Chris Bopst talks to former Redskin great Charles Mann about next season, Richmond, and Tim Tebow.
Last Wednesday, after going through a disturbing number of emails from bands telling me how great they are, spam that found its way past my spam filter, and unwanted Facebook updates, I found this in my inbox:
Do you have any interest in interviewing some of the Redskins?
Fuck yes. I knew email was good for something.
As a lifetime fan of the Washington Redskins, I quickly wrote back to say that yes, I do have an interest in interviewing some of the players from what I think is the only redeeming thing about humanity. I know some people would disagree with that sentiment, but those ignorant folks need to realize that the truth has no friends. I’m not trying to be combative, I’m simply telling it like it is:
The Washington Redskins are mankind’s greatest achievement.
And with the recent announcement that the team will start holding their seasonal training camps in Richmond, it’s about to get all Redskins up in these parts.
But as with all good things there are some drawbacks. First and foremost, to lure mankind’s greatest achievement to our fair Southern abode, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones and Governor Bob McDonnell coughed up $6.4 million in taxpayer dollars and subsidies to have the 3rd most profitable sports franchise spend a couple of weeks each summer training in the capital city. While money will be made for the state and city from this 8-year deal, the Richmond school system just laid off 28 teachers because of a lack of funds.
Given the fact that the Redskins aren’t hurting for cash, this use of public dollars is kinda, I don’t know, morally repugnant.
Secondly, the Redskins haven’t fielded a genuine contender since before Bill Clinton said that he didn’t sleep with that woman. For the last two decades, only the lowly Browns and the Lions have lost more games than the Redskins. Despite this, fans of mankind’s greatest achievement remain stubbornly loyal. The Redskins may lose on the field, but they always find a way to make money. That’s why both Jones and McDonnell worked so hard and gave away so much to bring the team to Richmond; not only do they want to endear themselves to fans of the team during an election year, they are hoping that like Dan Synder’s Redskins, they can make money for Richmond and Virginia despite their losing political records.
And that brings us to reason number three. The team is owned by probably the single most hated owner in the history of sports: Daniel Synder. The man’s dubious history and questionable leadership of the Redskins is too long to list here, but suffice to say, if he were to give up ownership of the team untold millions across the globe would cheer until their throats bled. Still, you can’t question the man’s love for the Redskins; he does everything in his power to restore his beloved hometown team to their former, Super Bowl-winning greatness.
If he can figure out how to make the Redskins as good on the field as they are at turning a profit, all will be forgiven. With the arrival of Robert Griffin III, many feel (hope) that the team has finally found the quarterback that can once again take the team to the Promised Land.
So anyway, I called the team’s publicist and got all set up to interview some players that were coming to town. When I arrived at the Beer, Bourbon, BBQ Festival at the Raceway, a couple of Redskins greats including Dexter Manley, Mike Nelms, Rich Milot, and others were signing autographs.
The woman in charge asked which one of the guys I would like to interview. I answered “Charles Mann.”
Mann was always one of my favorite players from his era. He was a beast in his day, winning two Super Bowls with the Redskins and one with the 49ers before he hung up his cleats in 1994. I could have talked longer with the legendary defensive end, but I opted not to take time away from the anxious masses patiently waiting for a few moments his time.
After all, I am one of them.
I was told to wait by the team bus, and about 10 minutes later there he was tall, self-assured and ready to answer my questions. Even though he’s in his early 50s, dudeman looked like he could still play the game. I shuddered to think what it was like to be tackled by this giant of a man.
Here’s how our five minutes together went.
— ∮∮∮ —
Bopst: It’s so great to meet you. I’ve been a Redskins fan my whole life, and I really liked the way you played. I grew up next door to Terry Torgeson (the defensive coordinator who coached with George Allen and Joe Gibbs during their golden years in the 70’s and 80’s), so I guess burgundy and gold is in my blood.
Mann: Oh man, Torgi, that was my coach.
Bopst: Oh yeah, I know. He had two daughters (I had the biggest crush on his daughter Tammi growing up).
Mann: They moved to LA.
Bopst: Yeah, so I’ve been a Redskins fan as long as I can remember. His daughters didn’t really care about the Skins, but my brother and I did.
Mann: He’s a good man.
Bopst: So do you feel good about the season coming up?
Mann: At this time of the year, I’m typically very neutral. I don’t get too excited; I don’t have too many highs or too many lows regarding the season. When they get into training camp, I start to get excited, but if you look on paper, what we have, what we’ve upgraded, obviously there is reason to be excited.
Bopst: And the division (NFC East) is still tough.
Mann: But that’s the reason why we won. The division is tough, but if we can get out of our division, we typically have a chance of winning the Super Bowl so that’s a good thing.
Bopst: But the last two times we made the playoffs, it seemed that by the time we got there, the team was so beaten up…
Mann: That’s the luck of the draw. You have to, you know, everything has to align perfectly. You have to have very few injuries; you have to go into it (the playoffs) fresh. That’s why you have an off season work out, that’s why you train, and then you cross your fingers and hope you don’t get key people injured.
Bopst: What do you think is the biggest difference between football today and when you played?
Mann: I believe it’s harder now. The game is the same. You block, you tackle, you run, you catch, you throw so it’s still the same. What’s harder now is that the preparation is not as intense. We had, you know, they call it OTA’s, we hit each other on a daily basis. We practiced, practiced, and practiced hitting each other and they don’t hit as much now. Players don’t do that now. It’s harder to get your physical body ready to perform night in and night out for the season if you don’t go through that. So I believe it’s harder for players today.
Bopst: I remember in the summers barely ever seeing Mr. Torgeson.
Mann: Coaches had it tough too. They’d spend a lot of time at Redskins park. They did everything they could to get the team prepared. Coach Gibbs had a cot. We sometimes wondered if he ever left (laughs).
Bopst: Do you have any ties to the Richmond area?
Mann: The tie I have to Richmond is that I am here every year for the Richmond Club Soccer Tournament. My daughters play soccer so I’m here at least once or twice a year.
(At this point, the Redskins press agents tell me to wrap it up.)
Bopst: Alright, the last question I want to ask you is are you excited about what’s happened this off season with the Jets, because I think they could take what the Dolphins did with the wildcat and do something really special. Do you…
At this point, Mann’s otherwise friendly and accommodating demeanor suddenly turns to one of mild revulsion.
Mann: I have no comments about the Jets. You know, they’ve got a lot of drama over there. If that’s what you’re looking for…
Bopst: No, I’m more interested in seeing how they work Sanchez and Tebow together1…
Mann: (rolling his eyes) Yeah, my daughter is a Trojan alumni so I root for Sanchez, but I think the Jets made a mockery of football with all the craziness. Not the team, but the whole TV thing…
Press agent: Um, we really have to get going…
Mann: (shaking my hand) Nice talking with you, Chris
Bopst: Great talking to you too. Thanks for all the great games.
— ∮∮∮ —
So Richmond, prepare yourselves for the onslaught of all things Redskins in the coming months. This is only the beginning.
I just hope the team gives us something to cheer about for a change.
— ∮∮∮ —
If I had more time, I would have liked to gone deeper into this line of questioning as I believe the quarterback position needs to be revolutionized for the NFL game to evolve. Every other position in football has multiple players that play in every game, but not the quarterback. And if your starting quarterback goes down, more times than not, your season is over. And I think that’s kind of stupid for a sport that values innovation.
Of all the NFL coaches today, I think Rex Ryan is the most likely to do something radical with his offensive talent, and I hope he does. I mean, why else trade for Tebow? Did you trade for him solely to put pressure on your starting quarterback, or did you trade for him to make the team better? Again, I hope (fingers crossed) Ryan did it to confuse the fuck out of the league, because that would fun to watch. ↩