Sam Huff was livid.
It was April 1964, and Giants coach Allie Sherman had just traded the superstar middle linebacker to the Redskins. Huff had played on Giants teams that appeared in six NFL championship games, winning once, and he was confident they’d remain one of the NFL’s top teams in the coming years.
But the offensive-minded Sherman was busy overhauling the defense, the backbone of those great Giants squads. He dealt veterans such as Huff, an icon in New York who glamorized the middle linebacker position, and defensive linemen Rosey Grier and Dick Modzelewski.
“I didn’t want to be traded from a championship team, a championship organization,” Huff said. “We had just lost to the Bears, 14-10, in the (1963) championship, and the head coach gets rid of five guys on the defensive unit. I’ll never forget that trade.
"I look at my life in Washington and with the Redskins and can’t forget what I’ve accomplished here. But at the time, the trade was very, very upsetting.”
Huff, who was traded for Redskins offensive sparkplug Dick James, defensive end Andy Stynchula and a draft pick, delayed signing with Washington for more than two months. He even hinted at retiring.
But Redskins coach Bill McPeak enticed him to play for the Redskins by going to his home in New York and offering him his No. 70 jersey. The Redskins also doubled his salary to about $35,000 and inserted a no-trade clause in his contract.
“I said, `This is where it ends. Nobody will ever trade me again,'" Huff recalled.
Huff has since become an icon in the nation’s capital. After playing the last five seasons of his 13-year NFL career with the Redskins, he embarked on a broadcasting career. In fact, he’s been in the radio booth for the past three decades with his buddy, Sonny Jurgensen, who was traded to Washington from the Eagles a few weeks before Huff. The two Redskin color analysts have long been members of the Hall of Fame.
For Huff, the trade to Washington wasn’t so bad after all. With the hard-hitting middle linebacker on board, the Redskins’ defense improved to No. 2 in the league in 1965.
He made the Pro Bowl for the fifth and final time that year and remained a steady presence on the field until an ankle injury in 1967 halted his streak of 150 straight games played.
Huff retired after that season. But when an assistant coach from his Giants years and one of his mentors, the legendary Vince Lombardi, signed on in 1969 to coach the Redskins, the 34-year-old linebacker returned as a player-coach. The Redskins posted a 7-5-2 mark under Lombardi, their first winning season in 14 years, and Huff, the defensive captain, picked off three passes, returning one 18 yards for a touchdown.
In Washington, Huff also had the pleasure of gaining revenge on his adversary, Allie Sherman. It happened in a 1966 game pitting the 5-6 Redskins against the 1-8-1 Giants.
Huff was keenly aware of the Giants’ dreadful defense, which allowed a league-high 501 points by season’s end, and had a premonition in the days prior to the game.
“The Giants’ defense had gotten so bad under Sherman that I knew we were going to win the game big because we had Sonny Jurgensen, Bobby Mitchell, Charley Taylor and a great offensive team,” Huff said. "I predicted on the radio back in New York that we would score more than 60 points before the game was ever played. I said, 'This is the worst defense I’ve ever seen in the NFL.'"
He was clairvoyant: Redskins 72, Giants 41.
Huff was even instrumental in shaping the final score – or so he thinks. With the score 69-41 and seven seconds left, the Redskins were on the Giants’ 20-yard line. Jurgensen wanted the clock to run out.
But Huff, acting like a coach, signaled time out from the sideline so the field goal team could enter the game and implored Redskins coach Otto Graham to “show no mercy.”
Kicker Charlie Gogolak provided the final points.
Huff may have signaled a “T” to officials. But Redskins guard and offensive captain Vince Promuto said his word carried a lot more weight. With Washington’s offense on the field, Promuto said he called time out and conferred with Graham about trying a field goal.
Promuto held his own grudge against the Giants and wanted to embarrass them.
“I’ve heard it 20,000 times that Sam Huff called that time out,” Promuto said. “But playing in the 1960s when Giants quarterback Y.A. Tittle was playing, and seeing him run up the score time after time when the Redskins were a lousy team, I thought, 'This is my opportunity.'
"I wanted to score one more time just for kicks. We could have let the clock run out, and we would have won, 69-41. But I wanted the field goal. I don’t talk to Huff about it, let him have his fame.”
No matter who stopped the clock, Huff achieved what he wanted: retribution.
Mike Richman is the author of The Redskins Encyclopedia and the Washington Redskins Football Vault. He also hosts “Burgundy & Gold Flashback,” which airs on Sundays from 9:30-10 a.m. on Sports Talk 570: Powered by ESPN. His web site is www.redskinshistorian.com and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.