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Flashback: Jurgensen Trade In '64 Heralded a New Era

It was no April Fool's Day joke when the Redskins traded for quarterback Sonny Jurgensen on April 1, 1964. In fact, it was one of the most important trades in franchise history.

Jurgensen, who grew up in Wilmington, N.C., and played his college football at Duke University, was drafted by Philadelphia in the fourth round in 1957.

With the Eagles, he played behind Hall of Famer Norm Van Brocklin for three years and was part of the Philadelphia team that won the NFL title in 1960.

But in April 1964, the Eagles decided to ship Jurgensen to Washington, D.C., in a trade for quarterback Norm Snead and cornerback Claude Crabb.

Earlier this year, Jurgensen commented on the trade in an exclusive interview with TV.

"I was shocked in a way," he said. "I had just met with the new coach of the Eagles who had come in with the new owner. I met with him, sat in his office for a few hours talked about what we were going to do, what offense we were going to have and how we were going to win again.

"I left, went to lunch, met some friends of mine. Then someone came in and said you were traded to the Redskins. I said 'No, it's April Fool's Day, you're kidding.' He said, 'No, I'm not kidding. I just heard it on the radio.' So I was shocked.

"When I looked back on it, being shocked initially, it was an opportunity to start fresh and to start anew. It was a team I had followed because the Redskins were part of the south. I had come up to see them play as a high school team. My family could come up and see me play. I enjoyed that."

Sonny, or Christian Adolph Jurgensen III, was widely recognized as the finest pure passer of his era, which also included Baltimore's Johnny Unitas, Green Bay's Bart Starr and the New York Jets' Joe Namath.

Jurgensen played for 18 seasons in the NFL. A five-time Pro Bowl selection, He earned three NFL individual passing titles. With a career QB rating of 82.6, his stats include 2,433 completions for 32,224 yards and 255 touchdowns.

In his prime, Jurgensen, a popular TV and radio commentator on the Redskins since his playing career ended, could throw the ball 80 yards.

As a Redskin, many of his accurate spirals fell into the arms of Bobby Mitchell, Charley Taylor or Jerry Smith.

As Taylor once said: "The NFL back then had other great quarterbacks like Unitas and Starr. But Sonny was the guy. He had a feel for the game, a feel for what was happening. He made things easier for you."

Jurgensen played for nine coaches in his career. He once said that his favorite was Vince Lombardi, who came to the Redskins in February of 1969 after coaching Green Bay to two Super Bowl wins and three other NFL titles.

Lombardi's Redskins finished 7-5-2 in 1969, their first winning season since 1955. Jurgensen had an All-Pro year for the Redskins and Lombardi in 1969, throwing for 3,102 yards and 22 passes and completing 62 percent of his throws.

Both Snead and Crabb were solid NFL players but neither could come close to matching Jurgensen's impact.

During his 18-year NFL career, Snead, a native of the Newport News, Va., area who was drafted in Round 1 by the Redskins in 1961, played for five NFL teams--Washington, Philadelphia, Minnesota, the New York Giants and San Francisco.

Crabb played for seven years--with the Redskins, Eagles and Los Angeles Rams--before retiring in 1968.

Meanwhile, at the age of 40 in his final season in 1974, Jurgensen won his third NFL passing crown. He entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

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