Is Darrell Green the greatest player in Commanders franchise history?

The gifted defensive back will have his number retired next season.
Darrell Green
Darrell Green / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Commanders announced that Darrell Green’s jersey No. 28 will become the fifth to be officially retired in franchise history. They surprised him with the news in a clever, heartwarming ceremony that far outshone the sometimes mangled public relations maneuvers of the previous ownership group.

For many years, legendary quarterback Sammy Baugh’s No. 33 was the only officially retired jersey. Then, in short order, the team honored Bobby Mitchell, Sean Taylor, and Sonny Jurgensen similarly. Those ceremonies were at times clouded by the perception that ownership was taking actions to counter the bad publicity that hounded the club over the last five years.

Fans were not always satisfied with the way those celebrations were handled.

If the Green announcement is any indication, there will be no such dissatisfaction this time around. The former defensive back was at Commanders Park ostensibly to film a promotional video when he was asked to record one more take with a few slight revisions to the script.

Darrell Green's accomplishments on and off the field were sensational

Those revisions contained the news that his number was the next to be retired. Green stopped reading when he realized what was happening, clearly overwhelmed by the news. Then, his entire extended family, along with many former teammates and current club officials - all wearing No. 28 jerseys - appeared to congratulate him. And it was all caught on tape.

It is not hard to make the case that Green is the greatest player in franchise history. It is even easier to make the case that he is the most beloved.

Green, who spent his entire 20-year career with Washington, doesn’t merely hold many all-time franchise records. He dominates them. His 295 games are the most in franchise history, 80 games clear of Monte Coleman in second place. That total places him 16th in NFL history, and No. 5 if you exclude kickers and punters.

Tom Brady, Jerry Rice, Brett Favre, and Bruce Matthews are the only non-kickers to appear in more NFL games than Green. He is No. 1 all-time amongst defensive players.

He is the only player in franchise history to record more than 1,000 solo tackles. His 54 interceptions are 50 percent more than Brig Owens’ in second place. He scored twice as many defensive touchdowns as any player in franchise history. League-wide, Green made the Pro Bowl seven times and was selected to the NFL’s 1990’s All-Decade squad.

Green famously won two Super Bowls and was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008.

As great as Green’s accomplishments on the field were, he was beloved for his demeanor and work off the field even more. He always maintained an upbeat, positive attitude, even through some trying seasons.

His religious faith led him to pursue a wide range of charitable endeavors during and after his career. He was honored with both the NFL Man of the Year award - now named in memory of Walter Payton - in 1996 and the Bart Starr Award in 1997. Those are among the league’s highest honors for work beyond the football field.

Green was a sensational blend of speed and toughness. He arrived out of Texas A&I - now Texas A&M-Kingsville - with the final pick of the first round in 1983, right after the Miami Dolphins selected fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino. That was the year of the quarterback - six went in the first round. Three made it into Canton. So it was easy to overlook the little cornerback from the little college who had world-class sprinter speed.

He showed off that speed by running down Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett on a Monday night during his rookie season - a play at which old-timers still marvel. Green would run down plenty of NFL greats during his career, including Eric Dickerson, Jerry Rice, and his arch-rival Michael Irvin.

Then there was the punt return against the Chicago Bears in the run to Washington’s second Super Bowl championship in 1987. Joe Gibbs said Green was the greatest kick returner of all time, but he was too valuable on defense to risk him on returns. However, when the situation demanded it, he dropped back to field punts.

His twisting, hurdling touchdown run against the Bears in the 1987 divisional playoff game sealed victory for Washington. It was just one of countless memories Green gifted to fans in DC.

The date and details of the retirement ceremony have not been announced, but it is expected to take place during the upcoming Commanders' regular season. In addition to the five officially retired numbers, the Commanders have seven others that are out of circulation - Charley Taylor’s 42, Larry Brown’s 43, John Riggins’ 44, Dave Butz’s 65, and Art Monk’s 81 have never been worn since those players retired. Kenny Houston’s 27 and Sam Huff’s 70 - though briefly assigned in the past - have not been allocated in more than a decade.

Iconic players, all. By a great many metrics, and in a great many hearts, Green may be the greatest of them all.