Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels, who announced his retirement Thursday, had a superb career and must be considered one of the premier offensive linemen of this generation. But it was time for him to retire. The last thing anyone wants to see is a superstar who is a shell of what he once was. We saw that last year with Orlando Pace in Chicago, and I fear that Samuels would have been heading down that path if he chose to return. Not only is he hampered with a serious neck injury, but his level of play and athleticism are not what they once were. That isn’t a knock on Samuels. Surely injuries had a lot to do with his play declining from his glory days, but he became a player who depended on body positioning and technique rather than his physical attributes, which were once immense. Once extremely reliable, Samuels only appeared in 17 games over the past two seasons.
If he had returned next season, Samuels would be forced to learn a new system. Mike Shanahan stresses movement skills and athletic ability in his zone blocking run game. Samuels no longer had the quickness, agility and ability to get downfield.
Looking back at Samuels’ illustrious career, it is very difficult to find holes in his game. He might not have been the most physical masher in the run game, but he had very light feet, was a natural knee-bender and understood body positioning quite well. He was extremely physically gifted and knew how to use those gifts to his advantage, particularly as a blind-side protector, where he was routinely left one-on-one against elite pass-rushers.
In terms of the big picture, I would put Samuels behind Pace, Jonathan Ogden and Walter Jones. That probably makes him a fringe Hall of Fame player. With Pace and Jones in the NFC, Samuels may not have always gotten his due, but there is an awful lot to like about what this great player did on the field. He will be missed.