- - Tuesday, July 30, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Trent Williams’ absence certainly looms large over the Washington Redskins this summer, but the question of who will be playing left tackle when the 2019 season begins is not the biggest story in training camp.

No, the big story has been and remains the quarterback decision facing the team.

Quarterbacks. They’re always the story.

That’s the way it is, and not just for the Redskins. It’s football.

Williams’ holdout, if it’s still going on when the season starts Sept. 8 in Philadelphia, could impact the decision on who the team sends out there to dodge the Eagles’ pass rush. But for now, questions about Williams are limited to no updates from Redskins coach Jay Gruden.



But the three quarterbacks — Colt McCoy, Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins?

There is no shortage of questions and answers, and every day of training camp is a story unto itself.

Asked by reporters Monday how the trio was doing so far, Gruden replied, “I think they’re all coming along. They’ve all made their share of mistakes, which every quarterback has done in the NFL. They’ve made their share of good plays, but the most important thing is for them to continue to learn and build upon what they’ve learned each day and focus in on the situations that we’re trying to preach upon. Big thing is also making sure they protect themselves in the protections. We’ve had a couple of protection assignment errors, but the quarterback can fix them and those are the big things I’m worried about. Then obviously getting used to the terminology and the structure of each play.”

Heck, there are even questions about the quarterback who isn’t competing for the job this season — the one Washington is paying $20 million for 2019 — Alex Smith, who appears to be competing for the simple task of walking normally after his devastating broken leg.

Gruden was asked about Smith sitting in the quarterback’s room watching film with the three upright competitors who can play.

“He’s very supportive for each individual guy, he’ll get on them when he needs to get on them a little bit, in a fun loving kind of way but he’s just a great presence to have in the quarterback room and we obviously welcome it whenever he wants to come in here. He’s been in every quarterback meeting so far,” Gruden said.

“Yeah, I think he’s just a calming influence for them.” 

After all, you know how rowdy those quarterback rooms can be.

This McCoy-Keenum-Haskins battle — if there is indeed a real battle — is the first true open competition Gruden has presided over. There was the secret 2015 competition between Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins and McCoy, but that may have just been a fairytale with the goal simply to convince owner Dan Snyder to see the truth about his beloved RG3.

Before that, we had the infamous Rex Grossman-John Beck battle of 2011.

It’s hard to believe that at one time, this town was consumed by arguing between Grossman and Beck. Then again, that was a time when the franchise still had its moments of relevancy on the landscape here, when even if Pincus Prentiss was playing quarterback for Washington, people still came to watch at FedEx Field and tuned in on television.

Mike Shanahan, who staked his reputation on both quarterbacks being NFL starters, waited until the week before the opener against the New York Giants to announce his decision — Grossman over Beck.

“I’ve got a lot of faith in both of them. It was very competitive all the way through,” Shanahan said. “I thought Rex won by an edge.

“When you’re evaluating everything on a day-to-day basis, you kind of get a gut (feeling),” Shanahan said. “And someone makes a little jump, you go in that direction.”

Grossman would be benched after four interceptions is a Week 5 20-13 loss to the Eagles in favor of Beck, who then proceeded to play some of the worst quarterback seen in a Redskins uniform until Mark Sanchez took the field for Gruden last year.

Grossman vs. Beck. I guess you could say the Redskins have made progress since then, at least in the quality of talent competing for the job. Then again, Rex Grossman led his team to a Super Bowl. None of the three in the battle now can make that claim.

Before that, you may have to go back to 1996 for an officially-sanctioned training camp quarterback competition — Heath Shuler vs. Gus Frerotte, though Norv Turner knew the truth by then that Shuler, the Redskins first-round 1994 draft pick, couldn’t really play.

There was allegedly Patrick Ramsay vs. Mark Brunell in 2004, but everyone knew Joe Gibbs wanted the quarterback he traded for, Brunell, not the one he inherited from Snyder. Stan Humphries competed with Mark Rypien in 1990.

There was, of course, the legendary Sonny Jurgensen vs. Billy Kilmer debate, but that was never really a declared open training camp competition.

But in 1974, while the players were on strike, rookie Joe Theismann, who was in camp and playing preseason games, tried to open the door for quarterback competition, saying he may keep the old men on the bench.

The story goes that Kilmer read the quote in the newspaper, called Jurgensen, and then two declared their own competition — they didn’t care who won as long as Theismann didn’t play.

They could have used the calming influence of Alex Smith in that quarterback room.

Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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