The Redskins' Quarterback Matrix

The Redskins' Quarterback Matrix

Tandler's Redskins Blog Ver. 09.05.06--The Redskins' backup quarterback spot is settled--sort of.

You can reach Rich Tandler by email at

They say that if you have two #1 quarterbacks that you really don't have a number one quarterback.

How about if you have two #2's?

Joe Gibbs provided an answer to one of the summer's few non-injury related questions yesterday when he announced his relief plan should Mark Brunell go down with an injury at some point during the season. If Brunell gets hurt during a game, Todd Collins will come in to finish up the game. If Brunell will miss the next game and there is a full week of practice to prepare the backup, Jason Campbell will be the man.

The headline at the team's official site reads, "Backup QB situation settled". Not so fast. The bow on this one isn't tied as neatly as it might appear at first glance.

As veteran Gibbs watchers know, the term "veteran" meaning going back a year ago, Gibbs' pronouncements on his quarterbacks are subject to change. Gibbs himself said that the plan was subject to change if, say, Collins played very well in relief. In other words, he has sufficient wiggle room to change his mind.

This Solomon-like compromise to divide the #2 QB baby in half would appear to be a deal struck between Gibbs and offensive guru Al Saunders, who certainly has a stake in who is running the offense. By all indications it appears that Gibbs is more enamored with Campbell than Saunders is. Saunders, of course, is Collins' champion, having brought him over from Kansas City. Gibbs traded away some high draft picks to get the first-round choice that the team used to draft Campbell, so he has invested a great deal in the second-year player out of Auburn. Since both men fervently hope that their plan never has to be used as they would both like to see Brunell have a solid, injury-free season, the decision on who would take over for Brunell was essentially put off until such a decision had to be made.

So, what we know is this—Todd Collins will be the second, active quarterback on game days and Jason Campbell will be the inactive #3 man. If Brunell goes out during a game, Collins will come in. Other than that, we don't know anything. It's anyone's guess unless Collins throws three interceptions and the Redskins lose an 11-point lead. In that case it's a pretty safe bet—not certain, but pretty safe—that Campbell would start the next game. If Collins comes in in the middle of the third quarter and goes 7 for 15 for 101 yards but he hands the ball off to Clinton Portis well and the Redskins rally from a seven-point deficit and win, does he start the next week if Brunell still can't play? Is the bottom line the win or does a so-so passing performance warrant another chance?

Not even Gibbs or Saunders knows the answers to these questions right now. Such answers depend on dozens, perhaps hundreds of variables and the most basic of these are the coaches' gut feelings. The twist in this particular situation is that there are two guts to consider here, Saunders' and Gibbs'. Again, the best-case scenario is that Brunell takes every snap and the question never has to be put on the table. If not, however, it will be interesting to see how the gut check between Saunders and Gibbs will turn out.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when the moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. For details and ordering information go to

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Portis: No News is Good News (posted 09.04.06)

Some sloppy reporting over the weekend has led many to conclude that the chances are slim that Portis will take the field on Monday. A report on, which is a popular website that compiles sports reports from around the Internet and posts them in capsule form, said that Portis was "doubtful" for the opener. Here is the report:

Redskins | Portis doubtful for opener
Sat, 2 Sep 2006 09:16:01 -0700

The Associated Press reports Washington Redskins RB Clinton Portis' (shoulder) availability for the season opener is in serious doubt, according to head coach Joe Gibbs.

This led to a rash of message board posts and talk-show calls from panicked Redskins fans saying that, see, the injury really is more serious than the Redskins are letting on. The problem is that Joe Gibbs never said any such thing. The last time he spoke to the media, which was on Friday, here is what he had to say about the injury situation:

With the exception of Clinton and Shawn, I think we know what we've got with everyone else (in terms of injuries). I think Clinton has done extremely well. We'll have a discussion with him and see what he thinks.

How they get "serious doubt" out of this statement, I have no idea. The folks at KFFL should know that the word "doubtful" has a very precise meaning in terms of NFL injuries. On the official injury report it means that there is a 75% chance that the player won't play. You simply can't draw that conclusion from what Gibbs said. It was quite sloppy and irresponsible of KFFL to have stated the situation in that way.

The view here is that it would be surprising, although not shocking, for Portis to sit out on Monday. This feeling is based on the simple fact that if the shoulder was considerably worse than the Redskins have been indicating that word of that would have leaked out by now. This story is national news. It is being pounded on all angles. The health of Portis' shoulder is a critical story in the fantasy football world. Ever since the injury happened on August 13 thousands of phone calls have been made in an effort to get a solid nugget of information indicating that the injury would either cost Portis some games or would seriously hamper his performance in 2006. Not one remotely credible report has come out indicating that either one of those is likely to happen.

In this case, the old saying rings very true—no news is good news.

This doesn't mean that there is no cause for concern. Although Portis is right handed and he prefers to carry the ball in that hand and the injury is to the left shoulder, consider the picture below.

He's using his left arm to push off a defender and gain a few additional yards. If the arm you use for your stiff arm is stiff all season long, that could well to hamper your effectiveness, especially if defenders are coaches to grab that arm and yank on it. Yeah, that wouldn't really seem to be sporting, but don't think that Gregg Williams would hesitate to do the same thing if he was an opposing defensive coordinator and he knew that a well-timed yank might put the other team's best offensive player on the bench.

Regardless, it's been amusing to see many Redskins-bashing members of the media do such an abrupt about-face when it comes to the value of Clinton Portis. When the Redskins traded for Portis in 2004 these folks were incredulous that they would give up Champ Bailey and a #2 draft pick for a system back. When they signed Portis to a big contract extension a few months later, it was ridiculous to pay so much for a mere running back, a commodity that could be had for much, much less cap space.

Now that Portis may, just may, be affected by this shoulder injury the same journalists have dropped the Redskins from being a possible Super Bowl contender to a team that will be fortunate to finish around .500. His value is growing immeasurably in his absence. A little consistency would be nice, but why should these guys start now? Recommended Stories

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