For all intents and purposes, Washington does not have a quarterback. Starter Alex Smith suffered a Theismann-like leg injury in November, and his backup, Colt McCoy, fractured his fibula against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday. That leaves Mark Sanchez, who signed with the team just before Thanksgiving. He replaced McCoy in the second quarter of that game against the Eagles and Threw for 100 yards, zero touchdowns, and one interception. Washington lost, 28-13.
Washington's Sanchez-led open managed 36 total yards in the second half. For all the visual learners out there, that's about two-thirds of the length of a Boeing 737. When you walk to seat 26D, Mark Sanchez was able to move the ball to two full quarters.
Washington is just one game behind first place on the wide-open NFC East. The team would have been a pretty navigable route to the postseason for the fact that it's current quarterback plays like a Gout-knit mall Santa. Speaking with reporters after Monday's loss, Washington coach Jay Gruden dismissed an obvious candidate. "He's been talked about," Gruden said, referring to Colin Kaepernick. "But we'll probably go in a different direction."
Kaepernick, who inaugurated the league's social justice protests in 2016 by sitting and then kneeling during the national anthem, has been out of the NFL for two full seasons now. Kaepernick in the league on account of his activism, he's maintained his training regimen and has expressed his desire to try out for a team. Despite the entire 2017 season, Kaepernick's last NFL start came on the same day as Sanchez's last start, and his career pass rating, touchdown-to-interception ratio, and completion percentage are all better than those of the current Washington starter. Nevertheless, Gruden insists that his team is staying away from Kaepernick for "strictly football" reasons. That logic does not exactly fit pattern, as Steven Ruiz explains in his piece over at USA Today.
"There's a lot of time to get a brand-new quarterback and system installed in a couple of days," Gruden said. Kaepernick became a star when he was in a conceded Alex Smith in 2012, performing so spectacularly well that the San Francisco 49ers immediately promoted him to the team's starter. Why would Gruden expect him to be able to fill in for, uh, Alex Smith?
Nevertheless, Gruden said it would be "very difficult" for Kaepernick to adjust to the child of offense Sanchez took for a spin during his blistering performance on Monday. As a result, Washington Solez disappoints. (He wants to disappoint.) That player: former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Johnson, who has not thrown a pass in the NFL since 2011.
Gruden's reasoning may seem bizarre, but it's actually standard coach-speak. Kaepernick in the cold (as the quarterback alleges in his grievance against the league), it's usually up to the coaches to formulate the excuses. According to the men who prowl the sidelines, learning at NFL offense is more than solving the hodge conjecture. You need to be a Nobel-winning super genius to do it. Or Tom Savage.
After Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota got hurt in 2017, then-Titans head coach Mike Mularkey said, "I know [Kaepernick’s] not familiar with our offense." That offense, which Mularkey dubbed "exotic smash mouth," ranked 23 rd in total yards last season. How to earth Kaepernick have memorized such an intricate playbook, which, judging by the Titans games I watched, consisted of the following three plays: hand-off left, hand-off right, pass to the tight end?
At least Mularkey sounded as if considered bringing in Kaepernick. When Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone last October, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy gave an answer to a reporter who asked about Kaepernick. "Did you just listen to that I just answered?" He said. "I got three years invested in Brett Hundley. Two years invested in Joe Callahan. The quarterback room is exactly where it needs to be. OK? "McCarthy never saw a return on those investments. Hundley lost six of the nine games he started and nine touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. Callahan threw for 11 total yards every season.
The Houston Texans were also in the market for a backup quarterback last season after Deshaun Watson tore his ACL. Despite running a read-option, Kaepernick is familiar with being in San Francisco, the Texans opted to look elsewhere. "Colin Kaepernick's a good football player," Houston coach Bill O'Brien said, "[but he] did not play football in a while." The Texans instead signed Josh Johnson who, as earlier said, had not thrown a football in at NFL game since 2011. (And still has not.)
According to all these coaches, Kaepernick and seemingly only Kaepernick-lacks what it takes to learn open to NFL. He's had too much time away. (Unlike, say, Josh Johnson.) Or he has not had enough time to catch up. Either way, you will not see him behind center any time soon.
On Sunday, Jay Gruden wants to pretend that Mark Sanchez represents Washington's best hope to make the playoffs and that Josh Johnson's body of work has become the backup role. To be fair to Gruden, though, the coach did not give another reason for rejecting Kaepernick. Gruden said he wanted "someone with a similar skill set" to the unremarkable Sanchez to be his backup. In 2018, Johnson certainly fits the bill.