I was on my way home from Redskins Park on Wednesday and the guest on SIRIUS NFL Radio (which I listen to waaay too much) was Carl Peterson, the GM of the Kansas City Chiefs. Among the topics was the announcement that had been made earlier in the day that Trent Green had been cleared to play after suffering a concussion in the season opener and that he would start at quarterback for the Chiefs this Sunday. Green got the nod despite the fact that Damon Huard performed well in his absence.
Why make this move? “Trent Green is our quarterback,” Peterson said.
No further explanation was needed. Green is the face of the Kansas City Chiefs. When you think of that team in this decade, Green behind center is what comes to mind. If he’s healthy, he plays; there is no decision to be made. Green has a solid track record of accomplishment, of getting the job done for the Chiefs.
And, even though he started his career bouncing around as a third stringer and cut his teeth as a starter in Washington and in St. Louis, Green’s identity is that of a Chief.
When Peterson said that Green is “our” quarterback, he wasn’t just speaking on behalf of the Chiefs organization, he was talking for all Chiefs fans in Kansas City and wherever else they may be.
Mark Brunell has been the Redskins’ starting quarterback for the better part of the last two and a half years. He’s had his ups and downs but even in the up times the city and the team’s fans at large haven’t embraced him. Brunell has never been referred to as “our” quarterback in the sense that Peterson used that term in talking about Trent Green. He has been and always will be a Jacksonville Jaguar since he spent his prime years on that team.
The Redskins have not had an “our” quarterback in a long time. Taking just the years between the end of Joe Gibbs’ first stint as head coach here and now, 1993 through the first nine games of 2006, the Redskins have had 16 different quarterbacks start games. Only two quarterbacks—Gus Frerotte in 1996 and Brad Johnson in 1999—have started all 16 games in a season. Frerotte is the leader in starts in that time frame with 46. Johnson only lasted two seasons here and while Frerotte was a nice story as a seventh-round draft pick fans were always looking to replace him, not embrace him.
Mark Rypien could have been the man but he only started every game in two seasons, 1990 and the 1991 Super Bowl season and other than in ’91 there were always doubts about him. Doug Williams won a Super Bowl but he started out as a Tampa Bay Buc and he played in just five games in that championship 1987 season before the playoffs. Williams’ high water mark in starts for the Redskins was in 1988 when he started 11 games. He was well liked, perhaps beloved for a time, but he never was “our” guy.
You have to go back to Joe Theismann to find the last one who was “our” quarterback. For seven straight seasons he was the guy behind center. He didn’t even like to come out of the game for a single snap, even when the score got out of hand. His entire NFL career was spent in Washington. Theismann was a brash, arrogant, quarterback who loved to hear himself speak, but he was “our” brash, arrogant blowhard.
Before him there was Billy Kilmer, who didn’t qualify from a steadiness perspective as he started every game just once season, 1971, but became “our” guy with his gritty play and off-field hell raising. For a while, he was only “our” quarterback to half of the city as the other half embraced Sonny Jurgensen, the team’s last true superstar at the position. Before Kilmer arrived, Washington was Sonny’s town. Jurgy was the very embodiment of the concept of “our” quarterback. Going back further, there was Eddie LeBaron and, of course, Sammy Baugh.
Considering that the most recent quarterback embraced by all of Washington as “ours” ended his career over 20 yards ago, we are due to have another one. Jason Campbell will make his first start at quarterback on Sunday. He has all of the physical tools plus the looks, demeanor, and personality to become “our” man. The Redskins drafted him and have been grooming him for this moment for the past year and a half. If he succeeds, it will be as a Washington Redskin.
Will Jason Campbell become “our” quarterback? It’s not something that can be anointed; it has to be earned. Campbell will start the process of earning it on Sunday.