Discussion about which quarterback the Redskins should sign to back up the former backup’s backup has replaced talk about which team Washington might host in a wild-card round playoff game. These are bleak times for a franchise that has lost two quarterbacks to season-ending leg fractures in its past three games.
The Redskins on Tuesday signed journeyman Josh Johnson to back up Mark Sanchez, who was pressed into action for the first time since the 2016 season after Colt McCoy exited Monday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles with a fractured fibula. Sanchez was signed Nov. 19 to back up McCoy, who assumed the starting role after Alex Smith was carted off with a gruesome leg injury against the Houston Texans last month.
Johnson was a fifth-round pick of Tampa Bay in 2008. Before the Redskins called, he was with the San Diego Fleet, preparing for the inaugural season of the Alliance of American Football. Johnson went 0-5 as a starter over four seasons with the Buccaneers and last threw a pass in an NFL regular season game in 2011. That was a full year before Colin Kaepernick, another free agent quarterback the Redskins could have signed, led the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl.
Kaepernick has been out of the league since the 2016 season, when he knelt during the playing of the national anthem before games to call attention to the issues of racial inequality and police brutality against African Americans. On Tuesday, Redskins Coach Jay Gruden told reporters that the team discussed bringing Kaepernick in for a workout but decided against it for football reasons, preferring a backup who has a connection with Washington’s coaching staff and familiarity with the Redskins' offense.
49ers cornerback Richard Sherman isn’t buying Gruden’s reasoning, and he offered a candid take on the Kaepernick situation during an appearance on Pro Football Talk’s #PFTPM Podcast.
“There’s not enough public pressure. There’s nothing that’s going to force a team to [sign him], like Washington who’s in the playoff hunt,” said Sherman, who played for the NFC West rival Seattle Seahawks during Kaepernick’s six seasons in San Francisco. “At first, it was like, ‘Colin Kaepernick’s stats weren’t good enough,’ or, ‘He stopped playing at a high level.’ And then you see some of the quarterbacks that they picked up and you’re like, well, if you’re picking up Mark Sanchez, he’s had some up and down years. Colt McCoy’s the same way. They’ve had up and down years, and Colin has played at a higher level than I would say any of those guys ever performed at the peak of their careers.
“You start to see stuff like that, and it’s almost like teams are purposely making it obvious that they’re freezing him out,” Sherman said. “Unfortunately there has, to this point, been nothing that the courts or the league has done about it, and that’s the disappointing part, because he’s a good football player. He didn’t commit a crime. He didn’t put his hands on anybody, murder anybody, you know, do anything that’s that insanely crazy that he deserves to be banned from our football league.”
Kaepernick filed a collusion grievance against the NFL in October 2017, alleging an organized effort to keep him off a roster as a result of his protests. “Isn’t it obvious what’s happening?” Mark Geragos, Kaepernick’s attorney in his collusion grievance, told The Washington Post’s Mark Maske this week.
ESPN’s Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser discussed Kaepernick and the Redskins during Tuesday’s episode of “Pardon the Interruption.”
“I think it’s a really complicated story,” Kornheiser said. “The first thing I’m going to take issue with is the notion that Colin Kaepernick could come anywhere, but certainly come to Washington, and back up Mark Sanchez. If you sign him, you play him. It’s too big a political football not to play him. I think you have to [start him]. By the second week, I think you have to. I don’t think you can bring him in and sit him on the bench. I think he’s too big for that."
“Dan Snyder was once upon a time a guy who could identify with, put his arm around, embrace strong, rebellious, maverick, outspoken black players in this league,” Wilbon said. “Dan Snyder was almost their champion. Everybody wanted to come — black players — play for Dan Snyder. Lately it seems like Dan Snyder’s just scared. Now, maybe he’s not scared, but if you sign the guy you signed off the San Francisco 49ers after he was waived, Reuben Foster, given his severe issues, if you can sign him, but you can’t sign Colin Kaepernick? That says you’re scared as an owner.”
As for the football reasons Gruden gave for why the Redskins decided not to bring Kaepernick in for a workout, the coach is familiar with Johnson from his days in Tampa Bay and Cincinnati. Sanchez was signed, in part, because of the time he spent with Redskins offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh with the New York Jets. Gruden said he wanted a quarterback with a similar skill-set to McCoy, but as some have pointed out, a quarterback with the ability to improvise and run outside the pocket might do the Redskins and their banged-up offensive line some good. The Baltimore Ravens have gone 3-0 since dual-threat rookie Lamar Jackson replaced pocket passer Joe Flacco because of injury.
“It’s not like they have a quarterback that’s really been established for a while that’s going to be tough to be displaced at this point,” NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo said of the Redskins on “NFL Total Access.” They’re focusing on that skill-set aspect, but let’s be honest, there are other factors at play for why the Redskins are not even bringing in Colin Kaepernick for a workout. They may have had internal discussions, but they didn’t even reach out to him. We all know what those other factors are. The football stuff, a lot of people aren’t buying that right now, particularly other people around the league."
With four games remaining and Washington’s playoff hopes fading, former Redskins return man Brian Mitchell said the team’s issues run deeper than their quarterback situation. Mitchell laid into the Redskins on The Team 980 on Tuesday and refused to excuse their recent struggles.
“This team is underachieving, even with the damn injuries, even with certain people not in position,” said Mitchell, who filled in at quarterback for Washington in its “Body Bag Game” loss to the Eagles in 1990. “They are underachieving. . . . You can’t have penalties at inopportune times. You can’t blow so many assignments. You come into it with the same game plan every week as if the other teams are going to say, ‘Oh, they ran that crap last week, we’re not going to see it this week.’ And if something works, why do you go away from it? Why don’t you make the team make you go away from it? This team is underachieving because nobody holds them accountable. This team is underachieving because we have coaches that don’t make adjustments. This team is underachieving because we have a prehistoric offense out there. … Why the hell don’t we put in some pick routes? It might work. How about we run some better screen routes? How ‘bout we put some imagination into it?"
The Redskins' playoff hopes aren’t dead, not in the mediocre NFC where there’s an outside chance that an 8-8 team could win the second wild card, but NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders is officially off the Redskins' bandwagon after driving it all season.
“I was riding with them, and I really liked Colt McCoy, what he brought to the table, but with him being out, I am gone, I am out of here,” Sanders said on NFL Network’s “21st and Prime."
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