Posted December 18, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

Nations: SU coach up for football hall of fame

Jeff Nations

I'm tempted to congratulate Joe Jacoby right now, but I'm holding out.

Jacoby, the former Washington Redskins great and current Shenandoah University football coach, was announced as a semifinalist last week for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

My first thought, although I knew better, was -- Jacoby isn't already enshrined in Canton, Ohio? How's that?

Granted, this is pretty solid Redskins territory still, even after a solid decade of mediocrity the franchise just now seems to be emerging from behind sensational rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. But I'm no Redskins homer -- back in Jacoby's day, I can safely say I despised that team. It wasn't personal -- as a tragically misguided Detroit Lions fan, I Grinched hard on any and all teams that "won games," or "had success," or "weren't a weekly embarrassment," so the 1980s-era Redskins drew my particular toothless wrath.

Sure, the Redskins had steady Joe Theismann at quarterback, staggeringly efficient Art Monk plucking balls from the air, assorted guys playing defense -- but to an outsider, the Redskins of those days boiled down to this description -- Riggo and the Hogs.

Washington's offense never exactly drew favorable comparisons to some of the other great groups of the day -- particularly the deadly efficient West Coast offense pioneered by San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh. Riggo, aka John Riggins, was no Barry Sanders toting the ball. Riggins' power-running style epitomized that punishing attack.

The "Hogs," Washington's famed offensive line, actually did most of the punishing. Two names stand out from that group -- Russ Grimm, and Jacoby. Grimm, like Riggins, is already in the Hall of Fame.

Why not Jacoby? Good question.

The short answer is that the Pro Football Hall of Fame isn't exactly an easy grader -- and that's as it should be, of course. A Hall of Fame, whether it's a high school or for a sport's highest level, shouldn't be the Hall of Very Good. It's for the best.

And that's why Jacoby should be in Canton -- he was one of the best.

It's not as though Jacoby isn't already in good company, just by being named a semifinalist for the Hall's Class of 2013. He is one of 27 culled from an initial list of 127 preliminary nominees. Among them are what seems to me a few sure-fire Hall of Famers, but that's always debatable. If I had a ballot, and I don't, Jacoby would definitely get my vote. Consider the other offensive linemen who made the cut among this year's semifinalists: mammoth former Dallas Cowboys guard/tackle Larry Allen (1994-2005), Baltimore Ravens great Jonathan Ogden (1996-2007) and former Buffalo Bills standout Will Shields (1993-2006).

Out of that group, Jacoby still stands out with the exception perhaps of Ogden.

Consider his resume: in a 13-year career spent entirely with the Redskins, Jacoby earned four consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl (1983-1986), was a two-time first-team All-Pro, and helped the Redskins to Super Bowl championships in 1983, 1988 and 1992. He played in 170 games, scored a touchdown and was named to the NFL's All-Decade team for the 1980s.

Jacoby was a punishing blocker, broke into the league as an undrafted free agent and promptly became a mainstay on that famous offensive line as both a tackle and a guard. Mostly, the 6-foot-7, 305-pounder manned the left tackle position for the Redskins a he protected many a blind side for quarterbacks over the years.

Jacoby, still an imposing figure at age 53, has been here before. He was a semifinalist for induction into Pro Football's Hall of Fame in both 2005 and again in 2008. The results of the vote for the modern-day finalists, which cuts the list to 15, will be announced in early January and the final Class of 2013 will be chosen by the Pro Football Hall of Fame's selection committee on Feb. 2, the day before Super Bowl XLVII.

This year, hopefully, the voters will get it right and reserve a spot for Jacoby in Canton. That literally would mean "Hog Heaven" for Redskins faithful, and I'll get a chance to personally deliver the congratulations Jacoby deserves for a long and distinguished playing career.

Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or jnations@nvdaily.com>

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