. Look at a defensive tackle? How do you measure Albert Haynesworth‘s worth if he’s not getting sacks.

“And cornerbacks: think back to the 1987 season: [Redskins cornerback] Barry Wilburn led the NFL in interceptions. Why? Because Darrell was on the other side. No one’s throwing to Darrell. I’m not knocking Barry Wilburn; he was a solid player. But he was not an elite player. So you look at career interception totals, and they can be pretty deceiving.

“Other than quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and arguably kickers, nobody else really can be judged in football on stats. But offensive line is the most difficult one, because there are no stats whatsoever. So you look at team success, you look at running game results, you look at how good the offense was, and then you gotta talk to people.

“And people say Why Russ versus Jake [offensive tackle Joe Jacoby of the Hogs]? And the arguments are, one, that Russ made four straight Pro Bowls and the All-Decade Team. I think Jake made four straight Pro Bowls but not the All-Decade team.

“Jake played a higher-profile position, no doubt, but you talk to enough people and the majority — two-thirds to three-quarters — will say if it came down to it, they would take Russ over Jake. And that was good enough for me.

“And in our case, Russ has been in the room [for Hall of Fame discussion] something like seven years in a row; Jake has never made the room to my knowledge. So there’s some judgement by people that Russ was worth for being a Hall of Fame candidate and at the moment Jake is in the Hall of the Very Good. Because he makes the original 125 person ballot along with Ken Harvey and Charles Mann and Theismann and whoever else, but he’s never made it to the final 25, even, let alone the 15.”

Believe it or not, there’s plenty more — including Elfin’s strategy, and his predictions for other Hall of Fame-worthy Redskins — after the jump. Read more »

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Monday, February 8: Who's Next To The Hall?

Posted by Matt Terl on February 8, 2010 – 1:33 pm

So Russ Grimm is headed to the Hall of Fame. In case you missed this news because of blackouts, snow emergencies, or just general aversion to weekend internet, here’s a few of the relevant links:

So the question at this point is always the same: who — if anyone — is next? Who’s the next Redskins player who has even a chance? Some people suggest Joe Jacoby — although I think the Grimm selection is probably going to have to stand for all the Hogs — and you occasionally hear Brian Mitchell’s name come up, but it’s a thin list.

The comments section at Mister Irrelevant offer an interesting suggesiton, though:
Read more »

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Sunday, February 7: Russ Grimm's Future Turned Out Better Than He Expected

Posted by Matt Terl on February 7, 2010 – 10:16 am

As the 1988 NFL season got ready to kick off, the Redskins were riding high in D.C. Coming off a Super Bowl win, they were the toast of the town, and part of being the toast of D.C. in the eighties was a lengthy profile in Washingtonian Magazine. For the Super Bowl XXII champions, what this meant was a dozen of the players providing first-person accounts of what it was like to play in the NFL, each essay accompanied by a revealing portrait of the subject.

Russ Grimm, who was elected yesterday for enshrinement to the Hall of Fame, was one of those dozen players.

At this point in his career, Grimm had played in three Super Bowls and won two. He was an integral part of one of the greatest offensive lines in NFL history (which also happened to be one of the most famous), in a town that had learned to adore offensive lineman.

The Russ Grimm of 1988 had no way of knowing it, of course, but he also had one more Super Bowl ring coming to him as a player, another as a coach on the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers staff, and would coach in still another with the Arizona Cardinals. Plus that whole Hall of Fame thing from yesterday.

So what did Russ Grimm elect to talk about? It wouldn’t come as a surprise to Donnie Warren or any of his other teammates: Grimm talked about pain: Read more »

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Russ Grimm: Hall of Famer

Posted by Matt Terl on February 6, 2010 – 5:36 pm

Back when Russ Grimm was an anchor on the great Redskins offensive lines, this is what February football looked like for him:

Because, if you were involved with football in February, you were talking about the Pro Bowl. (The first February Super Bowl wasn’t held until 2002.) February football was for the best of the best, and Grimm went to the all-star gathering four times.

Grimm was involved with some significant football last February as well, as he was coaching the offensive line for the Arizona Cardinals in last year’s fantastic Super Bowl.

And on February 6 of this year, he was named one of the best of all time as Russ Grimm was named as part of the 2010 class for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. This makes him the first member of the great Hogs offensive lines so honored, although it’s possible that without the Hogs, John Riggins, Joe Theismann, and maybe even Joe Gibbs wouldn’t be in Canton.

(UPDATE: Not sure where that Theismann mental lapse came from. I’m blaming snow madness.) Read more »

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Bruce Smith Shows Some Love To The Redskins

Posted by Matt Terl on August 9, 2009 – 12:17 pm

Bruce Smith was inducted into the Hall of Fame last night, the first Hall of Fame induction since Redskins Night last year. And while it’s likely that nothing will ever touch the levels of Redskins Mania of last year, Smith — who finished his career with (a better-than-I-remembered) four years as a Redskin — did manage to bring some burgundy and gold love to the podium in Canton in 2009.

Here’s the video of his moving induction speech; the Redskins bit starts around 5:19.


The crowning achievement in my career in terms of statistics occurred when I broke the NFL All-Time sack record while playing for the Washington Redskins. This record of 200 sacks sets the benchmarks for all aspiring pass rushers. To Dan Snyder, I will forever treasure the special relationship that you and I forged when you extended the opportunity for me to play for the Washington Redskins, I am honored by your presence here today. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to play for a team with such a rich heritage.

Bruce Smith will always be most closely identified with the Buffalo Bills, and understandably so, but it was nice to have the Redskins connection recognized as well, especially with such effusive praise. Read more »

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Ernie Davis And The Bobby Mitchell Golf Classic; Also, Art Monk Deals With The Same Old Questions In A Different Form

Posted by Matt Terl on July 10, 2009 – 2:30 pm

It shouldn’t have taken me as long to realize as it did; the mental arithmetic isn’t all that complicated. Still, I had been planning to attend today’s press preview of The 19th Annual Bobby Mitchell/TOYOTA Hall of Fame Golf Classic for almost a week before I put it all together.

See the, golf classic (as I’ve exhaustively mentioned) is a benefit for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. And Redskins great Bobby Mitchell is the founder of the tournament.

Mitchell came to Washington in a 1962 trade with the Cleveland Browns. The Redskins received Mitchell and first-round pick Leroy Jackson; the Browns received standout Syracuse running back Ernie Davis. Davis died of leukemia before he could play a down of football in Cleveland, a story that recently made its way to the movies as The Express: The Ernie Davis Story.

“It was the first time I heard the word ‘leukemia,’ was because of Ernie,” Mitchell told me when I asked about the connection. “I’d never heard of it before, and we lost him and he never got a chance to play.

“It was kinda frightening,” he continued, “because I’m looking at him and — to me — Ernie Davis coming out of Syracuse was another Jim Brown. And I had played four years with Jim, so I knew what that meant. And all of a sudden someone’s saying, ‘This kid can’t play. He’s gonna pass.’ “

And I’m saying, ‘Jim Brown can’t die!’

“And that was the effect. So when I got here to Washington, when I was approached by the Leukemia Society to help out, that was one of the things that got me to do something.”

Mitchell was initially polite but somewhat dismissive when I asked about the movie version, shrugging and saying, “I would say fifty percent of it was right on about him.”

Then he stopped and thought for a few seconds. “There will be those who say it’s just another flick, but there will also be people whose families suffer with this [leukemia] who be will happy that there will be a focus coming from it. I think it helps in that sense,” he said, before heading out to the putting tournament.

Redskins great Art Monk — also a Syracuse guy — was a bit more charitable about the movie. “I thought it was great,” he told me. “I thought it was well done. The message to be got out of it, was right on point.” Read more »

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Saturday, January 31: Bruce Smith, Hall of Fame Redskin?

Posted by Matt Terl on January 31, 2009 – 5:31 pm

Bruce Smith, NFL career sacks leader, was one of six players announced today as a 2009 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Smith spent the vast majority of his nineteen year career with the Buffalo Bills, including all eleven of his Pro Bowl seasons, but he did finish up with four years as a Redskin, and it was during those four years that he took over as all-time sack leader.

In fact, I was surprised when I looked over Smith’s Redskins statistics. I remember him largely as a non-factor with the team, but he actually recorded 29 sacks here over his four years. Not the type of numbers that got him into the Hall, but also not Willie Mays stumbling around the outfield as a New York Met either.

So the question is this: obviously — and correctly — Smith is primarily thought of as a Buffalo Bill. But do you consider him a Washington Redskin as well?

Owner Daniel M. Snyder certainly seems to. Here’s the text of his statement after the announcement: Read more »

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Redskins @ Ravens- A Familiar Sight, For A Different Reason

Posted by Matt Terl on December 7, 2008 – 8:00 pm

They’re handing out signs at M&T Bank Stadium tonight. One side reads “Whacko 4 Flacco,” which is cute enough, I suppose. (I’m not sure what the Redskins equivalent would be. “Ramble for Campbell,” maybe?)

The reverse of the signs, though, is grimly familiar to any Redskins fan even if the colors are wrong.


That’s right: just when the the Hall of Fame voting committee no longer has to listen to Redskins fans insist that Art Monk is worthy of Hall consideration, the Ravens fans are kicking their pro-Art-Modell campaign into high gear.

If it weren’t for Artie Donovan, I’d think that the Hall of Fame had a grudge against people named Art. Anyhow, if any of you have leftover “Art for the Hall” gear that could be dyed purple, you could consider recycling it by sending it north.

Read more »

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