This is how meaningful the fourth exhibition of every NFL season is: Not only did all 22 offensive and defensive starters take the night off — so did a few reserves. And so, evidently, did Jason Reid.
So it was a big chance for Kirk Cousins and me to strut our stuff.
Poor Kirk. He thinks he can move up to second on the quarterback depth chart behind Robert Griffin III. Doesn’t he know he will never get by the original RGIII?
Beating out Rex Daniel Grossman III for No. 2 is crazy-man thinking. Grossman had a perfect quarterback rating in Saturday’s preseason game. Against the Colts. Rex is Lazarus in pads and a helmet.
Rex is so indispensable Mike Shanahan actually re-signed Jonathan Crompton to play quarterback for one measly game because the coach couldn’t have Rex, his backup QB to the golden child, playing in the second half against Tampa Bay’s future dockworkers and nutritional-supplement salesmen.
I’m convinced if FedEx Field fell into a giant sinkhole one dreary Sunday, Rex would be the lone human crawling through the rubble, asking what down it was.
So don’t even think about taking Rex’s job, Cousins.
After Gano was kicked to the curb, Lionel Messi-style, Ravens reject Billy Cundiff made his place-kicking debut. So at least this night was important to him.
He drilled a 39-yarder in the first quarter and promptly booted the ensuing kickoff out of the end zone. Billy is really good at touchbacks, having led the NFL the past two years with 84. This has caused legions of frothing fans to exclaim Woo-hoo, the other team has to start from the 20!
But then Cundiff missed badly from 46 yards before halftime, a horrible-looking wounded duck that sailed farther right than Rick Santorum.
Look, maybe Gano wasn’t going to be Jan Stenerud or Mark Moseley. But he just turned 25 in April and was 24 when he kicked last year. Do you know star kicker Adam Vinatieri now with the Colts, had never hit a field goal from more than 50 yards at age 24 and had just a 77.1 success percentage at that age? Or that one of the best in the game, San Francisco’s David Akers, had missed two field goals by the age of 24 and made none? That Matt Stover was just 21 of 29 and Morten Andersen was just 20 for 27 by 24 years old?
Of the nine attempts Gano missed inside the 50-yard line last year, he had five blocked – and none were his fault. But because the Shanaplan calls for winning now so Mike and Kyle can make it to Year No. 4, they abandoned the development of the kid for the sure-footed accuracy of the guy who had a chip shot from the right hash mark to tie the AFC Championship Game and — missed.
I know. After Cooley was released, that story had no legs.
It also was an important night for the replacement officials, who are almost laughable trying to figure out the replay camera. “We’ll look at it one more time,” one of the zebras said to a chorus of boos before halftime. Yes, the future Foot Locker employee came back to announce that, no, they hadn’t got it right yet.
As Sam Huff, arbiter of all things rotten in the NFL, said to me before the exhibition season concluded, “This is the dumbest thing [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell ever did. The [rent-a-refs] don’t have the control these other officials have.
“When I played, we had relationships with the officials. A guy would come over and tell me, ‘Sam, you can’t body-slam running backs like that,’ and I’d stop doing it. Or I’d tell him to move when I was about to make a tackle and knock a guy out.’ These guys, I don’t even know who they are.”
In keeping with tradition, backup parking-lot attendants, seat ushers, anthem singers and caterers also suited up against Tampa Bay. Most will be lucky to be brought back for the regular season.
In the post-Cooley era, this was also an important game for Niles Paul, Shanahan’s new laboratory experiment in converting a wide receiver to a tight end. How Cooley really knew his goose was cooked: When Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe came to town last spring, his former coach in Denver brought along a couple of dining companions for dinner – Griffin and Niles Paul. Not Fred Davis or Cooley, who has more receptions than any tight end in Redskins history and might have had a story or two to share.
But at least Cooley knows where he officially stands now. And if I’m Davis, I need to have a monster year, keep my lungs clean and hope Paul doesn’t morph into Sharpe next week. Even then, I’m still playing for a contract and looking at the future creeping up behind me.
Oh, the bubble – the proverbial last five in, first four out. Yes, of course.
Shanahan keeps: Anthony Armstrong, Chris Wilson, Jordan Black, Roy Helu and Brandon Banks. He discards: Terrence Austin, David Jones, Reed Doughty and Markus White. If this isn’t exactly right, blame The Post’s Mike Jones; he was also sentenced to cover the last exhibition game and had no idea I was looking at his notes while he was writing.
What? Don’t give me grief. Rex knows. In these depressing days of August, before the games matter, you do what you have to in order to make the team.
For previous columns by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.
More on the Redskins & the NFL: