The greatest defensive players in Redskins history
By Jonathan Eig
5: Gene Brito (Defensive End, 1951-1953, 1955-1958)
In 1954, Gene Brito played in Canada, the result of a contract dispute with owner George Preston Marshall. When he returned to Washington, he was a first-team All-Pro four straight years. He had also been selected to the Pro Bowl in 1953, after switching from being a two-way player and focusing entirely on the defensive side of the ball. The Redskins were not very good during Brito’s time in D.C., but he was always a star – one of the most popular players in team history, who was also one of the first to host a television show while still playing. Fans carried him from the field after his final game as a Redskin.
4: Charles Mann (Defensive End, 1983-1993)
For much of his career, Mann was overshadowed by defensive line mates like the flamboyant Dexter Manley and the hulking Dave Butz. But by the time his career was over, Mann had established himself as the best all-around lineman in Redskins’ history. The four-time Pro Bowler and three-time Super Bowl Champion totaled 83 sacks while being equally sturdy against the run. As an NFL Films documentary about the Redskins’ 1991 Super Bowl season declared, “the Redskins had many gifted players, but none were as gifted in as many ways as Charles Mann.”
3: Chris Hanburger (Linebacker, 1965-1978)
Nine Pro Bowls. Five first-team All-Pro seasons. Election to the Hall of Fame. Hanburger played his entire career for the Redskins and it was easy to overlook him. He was undersized and never showed blazing speed or superhuman power. He just tackled people. All the time. Often hitting them with the then-legal clothesline. Hanburger played with barely controlled fury that could extend beyond the field. Veteran sports writer Dick Heller told how Hanburger once locked him in a storage room for fifteen minutes. He didn’t like reporters. He didn’t like opponents. He just made tackles for the Redskins throughout his 187-game career.
2: Ken Houston (Safety, 1973-1980)
It was impossible for me to choose between the top two players on this list. Ken Houston was the greatest safety I ever saw play. Greater than Ronnie Lott. Greater than Ed Reed. Over his 15-year career, he was a first or second-team All-Pro twelve times. He had the speed to cover anyone, and a nose for the ball that resulted in 21 fumble recoveries. His goal-line tackle of the Cowboys’ Walt Garrison in 1973 remains one of the best defensive plays in Redskins’ history, and proved that Houston was as tough as he was athletic. The fact that he played his first six seasons in Houston is the only separation I could find between him and the number one player on this list.
1: Darrell Green (Cornerback, 1983-2002)
If you’ve read this far, I don’t need to tell you anything about Darrell Green. Along with Sammy Baugh and Monte Coleman, he is the only man to wear the burgundy and gold over the course of three decades. A member of the NFL All-Time Team as well as the 1990’s All-Decade team. Multiple All-Pro and Pro Bowl years. One of the fastest players ever and one of the most beloved. When I was doing a list of all-time memorable Redskins’ plays, I was surprised by how many of them Green figured into. As I said at the beginning, the Redskins, not unlike many NFL franchises, have more iconic offensive players than defensive. But however you divvy up Sammy and Sonny, Riggo and Charley and Arthur – Darrell Green is on the Mt. Rushmore.