Here’s how desperate the injury-wracked Redskins have become: Against one of the best defenses in the league Sunday – the 49ers’ – their starting left guard was Mo Hurt, a rookie from Florida who was cut at the end of training camp and, until three weeks ago, was a member of their practice squad. That’s right, their seventh-round pick, the 217th player taken in the draft, was out there trying to open holes for Roy Helu and make the world safe for John Beck.
Actually, the Redskins have a long tradition of plugging Mystery Rookie Offensive Linemen into the lineup. Hurt, in fact, is the 10th rookie lineman drafted in the fifth round or later – or not drafted at all – who has started for them since 1981 (’87 strike games not included).
(Mo does have the distinction, though, of being the first rookie lineman to come off the practice squad and start for Washington.)
Anyway, here are the other nine (plus one):
● 2009 – RG Edwin Williams (undrafted out of Maryland): Mostly inactive as a rookie, he started two games late in Jim Zorn’s train wreck of a final season. Now a backup with the Bears. Career games/starts: 14/5.
● 2007 – RT Stephon Heyer (undrafted out of Maryland): This was the season Jon Jansen went down in the opener against Miami. Todd Wade filled in for 10 games, then Heyer started the final month, when the Redskins went 4-0 and sneaked into the playoffs as a wild card. Now a backup with the Raiders. Career games/starts: 52/33.
● 2001 – RG David Brandt (undrafted out of Michigan): Started the first NFL game he ever played in – a 30-0 loss to the Chargers in the ’01 opener – and never started another. Spent 2004 with the Bengals. Career games/starts: 16/1.
● 2000 – LG Michael Moore (fourth round out of Troy, 129th selection): Got one start – in the last game of his rookie year – and never played again for the Redskins. Hooked on with the Falcons in 2003-04. Career games/starts: 8/2. (I included Moore, even though he wasn’t drafted in the fifth round or later, because he was the last pick of the fourth round. Close enough.)
● 1997 – RG Brad Badger (fifth round out of Stanford, 162nd): Started in place of injured Tre Johnson in Week 1 at Carolina and helped Terry Allen rush for 141 yards as the Redskins won, 24-10. It was his lone start as a rookie, though he became a regular the next season on the left side. Lasted 11 years in the NFL, with stops in Minnesota, Oakland and Arizona. Career games/starts: 134/64.
● 1992 – C Matt Elliott (12th round out of Michigan, 336th): Mr. Irrelevant ’92 (that is, the last pick in the draft) started two games in November when Joe Bugel got shorthanded in the O-line. Those were his only starts in Washington. Signed with the expansion Panthers in ’95 and played three more seasons, mostly as a guard. Career games/starts: 63/34.
● 1989 – RG Mark Schlereth (10th round out of Idaho, 263rd): Inserted at right guard after Mark May got hurt, “Stinky” started six games down the stretch – five of which the Redskins won as they closed fast to finish 10-6. Went on to win three Super Bowls and make two Pro Bowls in his six years in Washington and six in Denver (where he was coached by Mike Shanahan, who switched him to left guard). Career games/starts: 156/140.
● 1987 – LG Darrick Brilz (undrafted out of Oregon State): Was cut in training camp, then brought back to play for the Redskins’ replacement team during the ’87 strike. He performed so well that Joe Gibbs kept him, and Brilz started a “real” NFL game – but just one – in Week 10 against the Rams. He moved on after that to San Diego, Seattle and Cincinnati and got plenty of starts in his decade with the latter two, many at center. Career games/starts: 175/124.
● 1987 – RT Ed Simmons (sixth round out of Eastern Washington, 164th): The sidelining of May caused the Redskins to line up Simmons, a rookie out of a I-AA school (as they were known back then) against Eagles great Reggie White in the opener. Miraculously, Ed survived – and Washington won, 34-24. He ended up starting three games that year and became a fixture at right tackle for the Redskins in his 11 NFL seasons. Career games/starts: 134/104.
● 1981 – LT Joe Jacoby (undrafted out of Louisville): It tends to be forgotten that rookie Jacoby started three games at right tackle and two at left guard before settling in at left tackle … and becoming a Redskins legend. Where would the Hogs have been without Big Jake running the Counter Trey with Russ Grimm? Played on four Super Bowl teams (and three winners) in his 13 seasons in Washington, voted to four Pro Bowls and – who knows? – might someday gain entrance to the Hall of Fame. Career games/starts: 170/148.
Looking at this list, you can’t help but be impressed by the Redskins’ – Bobby Beathard, Charley Casserly et al. – eye for talent in the ’80s and ’90s. After all, five of these “afterthought” linemen lasted at least a decade in the NFL, and two were Pro Bowlers. The more recent guys, of course – the Vinny Cerrato guys –haven’t had nearly as successful careers. It’ll be interesting to see where Hurt falls on the spectrum.