"Ain't no perfect nothin' for nothin'." -- Darrell Green
Elaborating on that wisdom, the man who saved the Redskins' season today glanced at the 42-year-old with two knee operations who is typing this and said: "You could get by me."
He was serious.
Looking at me in the dressing room, Green was seeing Mike Renfro slipping by him in Texas Stadium for the touchdown that lifted the Cowboys to a 15-point halftime lead.
"If we line up, like track," Green said, "I'd blow him away. I was playin' him real tight on the play, with that in mind: if it's anything short, I kill him. But he had something up his sleeve, too."
For Green, this is the lure of cornerback, football's most mentally-mean position, what Tony McGee calls "being the last man between glory."
What sort of sport would it be if an offense had the perfect play for any defense? Or if the defense could cover anything an offense could muster?
Ain't no perfect nothin' for nothin'.
You line up and see what happens: man against man far away from grunting giants, the shifty receiver who knows what's going to take place and the ignorant cornerback gambling he still can stop it.
Guess wrong, and a typist with specs might burn you deep; guess right, and your team suddenly is hopping out of the playoff grave and counter-punching to victory.
The Redskins' first recollections after being allowed to leave the field with 24 seconds still on the clock mostly involved Darrell Green.
Dragging on his pipe, McGee still saw Green cut in front of Doug Donley, grab the ball and dash 32 yards into the end zone for that turnaround touchdown; wearing a patch over his left eye, Russ Grimm also could visualize it.
Almost anything positive at the time would have been useful, and also unusual, because a Cowboy offense close to inept recently had been dashing up and down the field at will.
Poor Green had been especially stunned by the storm. During probe-and-punt time, the game's first series, Dallas drove 80 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown.
With a quick-sideline move, Donley beat Green in the end zone from six yards.
"Just good execution on his part," Green admitted. "Hey, you can't jump on 'em all."
That was a trickle of trouble for Green; the flood, in the form of a missed tackle on a long run by Timmy Newsome and Renfro's 60-yarder for the third Dallas touchdown, followed quickly.
"Some guys get beaten like that and it destroys them," said General Manager Bobby Beathard. "Darrell has that great heart, along with great speed and great reactions."
All of that was evident in the second half. For all of what had gone wrong the first 30 minutes, the Redskins knew a comeback was possible, that White also was capable of throwing as many interceptions as he had touchdowns.
Privately, the Redskins view White as they once did Craig Morton, a splendid talent but prone to pitching the ball exactly where he shouldn't at some important time.
That time came very early in the third quarter.
"They'd been running a lot of outs, and completing 'em," Green said. "Vernon (Dean) and I got together and decided we'd tighten up on 'em. The interception was that type of play.
"I made a break on (Donley), who was trying to relax me, and also on the ball. That (interception and touchdown) was the start of it all. Thank the Lord I was able to pull it off."
Did Green figure he was even with Donley, one touchdown canceling the other?
"No. Because we still were losing. It helped me mentally, because I'd been about as low as you can get. But we still were behind. If his team had gone on to win, his would have been more important."
Later in the third period, Green plucked another White pass, one intended for Doug Cosbie but tipped by Ken Coffey. And his cornerback buddy, Dean, wrestled Tony Dorsett for a loss during Dallas' last possession.
"When it got to be 28-30," McGee admitted, "I got a little scared of that 31-30. Know what I mean?"
Sure do. Dean helped stifle that push for a game-winning field goal.
"I saw them do that little swing," Dean said, "and I shot through. I'd started there a few times before, close to the line, and then dropped back in coverage. They thought I wouldn't be a factor."
Ain't no perfect nothin' for nothin'.
Proud as he was of the play, Dean knew the most praise should be Green's. So when the little big man emerged from the showers, Dean lateraled half a dozen reporters to Green.
Helpfully, Dean even asked the first question: "How many interceptions does that make? Five?"
"I think four," Green corrected.
As he talked, Green would sometimes wipe blood from a deep cut on the little finger of his right hand, injured early in the game.
Also, two joints in that hand were badly swollen.
"That got hurt a long time ago," he said. "(The swelling) is an every-game thing."
Nearby, teammates were aglow with Green's turnaround today and his immense potential.
"He's gonna be great," McGee said. "Already, he's real, real, real good."
Next door to McGee was a potential goat, Charles Mann, whose 30 yards of penalties for clobbering White could have been terminal for the Redskins.
"I hit (quarterbacks) on the head during the preseason," he said, "and that's illegal. I nudge 'em now on the way by, just to let 'em know I'm close, and get called for that, too. I apologized (to White after the game)."
Now Mann was as giddy as Green. He also knows there ain't nothin' perfect for nothin' and that the Redskins still were not assured the playoffs.
"That's still out there," he said, "It's like a stick, with 70 grand on it."