Pierre Garcon’s arrival in Washington was about as glitzy as a seven-yard dig route. He wasn’t wooed by local celebrities, and his signing didn’t exactly electrify the community. “Redskins reach deals with two wide receivers, re-sign DE Adam Carriker,” read The Post headline on that March day in 2012.
It was the perfect Garcon moment: a quotidian announcement in which he played second fiddle to someone else. Carriker has been out of the league for four years. Joshua Morgan, the other veteran wide receiver signed that day, has been out of the league for two years. And Garcon? He’s played in 72 straight games, earned the gushing admiration of ex-Washington players, and turned into one of the more prolific receivers in Redskins history.
I’ve been thinking about Garcon’s arrival this week, because I’ve also been thinking about his potential departure. Like DeSean Jackson, Garcon is a pending free agent, which means Sunday’s game could be his last on the home sideline at FedEx Field. (Garcon is well-liked in Ashburn, and there’s a good chance he’ll be back, but you probably wouldn’t pay off your mortgage by wagering on the future at Redskins Park.)
Jackson’s free agency has already created headlines, with ex-teammates openly speculating that the speedster could return to Philadelphia and Jackson saying he’s “definitely intrigued” by the free-agency process. And Garcon?
“D.C. is where I want to be,” he said this week on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “D.C. is an amazing town. They love football, and I love being around people that love football. I love being in a place where football is No. 1, regardless of what happens. So I want to be in D.C. D.C. is home for me. I have family there, I have a business there. Everything that I could ever want is in D.C. So I want to be in D.C. forever.”
Free agents always say they want to stay put — Jackson has also said as much — but this was perhaps an uncommon level of passion on the topic. And that rhetoric has been matched by at least some local observers. I asked former Redskins running back Clinton Portis about Garcon this week, for example, and he was almost rhapsodic about the receiver: about his Walter Payton Man of the Year nomination, about his charity trip to Haiti following Hurricane Matthew, about how he carries himself and how he plays football.
“Pierre kind of gives you that old-school, hard-nosed mentality,” Portis said. “When you look at his toughness, what he brings to this team, it’s a no-brainer that you need him. You need to keep him here. He’s just a guy that gives you everything. … Why would you let him go? That’s the type of player you search for, you hope for, you want to find.”
Now look, I don’t want to get carried away. This team is already overflowing with pass-catching options. Even during his best season, Garcon prompted debate about whether he could be a true No. 1 receiver. He’s not the breath-taking, game-changing Ferrari that Jackson is, and he never looks unstoppable like Jordan Reed. He’s 30 years old, and his stats are boosted by the era in which he plays.
But those stats are still a bit stunning. Despite never making a Pro Bowl, Garcon has the eighth-most receptions in the NFL over the past four seasons. (The seven men in front of him have made a combined 26 Pro Bowls, with only Julian Edelman getting shut out.)
In just five seasons here, Garcon has the ninth-most catches in franchise history, and the ninth-most receiving yards. He’s averaged more receptions per game than any of the men ahead of him; more than Art Monk, more than Charley Taylor, more than Gary Clark. Only Monk and Chris Cooley played more consecutive games with a reception for the Redskins.
He was never the team’s biggest star — never among the team’s five biggest stars, probably. Still, there’s something about him that’s grown on you over the years. His appreciation for dirty work and contact, a nasty linebacker in a wide receiver’s body. His almost amusingly surly on-field demeanor. Those outlandish blocks, which few at his position do better. It reminds you in a way of Portis, which might be why the running back loves him so much.
“He’s a bad ass, it’s just that simple; he’s a bad-ass dude,” Portis said. “He seems to be that quiet, shy assassin, but when it comes to it, look at his toughness. You don’t find those type of players. You don’t find that toughness, you don’t find that instinct, you don’t find that finishing ability. I mean, you look at this man with ball in hand, and he runs through defenders. That’s how it’s supposed to be done. That’s how it should be done. I’m just a huge fan of Pierre.”
He isn’t the only one. Kirk Cousins called Garcon “a phenomenal competitor” and “a difference-maker on our team,” counseling reporters that “his consistency is not to be taken lightly.”
“It’s a joy,” Cousins said when asked about playing with Garcon earlier this season. “It’s a joy to be able to play alongside him.”
They’re guaranteed at least one more home game together, a season finale against a division rival with an almost certain playoff berth at stake. There was one of those in 2012, too. Washington’s roster has flipped almost completely since then, and only three men who started that 2012 finale will start on Sunday.
Trent Williams and Ryan Kerrigan are obvious. A certain veteran wide receiver, as usual, might be easier to overlook.