LOVERRO: An honor long overdue from a franchise that, these days, doesn’t have a clue

The Washington Commanders announced they are going to retire Hall of Fame and franchise legend Sonny Jurgensen’s famous No. 9 jersey.

“Today the Washington Commanders announced they will retire the jersey of Washington Legend Sonny Jurgensen, number 9, during “Rivalry Weekend” against the Dallas Cowboys on January 7 or 8, 2023. The standout quarterback was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983, is a five-time Pro Bowler, and member of Washington’s Ring of Fame and inaugural 70 Greatest list. Jurgensen will become the fourth member in the franchise’s 90-year history to have his jersey retired.”

This announcement was dated Aug. 23, 2022.

It should have been dated Aug. 23, 2001.

If you looked up a photo of the term “no-brainer” in the dictionary, one of the illustrations you should see is Sonny Jurgensen’s jersey retired at Ghost Town Field.

Better late than never, I guess. We’ll have to wait and see if somehow the franchise that defines failure can manage to pull off this ceremony without embarrassing a Washington sports icon. They failed to do that in the botched jersey retirement of Sean Taylor, who, with all due respect to the memory of the late safety, should have been maybe tenth in the line of legendary players for this franchise who deserve to have their numbers so honored.

For Jurgensen, the team has scheduled the ceremony for the last home game of the upcoming season, a contest featuring their rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. 

That has the potential for being a disaster of sorts since the stands are often filled with Cowboys fans for those games at Ghost Town Field — no matter what the circumstances. The circumstances could likely be the Cowboys finishing their division-winning season and the Commanders could be playing out the string of another losing season.

Even Cowboys fans, though, would likely pay tribute to Jurgensen, who was universally liked and admired for his play on the field and his work in the broadcast booth. It’s hard to imagine anyone booing Sonny Jurgensen, the man with the golden arm and the everyman pooch.

“I didn’t have a good tailor in my day, so I always had this little roll in front of me,” Jurgensen once told me. “People could sit at home and say, ‘I want to watch football, and the wife would say you’re just sitting around drinking beer. Get in shape.’ They could point to the television and say, ‘Wait a minute. Look at this guy. If he can play, I can play.’

“They knew that I did enjoy my life,” he said. “I played hard, and they knew that.”

The franchise is playing catch-up for something that should have been happening since Skipper Dan the Sailing Man Snyder bought the team in 1999. This so-called marketing genius has inexplicably missed the opportunity to make this a regular event for home fans — anything to divert attention from the field.

There had only been one number retired — Sammy Baugh’s No. 33 — until the team started the opportunity ball rolling by announcing the retirement of Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell’s No. 49 jersey. Of course, they made this announcement in June 2020, three months after Mitchell passed away.

If Skipper Dan had any clue, not only would he have retired Mitchell’s jersey shortly after buying the team, he would have had a statue erected for Mitchell, the first black player in franchise history, outside Ghost Town Field. Then again, if he had any clue, he wouldn’t have waited until 2020 to remove the name of the team’s racist founder and owner George Preston Marshall identifying one of the stadium levels.

Intelligence, compassion, competence — these have always been in short supply with Skipper Dan in charge. 

Retiring jerseys is a small sign of life on a barren planet.

When the team gets around to doing others — and they have indicated they will — there is no shortage of deserving players with rich legacies that still have strong connections to whatever football fans are left for this franchise.

The list: Darrell Green, John Riggins, Charley Taylor, Art Monk, Russ Grimm, Chris Hanburger, Ken Houston, Larry Brown, Joe Jacoby and Joe Theismann. You could make the case for Doug Williams, Jerry Smith and Mark Moseley as well.

They’ve all waited too long.

You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.