With the news coming out the Redskins bye weekend that DeSean Jackson spoke to the team before the Minnesota game, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Art Monk breaking his legendary silence in 1990.
The circumstances couldn’t be more different. Jackson has only played half a season in Washington after being booted out of Philadelphia for not being enough of a team guy. At least that’s the impression Eagles Coach Chip Kelly gave after releasing his leading receiver last spring. Jackson, who coach Jay Gruden says sits in meetings with his “hood on”, while not being a team problem, hasn’t given much indication of being a team leader either. But as he revealed on the Fox NFL pregame show Sunday, he took it upon himself to tell the team that they had to rally around quarterback Robert Griffin III. While Griffin played well against the Vikings, they didn’t win. So, Jackson’s version of the “Win one for the Gipper” speech didn’t exactly go as planned. Still, the fact that he actually gave a speech is a bit of a head-turner.
The Monk team speech came in his 11th year with the Redskins. He’d already become the team’s all time leading receiver and was on his way to what would become a Hall of Fame career. Monk let his work ethic do the talking. Teammate Ron Middleton once observed, “I bet I can count on both hands the number of words I’ve heard him say in the three years that I’ve been here.”
But on December 1, 1990, Middleton and his Redskins teammates heard Monk say plenty as he shocked everybody by simply speaking. This was a Redskins team that had been to the Super Bowl in the previous seven years, winning two. They had missed the playoffs for two straight years and were in danger of missing it for the third straight year. The record was 6-5, including losses in two of the last three games. The first loss was the famed “Body Bag Bowl” defeat in Philadelphia where the Eagles knocked out quarterbacks Jeff Rutledge and Stan Humphries, forcing running back Brian Mitchell to finish the game at QB.
That December night as the Skins prepared themselves for the next day’s game against Miami, Monk decided it was time to speak up. He talked about how he was rededicating himself to the season and hoped his teammates would do the same. It wasn’t so much what was said, but who said it. As Middleton said, “The guy doesn’t talk much, but when he has something to say, it’s profound.”
Monk a year later recalled, “It was a time where we either did it or we were going to be home for Christmas. I thought it was important for us to realize that.”
How much the speech helped is hard to say, but it certainly didn’t hurt. The Redskins went on to clobber the Dolphins 42-20 with Monk catching two touchdown passes. They would go on to win three of the last four to finish the season 10-6. The record was good enough to get into the playoffs and set up a Wild Card Game matchup at Veterans Stadium – the same Vet where they left parts of two quarterbacks and their spirit in the Body Bag Bowl six weeks earlier.
With Monk catching another touchdown passes, the Redskins beat the Eagles 20-6. Though the season ended with a loss in San Francisco the following week, there was a new swagger to the team. That swagger continued into the following season. The Redskins rolled to a 14-2 regular season record and went on to beat Buffalo in the Super Bowl.
Some insist to this day that the Monk speech propelled them there. Will the Jackson speech have the same desired effect? We’ll soon find out.