Washington Football’s past ‘summer sensations’

LANDOVER, MD — SEPTEMBER 03: Wide receiver Rashad Ross #19 of the Washington Redskins rushes for a first quarter touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars at FedExField on Sep. 3, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Award season is back!

The lack of a 2020 preseason meant we had to suspend the long-running (in our minds) honor that is the Babe Laufenberg Trophy. The current Dallas Cowboys radio color analyst shined for the Burgundy & Gold during three separate stints, yet never actually appeared in a regular season game for Washington.

The sixth-round pick out of Indiana was a rookie for the 1983 NFC champs although he was inactive for every game as the third-stringer. He wrapped up his days in D.C. as a backup on the 1987 Super Bowl-winning team, but was only on the active roster for two games and thus, didn’t get a Super Bowl share.

Laufenberg also spent time with San Diego (two stints), Kansas City and New Orleans before finally landing with Dallas. While he appeared in more (8 to 7) regular season games and threw more passes (144 to 67) with the Chargers, Laufenberg made his post-playing home in the Cowboys and shined on radio and TV in that city.

But for many fans of a certain age, “Mr. August” set the Burgundy & Gold standard for preseason promise: In 1983, he threw for 86 yards against Miami and led the team to their only score in a loss to a Dolphins team still mad from losing Super Bowl XVII. In 1984, he threw for 154 yards in a win over New England.

He threw for 200 yards and two touchdowns to rally Washington from 13 points down in the fourth quarter against the Patriots in 1985. Lastly, Laufenberg threw for 182 yards to rally the team from 14 points down in the fourth quarter of a game against Pittsburgh they’d win in overtime (preseason overtime … ugh).

Since then, we’ve marveled at summer sensations that disappear when the local pools close on Labor Day, from Marcus Mason and Marko Mitchell to the late Colt Brennan.

Two years ago, I did a deep dive into previous August excellence and came up with a shortlist of those who shined during the Jay Gruden era (2014-2019):

2014: Quarterback Colt McCoy: 73% completion rate for 496 yards and 4 TD (111.6 rating). McCoy came close to becoming the first two-time winner of the award in 2017.

2015: Wide receiver Rashad Ross: 25 catches for 266 yards and four touchdowns, although linebacker Jackson Jeffcoat notched 4 sacks, one forced fumble and an interception.

2016: Running back Mack Brown: 39 carries for 161 yards and a touchdown.

2017: Linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons: 15 tackles plus an interception returned for a touchdown.

2018: Running back Kapri Bibbs: 106 yards rushing plus 119 receiving. Linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton finished a close second with 24 tackles.

2019: Perhaps the toughest to determine race in recent memory as defensive back Jeremy Reaves notched 21 tackles while Montae Nicholson returned an interception 96 yards for a touchdown. Cassanova McKinzy tallied 2 sacks (and boasted the coolest name on the roster) while wide receiver Robert Davis had only 3 catches, but 2 were for touchdowns longer than 45 yards.

Should I spend the next few weeks looking at the Shanahan and Zorn preseasons?

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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