How do you know it’s May?
Is it trees filling out and dumping their pollen on your cars and everything else? Is it the gorgeous irises, peonies, bleeding hearts, or poppies that color your flower beds (nod to the missus and her fellow master gardeners)? Is it the crazy weather that can be 50 degrees one day and 80 the next? Is it the NBA playoffs with Steph Curry and his Golden State Warriors sweeping away opponents like they were playground schoolboys? Or is it all of the above?
To Washington Redskin football fans, you know that it’s May because there’s a quarterback controversy during the team’s Organized Team Activities that run the last of May through the beginning of June. Just like every year.
The Skins now have four QBs in camp: Case Keenum, Colt McCoy, Dwayne Haskins and Josh Woodrum. The “elephant in the room” is last year’s starting signal-caller, Alex Smith, who had a possible career-ending leg injury last season. The franchise quarterback who was expected to take them to the promised land may never take another snap.
Apparently, not wanting to go into the 2019 season having to depend on an erratic backup like McCoy, Washington elected to pick up veteran Case Keenum from the Denver Broncos, and formerly of the Minnesota Vikings. Keenum has had some success over the last few years, but was dumped by the Broncos when they were acquired the Ravens’ Joe Flacco in the offseason. The Old Coach is not sure that was a step up for the equestrians.
Washington drafted Haskins in the first round out of Ohio State University, where he was a one-year starter as a red-shirt freshman. Unquestionably, the ex-Buckeye has lots of skills. He has a strong arm, good pocket presence, can make all the throws and led his OSU team to a 12–1 record in 2018. He is 22 years old and has a lot of potential. But, as we all know, there is a steep learning curve from the college game to the NFL.
Woodrum, in his second year out of Liberty University, is likely to spend most of his career bouncing around from taxi squad to taxi squad, never really getting his chance to shine because of his pedigree. Management and coaches seem to prefer QBs who have played for the college blue bloods.
So here is where the conflict begins. We can write the story ahead of time because we have heard it so many times before with the Skins. The Skins will now have three quarterbacks vying for the starting job: a just-arrived veteran starter who is immediately ripped in the media as not being the answer to solving the team’s woes; a veteran backup who the media usually depicts as always just a second-stringer; and the rookie phenom who the media has anointed as the savior of the franchise. The coaching staff will be damned if they do, and damned if they don’t play Haskins because the media will not be able to wait for his development.
Time and again, Washington management finds a way to create the illusion that remedying the quarterback problem will somehow make the Skins a playoff contender. And the media buys it (must be the “Hope Springs Eternal Syndrome”). While Washington certainly needs to have a healthy, talented QB to be able to run its offense, the Redskins have several other positions of need, not to mention a lack of overall depth.
The quality teams in the league have deep rosters. Injuries will occur. That’s understood. Your backup players have to be talented enough to step in with little to no drop-off in performance if you are going to flourish in a 16-game season and into the playoffs. The Skins, however, have traditionally invested in a number of high-priced free agents with questionable backgrounds at the expense of selecting high-quality players in the mid and lower rounds of the draft, then developing those individuals. Good, old-fashioned “coachin’ ’em up.”
How long can you rely on Trent Williams to perform while injured before you realize that, as courageous as he has been, it’s time for him to be replaced? The offensive tackles can’t move well enough to protect the quarterback on dropbacks when they are constantly limping off the field. Whether it’s Haskins, Keenum or McCoy, each will be subject to intense pressure because of lack of protection.
Tight end Jordan Reed is one of the best in the NFL when healthy. Question is: When has he ever been healthy for a full season? He is injury-prone. It’s time to develop your timing with receivers who can practice every day and who can stay on the field. A great quarterback-receiver combination is founded on repetition, hours and hours of practice.
There is a long list of deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball, but I’ll leave that for another day.
The best chance Washington has of resurrecting its franchise is for management and coaches to focus on the atmosphere in the locker room. There needs to be a core number of players who have leadership skills and who set an example for teammates of doing things the right way. The team way. Not just a rag-tag group of individuals, each seeking their own glory and large paycheck, then moving on. But, a band of brothers all united in a common cause of playing up to their ability and making the Skins relevant again.
Surprise us: put an end to the conflict and controversy.