Washington Redskins’ quarterback carousel continues
D.C. — for better or worse — remains a Redskins town. And the quarterback of the Burgundy and Gold is often the second-most scrutinized person inside the Capital Beltway.
Since the decline and fall of 1992’s Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien, the Skins have dealt with a procession of quarterbacks that range from first-round failures (Heath Shuler, Patrick Ramsey, Jason Campbell and Robert Griffin III) or veteran acquisitions who faded (Donovan McNabb, Mark Brunell and Jeff George).
So, when the team won the NFC East in 2015 as Kirk Cousins broke Jay Schroeder’s 29-year-old team record for passing yards in a season, it seemed as though coach Jay Gruden and company finally had a quarterback to build their team around.
Only they didn’t.
Instead, the Redskins applied the franchise tag to Cousins — and, at the time, it made sense. The fourth-year player had only one full season as a starter under his belt. Cousins answered with 4,917 passing yards in 2016 to break his own record but was undermined by a defense that ranked 28th overall. He then threw for 4,093 yards in 2017, directing an offense minus his top two receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. Neither team had a strong running game.
But, the book on Cousins was he wasn’t a winner — and the front office let the 29-year-old seek a big payday elsewhere. Cousins got one with Minnesota: three years and $84 million — all guaranteed.
The Redskins responded with a January trade for Kansas City veteran Alex Smith, giving up a third-round pick as well as cornerback Kendall Fuller (12 starts in two years with the team). They also signed Smith to a four-year contract extension worth $94 million ($71 million of it guaranteed). Never mind that Smith was four years older than Cousins.
From opening weekend, the quarterback comparison was inevitable: Cousins ranks 10th in the NFL in passer rating and averages the 11th-most yards per game, while Smith stands 26th and 27th in those categories. But, Smith was more than mere numbers, having led the team to a 6-3 start that had the team in first place entering the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
Then, a devastating turn of events for Smith: During a game on Nov. 18, Smith suffered a compound fracture to his fibula and tibia against Houston. Smith isn’t just done for the year. It’s questionable if the 34-year-old ever takes a regular season snap again.
Backup Colt McCoy saw his 2018 season end 15 days later, when he went down with a broken leg against Philadelphia.
Plan C Mark Sanchez started against the New York Giants and posted a passer rating of 10.7 in a 40-16 loss.
Now, the Redskins are on Plan D: Josh Johnson just won his first start since 2011 in a season-salvaging victory at Jacksonville.
Believe it or not, the Skins can still make the playoffs — depending on how Cousins and Minnesota fare over the final two weeks. Just another year on the Redskins’ quarterback carousel.
WTOP’s Dave Preston contributed to this entry.
(AP Photo/Mark Tenally)