Saturday, April 9, 2022

Charles Mann—A Complete End

 ​By John Turney 
Charles Mann didn’t play organized football until his final year of high school. He wanted to play and even snuck in a season of Pop Warner without his mother knowing but that was halted quickly when she found him out. Finally, in his senior year, he began to play football and played well. In that one season as a tight end and defensive tackle he earned two scholarship offers from the University of Nevada and Oregon State deciding on Nevada.

At the University of Nevada, he led the Big Sky Conference with 14 sacks as a senior and was voted the Conference’s Most Valuable Defensive Lineman and an All-American. Later (1995) he was named to the Nevada Athletics Hall of Fame.

At 6-6, 235, he was tall, lean, and pretty fast—running a 4.7 forty. However, he lacked bulk and strength. Nonetheless, Washington noticed his potential and in 1983 drafted him in the third round of the 1983 NFL draft.

In his first year, he was part of the team that went 14-2 in the regular season and advanced to the Super Bowl but lost to the Raiders. In 1984, after gaining 15 pounds of muscle, he was the starting left defensive end, gaining the weight to "not take the pounding he did at 235." That year he began to make his mark on the NFL.

By his third year, he was 270 pounds and led the team in sacks with 14½, which was third-best in the NFL. He was really a star to scouts but not yet one to the fans or even the writers of the NFL not gaining many post-season honors. It would be two more seasons before he made a Pro Bowl or even a Second-team All-NFL selection. 

It was also an era in which there were a lot of star defensive ends competing for few All-Pro slots, players like his own teammate Dexter Manley, Howie Long, Mark Gastineau, and others.

However, he and Manley were considered one of the best defensive end tandems in the NFL in the mid-to-late 1980s but Manley, the more flamboyant of the two got most of the publicity. Mann just kept his head down and did his job. Both, though, were productive. 

Mann had what scouts call "base"—the ability to stay lower than blockers, to hold his ground against base blocks. Often shorter defensive ends are the ones most associated with the term "base". However taller ones can too if they play with good technique, keep low, use their arms and knee bend to not allow blockers to move them back or to the side. Mann did that.

The Washington defense of the 1980s was George Allen's. Richie Petitbon kept the same principles that Allen did during his tenure there, using, for the most part, the same playbook. Sure, the coverages were updated and changed to keep up with the passing rules changes and the explosion of the passing game in the 1980s as opposed to the 1990s but the principles were the same, especially for the linemen.

It was a "get-up-the-field" affair for the ends and play the run when it "showed".  So, at 6-6, he was not someone who could be "run at"—he played his techniques well. But since he and Manley were getting up the field, after the passer, they always had good pressure because they could shed blockers well if run "showed". 

However, Mann was known as a better run-stopper because he was able to read when a play was a run could control blockers with his long arms and then play the base block or the trap and not be blown out of the hole or down blocked by the tight end, which was more often than not on his side. One thing scouts noted that Mann lacked was a closing burst like "A Bruce Smith of Reggie White," but then again, few did. Both had good motors—Mann, especially, would get "hustle sacks" looping around the back and catch a quarterback that was flushed out the left side of the pocket.

In 1994 Mann signed with the 49ers and it wasn't a shining success. Said Mann, "My last year I was in a system I never played before and I didn't fit in. It was like you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. I've never been a passive player and in that system the coaches want you to be passive. The 49ers wanted you to take on your blocker and open up gaps for the linebacker behind you and that is not my game."

The Redskins were one of the top teams in the NFL and were in playoff contention nearly every season during that time, winning two Super Bowl, one in 1987 and another in 1991.

In 1987, Washington was dominant and Mann led the defense with 9½ sacks. Washington rolled into the playoffs and then crushed the Denver Broncos 42-10 to win Super Bowl XXII. 

The Redskins made it back to the Super Bowl again in the 1991 season, led by their staunch defense with Mann again leading the team with 11 sacks. In Super Bowl XXVI, they held the Buffalo Bills offense to only 43 rushing yards and sacked quarterback four times in a 37-24 victory.

After his 11th season in Washington, the Redskins traded Charles to San Francisco. He played only one year there but he closed out his career with one more Super Bowl title, helping the 49ers to win Super Bowl XXIX over the San Diego Chargers.   

He was named to the Pro Bowl four times and was Second-team All-Pro in 1987 and 1991 and had 83 sacks during his 12-year career. He was named as one of the 70 greatest Redskins of all time and is in the Washington Redskins Ring of Fame is a three-time Super Bowl Champion.

After his career, Mann was a successful entrepreneur operating Charles Mann Enterprises and was involved in several charitable organizations including the Good Samaritan Foundation which he founded.  

Career stats—

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