Difference between Pats, Redskins on display
FOXBORO — The airwaves across New England filled Thursday with chatter about the additions to Tom Brady’s contract. The issue: Is it appropriate to force the greatest quarterback in the history of the position to reach his market value by achieving a number of statistically based incentives?
This, up here, is a controversy. Not of “Deflategate” proportions, but it more than gets you through an August evening when the quarterback in question doesn’t so much as crouch behind center.
This is the environment in which the Washington Redskins began their preseason Thursday evening. Brady is 41, and has been in Patriots’ camp every summer since 2000. Frame it this way: the most talked-about player in Washington’s camp, rookie running back Derrius Guice, was 3 when Brady first played in one of these increasingly unnecessary exhibitions.
If you tuned into Washington’s 26-17 loss Thursday night, Guice the grown man was a decent impetus. There was some good in his brief appearance - a nice little 6-yard run, and then a burst through the left side in which he showed how dangerous he might be in the open field. Two problems: He got to the open field because of a hold, and he tweaked his left knee, ending his evening.
As newsy items go, that would about do it. Brady didn’t take a snap at Gillette Stadium, and neither did his counterpart, Alex Smith, latest in line of Washington quarterbacks that extends back two decades and then around the block. We must wait, then, to see what Smith brings that the departed Kirk Cousins couldn’t, and how the offense might move or stall because of it. Should you be curious about Smith’s mastery of Jay Gruden’s offense, set up a calendar alert for next Thursday at FedEx Field against the Jets. It makes sense he’ll debut then.
But Washington’s mere arrival here - and Brady’s appearance in uniform pregame - makes comparisons between the trajectories of these two franchises difficult to avoid. It’s August, remember, and not much of what played out Thursday night - and yes, we’ll get to Colt McCoy - matters much for what we’ll see when Washington opens the season next month at Arizona. But school’s about to start again, so maybe some quick math is in order.
The tallies, since the turn of the century: Washington has won two division titles and never won more than 10 games in a single season, and New England has 15 division titles and 14 seasons in which they won at least 11 games.
This might seem like old material. Yet it’s still staggering. Is it even comprehensible to someone who has been in the NFL and knows how hard winning one game is?
“No,” Gruden said earlier in the week. “. . . It’s incredible what they’ve been able to do with consistency - winning the division, going to Super Bowls, winning Super Bowls. You know, it’s something that we all strive to do. Here in D.C., that’s what we have to get back to. It was like that here at one time for a period of years, and it’s tough to maintain. We know that.”
Maintaining, though, starts at the two positions at which Washington has had the least stability. Since 2000, the Patriots have employed one head coach, Bill Belichick. Gruden is No. 8 for Washington over that same period. When he coaches that Arizona game, he’ll surpass Mike Shanahan as the longest-tenured coach under owner Daniel Snyder - an upset, to be sure, but a full 224 regular-season games shy of Belichick in New England under owner Robert Kraft.
Brady has been Belichick’s quarterback since the second game of the 2001 season. There is supposedly drama in that relationship now. But do these people up here think they know quarterback drama? Puh-leeze.
In Washington, just over the time of Brady’s career, we have been treated to Robert Griffin III and Shanahan, with each trying to take credit for what went right and throw blame for what didn’t. We have had the weekly “What’s Kirk Worth?” frenzy. We have had John Beck and Rex Grossman, Jason Campbell and Todd Collins, Patrick Ramsey and Mark Brunell and . . .
Does that seem like a lot? Put it this way: Since the turn of the century, the Patriots have had three quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts – Drew Bledsoe, the starter when Brady arrived, Brady, and Matt Cassell, who filled in during the 2008 season when Brady suffered a knee injury during the season opener. Care to guess how many quarterbacks have attempted 100 passes for Washington in that time span?
I’ll give you some time. Keep counting. The answer is 15. Fif-teen!
Smith will, presumably, become the 16th. Although if you’re looking to draw conclusions through what played out Thursday night - and I presume that’s what the bosses sent me up here to do - maybe it’s that Smith’s backup, McCoy, isn’t a shabby player. Against the Patriots, who played some of their defensive starters for some of the time McCoy was in the game, he hit on 13 of 18 passes for 189 yards and two scores - the first 25 yards to Byron Marshall out of the backfield, the second an in-the-red-zone rollout to Maurice Harris.
McCoy looked better than Brady’s backup, Brian Hoyer, and if such things mattered, the score on the Gillette Stadium boards would have seemed shocking at halftime: Washington 17, New England 3. And how about the yardage: Washington 259, New England 100.
Then you look down to the sideline, and there’s Brady without a hair out of place. The conclusions that could be drawn here Thursday night had nothing to do with how either of these teams will fare in a regular season that begins a month from now. But put these two franchises on the same field, and it’s hard not to think about how they have fared over the previous two decades.