Chapter 3, Page 102

Allen soon was at it again with another spectacular trade. On May 15, 1973, he sent five players to the Houston Oilers — Snowden, McNeil, tight end Mack Alston, defensive back Jeff Severson and defensive end Mike Fanucci — for perennial All Pro strong safety Ken Houston. When Taylor broke his arm in training camp, Allen moved Brig Owens over to Taylor's spot, and Houston stepped right in as strong safety. He played there for the next eight years. Five years after he retired, with a reputation as the greatest strong safety in the history of the game, he was elected on the first ballot into the Hall of Fame.

Houston will long be remembered for one particular play, in a 1973 Monday night game against the Cowboys at RFK. Dallas was driving toward a last-minute touchdown. On fourth down, with 16 seconds left, Craig Morton tossed a short pass to running back Walt Garrison. As Garrison turned toward the goal line, Houston came up, hit him high and wrestled him to the ground a yard short of a touchdown. The play preserved a 14-7 Redskins victory.

"When it happened, I didn't think it was such a good play," Houston said. "I thought I was beaten on a pass. I went to intercept the ball, but I couldn't make the move, so I stopped and grabbed at him and tried to lift his body. I picked him up and pushed him back . . . It wasn't a smooth play, it was a desperation play. It was such an eerie feeling when it happened. There wasn't any noise in the stadium for maybe three seconds. I was screaming at Brig Owens to come and help, because I thought Garrison might want to lateral. All of a sudden, when everyone realized what had happened, the place went crazy. I had never seen anything like it."

Plays like that would help the Redskins make the playoffs again in 1973 and 1974. Both seasons, however, would end with losses in the initial round, first to the Minnesota Vikings and then to the Los Angeles Rams — a game that would mark the end of Sonny Jurgensen's career.

That 1974 season was also when Joe Theismann joined the franchise. The former Notre Dame quarterback had been a second-round choice of the Dolphins three years earlier, but he had opted to play right away for Toronto in the Canadian Football League rather than sit behind Bob Griese in Miami. Allen traded his second-round, 1976 choice to Miami for Theismann, envisioning him as the quarterback of the future. Jurgensen, after all, was 40 and Kilmer was 34.

Both veterans took a disliking to their new teammate, who had already written a book on how to play quarterback even though he had never seen a minute of NFL action. Theismann also crossed a picket line to get into training camp in a year that began with an ugly player's strike, another step that hardly endeared him to veteran players.

Page 102 | Next Page: 103

Other Pages in Chapter 3:
79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112

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