Fifty Years Later, Another Splash on April 1

DeSean Jackson closed out his first interview with Larry Michael on “Redskins Nation” with an assurance.

“It is a reality that DeSean Jackson is a Washington Redskin,”Michael said. “It’s not April Fools, man,” Jackson said. “We’re here.”

Although the team did not officially announce signing Jackson until the afternoon of Wednesday, April 2, reports of the news first surfaced late Tuesday night. The Philadelphia Eagles cut Jackson on March 29, making the three-time Pro Bowl receiver available for Washington’s wooing.

On April 1, 1964 – 50 years earlier to the day – the Eagles traded a Hall-of-Fame quarterback to Washington, and Sonny Jurgensen really did think it was an April Fools gag according to an excerpt from Jim Gehman’s book “And Then Gibbs Said To Riggins…”

“I didn’t know why [I was traded] because Joe Kuharich came there, and we had a nice meeting for a couple hours talking about what we were going to do,” said Jurgensen, who had been Philadelphia’s starter the previous three seasons and owned the team record with 32 touchdown passes in 1961. “I think it was in ’63, I had seven ends that broke arms, so I had no receivers to throw to. We’d won [the NFL championship] in ’60 and had gone downhill. In ’61 we had a good year, but in ’62 and ’63 we had all kinds of problems. And the problems were physical problems. So the team got old, and we slipped.

“I thought that [Kuharich and I] had a very good meeting, and I went to lunch two or three blocks from the Eagles’ office, and somebody came in and said, ‘Hey! I see they just traded you to Washington.’ I said, ‘Aw, don’t tell me that. I just left the coach an hour ago.’ And he said, ‘No, I’m not kidding you, Sonny. They just traded you to the Washington Redskins for Norm Snead.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I know you’re kidding. It’s April Fools Day.’ And it was. I didn’t believe him. And it was true!”

It is also true that the Jurgensen-led Redskins didn’t enjoy too many sunny days as the 1964 season got underway. They lost their first four games, albeit three were by less than a touchdown. But when they hosted the 2-2 Eagles on October 11, Jurgensen played as if Washington hadn’t lost a game. He threw four touchdown passes as the Redskins popped Philadelphia, 35-20.

“I had given everything I could do, and I think they saw fit to trade us. But I know when I went back to play against them it made a little added incentive,” Jurgensen said. “It was a good thing in the long run, but when it happens to you, you’re shocked.”


ABOUT THE REDSKINS: Headquartered at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Virginia, and owned by Daniel Snyder, the historic Washington Redskins Football Club has won five World Championship titles including the 1937 and 1942 National Football League Championship games, as well as Super Bowls XVII, XXII and XXVI. Founded in 1932 as the Boston Braves in Massachusetts, the team changed its name to the Redskins in 1933 and relocated to Washington, D.C., in 1937. Since then, the team has become one of the most recognizable professional sports franchises in history, featuring multiple Hall of Fame coaches, 19 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (with seven others who also were Redskins) and becoming the first team in the NFL with an official marching band and fight song, "Hail to the Redskins." The Redskins have been owned by Dan Snydersince 1999, and beginning in 1997, began playing their home games at FedExField in Landover, Md.