Darrell Green: Theismann made Hall of Famer prove himself as a rookie
It is conceivable that some Washington Redskins’ practices were tougher than a few Sunday afternoons.
There was Joe Theismann throwing to Art Monk and trying not to be picked off by Darrell Green. There was John Riggins pummeling defenders Dave Butz and Charles Mann while Russ Grimm blocked Dexter Manley.
Future Hall of Famers making future Hall of Famers. That recipe created one of football’s dynasties in the 1980s and early ’90s.
But things didn’t get off to a great start for Green, one of three Redskins — joining Monk and assistant coach Emmitt Thomas — being inducted Saturday into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Theismann delivered a classic veteran undressing of Green soon after the cornerback’s NFL career began. Theismann welcomed Green to the NFL with a verbal assault that could have sent most rookies cowering into a shell.
“We were doing a passing drill, and Art (Monk) went up to make a catch, and Darrell slipped and undercut him,” Theismann said. “I undressed him upside down and inside out. I told him I would personally make sure the personnel people would never let him set foot on a field, and I would do everything I could to get his little ass cut if he did it again.”
Theismann laughs about the incident now.
Washington was coming off a Super Bowl championship when Green was a rookie.
“We were the reigning kings of the world, and here I am undressing a rookie,” Theismann said.
It didn’t take long for Theismann’s opinion of Green to change.
“I think of the two guys being inducted, Art and Darrell, if you got to spend a day with both of them, the quality of your life would improve,” Theismann said. “Darrell Green is a special human being. I know he’s going into the Hall of Fame for what he did on the field, but he certainly could qualify for any hall of fame as a human being as well.”
Green earned Theismann’s respect as a rookie. That’s when Green chased down Tony Dorsett on “Monday Night Football” and prevented Dallas’ speedy back from breaking Washington’s back with a 90-plus-yard TD run.
“I remember that play like it was yesterday,” Theismann said. “You see him taking an angle, and you’re thinking, ‘He can’t catch him.’ Then you watch it more and you think, ‘He might get him.’ Then it’s ‘Holy mackerel! He did. Wow! He did catch him.’ ”
Had Head Coach Joe Gibbs allowed Green to return punts and kickoffs regularly, Green would have been as exciting there. The staff agreed to use Green as a punt returner in the postseason only. He was a safety on the kickoff team, which meant he was the last line of defense. No one ever returned a kick for a touchdown against the Redskins with Green on the field.
“I don’t think we accomplish the things we accomplished without Darrell on the teams I played on and after that,” Theismann said. “There was a good 15 years in there where he was a difference maker and contributor.
“I’ll say this, the Washington Redskins without Darrell Green is the difference between being a championship team and a non-playoff team.”