It remains a conundrum why only one player from the Redskins' defense, the top-ranked unit in the conference, was nominated to this Sunday's Pro Bowl.
Nevertheless, linebacker Marcus Washington will take the field in Hawaii for the NFL's annual all-star game representing not only a defense that surpassed expectation in 2004, but a franchise that has had its share of excellent linebackers.
Washington joined the Redskins last offseason as a free agent after spending his first four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. He finished the 2004 season with a career-best 130 tackles (102 solo), second on the team to fellow linebacker Antonio Pierce. His 4.5 sacks were third-most on the team behind defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin and cornerback Shawn Springs, who each had six. And his nine tackles for a loss were second to Griffin's 15.
Despite garnering Pro Bowl honors after a stellar first season with the Redskins, Washington said following the season-ending victory against the Minnesota Vikings that he isn't satisfied.
"You have to always want to get better because if you're not getting better, you're getting worse," he said. "You can't stand in the middle. That's the type of attitude that we have around here. We want to continue to climb. We set our goals high. That's what it takes for you to be a championship team and a championship defense."
Washington is the ninth linebacker in team history named to the Pro Bowl. He joins a prestigious list of players that includes a Hall of Famer and five of the 70 Greatest Redskins.
LaVar Arrington had his streak of three consecutive Pro Bowls broken this season because a knee injury forced him to miss 11 games. The prospect of a healthy Arrington alongside Washington in 2005 will be a challenge for opposing offensive coordinators.
Ken Harvey, one of the 70 Greatest Redskins, made the Pro Bowl each season from 1994-97. Harvey, like Washington, started his career with another team: the Arizona Cardinals.
Harvey was known for his phenomenal pass-rushing ability and in 1994 he became the first Redskin ever to lead the NFC in sacks. His 13.5 sacks that year tied with Minnesota's John Randle for the conference high. (For the record, Dexter Manley's 18 sacks in 1986 stand as the team's single-season high.)
Wilber Marshall, another member of the 70 Greatest Redskins, was a Pro Bowler in 1992, one season after leading the Redskins' defense to a Super Bowl championship. Marshall is the only Redskins Pro Bowl linebacker who won a Super Bowl with the team. He led a defense that ranked sixth in the NFL in total yards allowed in 1992, which was his final season with the Redskins.
Prior to Marshall's Pro Bowl appearance, you have to go back to 1976 to find another Redskins Pro Bowl linebacker. Chris Hanburger made the all-star game that year and in eight others, setting the franchise record for most Pro Bowl appearances.
Hanburger's 14 years with the Redskins rank behind only Darrell Green's 20 and Sammy Baugh's and Monte Coleman's 16.
Sam Huff is the lone Hall of Famer to make the Pro Bowl as a Redskins linebacker. Huff, known for his aggressive and hard-hitting play, was a Redskin from 1964-67 and 1969, appearing in the Pro Bowl in 1964. Huff finished his career with 30 interceptions in 13 NFL seasons. He still broadcasts Redskins games on Redskins Radio.
Chuck Drazenovich was a Redskins mainstay at linebacker during the 1950s. He is also among the 70 Greatest Redskins and he made the Pro Bowl in four consecutive seasons, starting in 1955. He had 15 interceptions and seven fumble recoveries in 10 seasons.
Drazenovich played alongside Redskins linebacker Torgy Torgeson in the 1955 and '56 Pro Bowls. Rob Breedlove, the final name on the list, made the Pro Bowl in 1962.
This Sunday, Washington will team at outside linebacker Keith Brooking, who is playing in his fourth straight Pro Bowl. Mark Fields of the Carolina Panthers will play in his second Pro Bowl after replacing Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks, who has a knee injury. The two inside linebackers are former Redskin and current Philadelphia Eagle Jeremiah Trotter and the Panthers' Dan Morgan.
Following the Redskins' season finale, Washington was asked to reflect on his first season with the team. Despite the individual accolades, he preferred to focus on the character the team displayed throughout the course of the season.
"I found out what kind of character we have around here," Washington said. "It's easy to be a front-runner and high-five when everything is going well. But sometimes, when the going gets a little rough, that's when you've got to dig down deep and find something. Those are the type of guys I want to fight with and play with. And I think that's what we've got on our hands here: a bunch of fighters."