- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 7, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The scene at FedEx Field Monday night while the Washington Redskins were struggling nobly in a 27-17 loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks was a variation on Charles Dickens‘ holiday tale, “A Christmas Carol.”

Instead of being the Redskins past, present and future, it was the story of the past, present and what might have been at quarterback for a team that has searched for a QB seemingly since Dickens was covering Christmas in the 19th century.

On the Redskins‘ bench was the quarterback of Redskins past — Robert Griffin III, sidelined with a dislocated ankle, shown writing something on a notepad. He was once the quarterback of Redskins future, but now that seems very much up in the air.

On the field for Washington was their quarterback of the present, Kirk Cousins, who has not won a game he started for this team since beating Cleveland in December 2012. He may or may not be the Redskins‘ quarterback of the future. Like Griffin, that seems very much up in the air.

Then there was Russell Wilson, the quarterback who might have been, the one who rushed for a career-high 122 yards, completed 18 of 24 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. He has won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks. He will not be the Redskins‘ quarterback of the future.

But he might have been — another chapter in the long list of “what ifs” in Washington sports.

This “what if” might have changed the history of this beleaguered football team.

Former Redskins coach and executive vice president of football operations Mike Shanahan told USA Today in January 2013 — a week before Griffin would go down with torn knee ligaments in the playoff game against the Seahawks at FedEx Field, a Christmas nightmare of sorts — that Wilson was on the “short list” of quarterbacks he liked in that 2012 draft. “He was a guy I thought highly of.”

After Washington traded three first-round picks and a second-rounder for the chance to draft Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner, with the second choice in that draft, Shanahan wanted another quarterback. He drafted Cousins in the fourth round — the 102nd choice in the draft. Wilson had been chosen in the third round — the 75th pick — by Seattle.

Shanahan wouldn’t say what he would have done if Wilson had been there instead of Cousins when they dipped in the quarterback pool for the second time. “I never talk about that,” he said. “Because once I do …”

If he had, you may have been looking at what might have been for Washington Monday night, as Wilson led a Seahawks team that seemed determined to hand the game over to Washington with one penalty after another — 13 for 90 yards, calling back three Percy Harvin touchdowns.

As Griffin doodled on the sidelines, and Cousins struggled to find all his offensive weapons, Wilson ran wild on the Redskins‘ defense. Whenever they thought they had him in trouble — like when it was third and 4 with less than three minutes left in the game and Washington down by just one score — Wilson worked his way out of it, this one with a short pass to Marshawn Lynch for 30 yards that set up Seattle’s 43-yard field goal to put the game away. (Lynch, by the way, runs like someone who is afraid he is about to get traded to the Redskins.)

Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo expressed frustration at their inability to contain Wilson. “It’s hard, man, it’s hard,” Orakpo said. “He did a good job, it was almost like he wasn’t even reading, it was almost like it was designed keeps, the way he was hitting the edges and his quarterback boots and things of that nature.”

But that is what might have been.

What about what is now for the 1-4 Washington Redskins — Cousins, Redskins quarterback present, who completed 21 of 36 passes for 283 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions?

“He can make the tough throw look really easy and he can make some of the easy throw look hard,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said after the game. “For the most part, he played pretty good. I thought he kept his composure. … Overall, I thought he kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win.”

That sounds like Stephen Strasburg.

Wilson didn’t just give his team a chance to win — he won the game for his team.

Russell is a hell of a player,” Gruden said. “He kept a lot of plays alive. Obviously that play at the end of the game was unlike I’ve seen in a while. He’s won a lot of game for them because of that.”

So the Redskins have a quarterback who can keep them in the game, another on the bench who can’t seem to stay in the game, and were beaten soundly by the quarterback who wins the games.

Or, as Dickens might have written if he was in the press box at FedEx Field Monday night, “Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunities misused!”

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com.

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