- The Washington Times - Friday, December 28, 2007

Play well, you get to keep playing.

Since he lost the starting quaterback job in Buffalo 10 years ago, Todd Collins knew that would be his motto if he were given another chance to play.

Produce, you get to stay.

Ever since he was pigeonholed as a second- and third-string player — a good guy to have around but not somebody to start 16 games — that’s what Collins has told himself during offseason workouts, practices and preseason games.

The last three weeks, Collins has shown that proper preparation prevents poor performance. The years of studying like a starter have paid off and helped the Washington Redskins go from 5-7 to 8-7 and in position to clinch the final NFC playoff spot with a win over Dallas on Sunday.

Collins is 45-for-74 for 644 yards, almost assuring that he would get the postseason assignment even if Jason Campbell’s dislocated kneecap is completely healed.

Collins has four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 107.0 passer rating, making re-signing him a priority for the Redskins this offseason.

“It’s hard to imagine somebody playing that good with that little of an opportunity the last 10 years,” coach Joe Gibbs said.

Collins becomes an unrestricted free agent after the season. He signed a two-year, $2.5 million contract in March 2006.

The quarterback free agent class is underwhelming: Chicago’s Rex Grossman, Jacksonville’s Quinn Gray, Miami’s Cleo Lemon and Oakland’s Daunte Culpepper and Josh McCown. At least six teams — Minnesota, Carolina, Chicago, Baltimore, Atlanta and Miami — could be in the market for a change at quarterback.

The best Collins could hope for is a chance to compete for a starting position.

“That would be important, and I would have to consider that,” he said. “At this point of my career, I wouldn’t want to go into a situation that wasn’t set up properly. I know how important it is to have a coaching staff and offensive coordinator that creates a structure for your quarterback and puts him in a position to succeed. Sometimes, you might have talent and an incredible arm but if things aren’t set up properly, it’s difficult to succeed in this league.”

Mark Brunell’s salary cap number is in excess of $6.5 million in 2008, and his departure would free up money for Collins.

“He’s earned himself some money the last few weeks,” Gibbs said.

Collins was stellar coming off the bench against Chicago (15-for-20, 224 yards and two touchdowns) and as a starter at Minnesota (22-for-29, 254 yards, two touchdowns). Even in the win over the Giants (8-for-25, 160 yards), he had completions of 36, 30 and 34 yards.

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