London Fletcher to Retire: What He Has Meant to the Washington Redskins

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London Fletcher to Retire: What He Has Meant to the Washington Redskins
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

It appears that London Fletcher will retire at the end of the 2013 NFL season. The 38-year-old inside linebacker and leader of the Washington Redskins defense said on Wednesday that he is "99 percent" likely to call it quits, according to Brian McNally and Zac Boyer of The Washington Times.

Expect to hear the phrase "model of consistency" regarding Fletcher enough times to make your head hurt between now and then because that is just what he has been to the Redskins.

Since signing as a free agent from the Buffalo Bills in 2007, Fletcher has been the one constant for a franchise that has tried, and usually failed, to reinvent itself every season.

Fletcher, with his awesome consecutive game streak, has been a rare point of pride in the Dan Snyder era of the Redskins. It is a period defined by gross decadence in free agency and the never-ending pursuit of the quick fix—policies that made the Redskins a league-wide laughingstock.

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
The Redskins spent big and got burned throughout Fletcher's tenure, but he never disappointed.

But Fletcher has never let the excesses change him. He has been the a steady and respected performer for Washington who no opposing fan could mock.

That will be the legacy the 16-year pro's pro leaves behind in D.C.—a  legacy as the one consistent professional in arguably the least professional franchise in the NFL since 1999.

His numbers while wearing the burgundy and gold command respect for a player whose production has never wavered, even while the cast around him has continually altered.

He has topped 100 tackles every season he has been in Washington, and he is just two tackles shy of ending his final campaign in the nation's capital in triple figures.

His numbers have been the result of Fletcher being on the field every Sunday for the Redskins. The Washington Post's Mike Jones and Mark Maske refer to Fletcher as the "league's active iron man." He is a player who has appeared in 254 consecutive games and is the league's all-time leader in starts by a linebacker with 214.

That Fletcher could stay strong all that time at a position called into action on every snap is truly remarkable and a worthy legacy:

Among his 214 career starts, 110 have come with the Redskins, who have only made the playoffs twice in that time—in 2007 and as NFC East champions in 2012.

Fletcher was at the forefront in both of those seasons. In 2007, his debut year with the franchise, he notched 128 tackles and three interceptions.

He helped create a defensive revival in Washington that saw the defense go from 31st in the league in 2006 to eighth in 2007. Five seasons later, Fletcher turned the clock back to deliver one of his finest campaigns last year.

Fletcher was at his best in 2012.

He was in on 139 tackles, broke up 11 passes, intercepted five others, notched three sacks and forced a fumble. Those efforts helped the Redskins go from worst to first in the NFC East last season.

This season has been considered a down year by many, but even in that context, Fletcher has remained the figurehead and signal-caller of the Redskins defense.

No matter how much his skills have allegedly diminished, his potential retirement will create a huge hole on a defense already weighed down by problems.

His impending leave will affect the entire team as it prepares for life without its dependable leader who has stayed constant throughout its years of drama and turmoil.

In typical fashion, the man who has embodied stability for a franchise constantly shifting course is calling for continuity even as he prepares to exit:

He might not find many takers for his endorsement of Mike Shanahan, but it speaks to the way that Fletcher would like to see the franchise run once he hangs up the cleats. He wants it to be run with a focus on solidarity instead of continuing its cycle of endless makeovers. 

If Fletcher does follow his "99 percent" feeling and walk away, Sunday's encounter with the Dallas Cowboys will be his final home game.

It is fitting that a player who has represented the best of the Redskins should take his final bow in front of his fans by battling the Redskins' nemesis.

Even with the inevitable extra attention on him following his announcement, don't expect Fletcher to be anything less than his usual consistently productive self.

He's been that way in every game that he's worn the burgundy and gold.

 

 All statistics via NFL.com.

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