The Tenure Trials: Redskins

By: Joe Pohoryles

As I continue to come up with content ideas amidst the sports-less COVID-19 pandemic, a question appeared in my mind:

For each Washington team, who has played the most games/minutes/innings for the team?

With just a handful of guesses, I figured I could name the correct player for all four major DC sports team. These are the players we celebrate most; the more years they play for the franchise, the more recognizable they become.

Then a follow-up question came to mind:

Which players have played the fewest games/minutes/innings for these teams?

This question is harder to guess the correct answer to. Sure, there have been countless players that spent the majority of their career in the minor leagues or the practice squad, and the only time they were on the main roster was to provide depth of some kind. The team is ravaged by injuries, so the player is sent up just to be a body on the bench, getting zero action, and then is sent back down to where they came from. You hardly notice they were ever there.

They may spend one game sitting on the bench, or maybe they stay there for a full season, and while every player in the locker room brings at least some level of importance to the team, from a fan’s perspective these players did not make any tangible impact when looking back at team history.

That’s not to shame these players. Only the best of the best crack into the highest level of sports, and to even get close is a testament to the player’s talent and hard work, but for the purposes of answering the two questions that came to my mind, they mean nothing.

I wanted to find out the players who had the shortest active playing time in franchise history. For example, JamesOn Curry is notorious for having the shortest career in NBA history, appearing for just 3.9 seconds on Jan. 25, 2010 with the Los Angeles Clippers. Who holds that record for the Wizards? Who has the fewest plate appearances/innings pitched in Nationals history? Who played the fewest snaps for the Redskins? Who skated the fewest minutes for the Capitals?

All these questions have been answered in the past few days, concluding with the Redskins in The Wildcard’s newest series: The Tenure Trials.

The longest-tenured player in Redskins history is…

Darrell Green (295 games from 1983-2002)

Photo Credit: Lawrence Jackson/AP

Green, whose entire 20-year career was spent in Washington, has the most games played in franchise history by a wide margin. The next player on the list is former linebacker Monte Coleman, who played 215 games across 16 seasons from 1979-1994. Green is, by most accounts, the best player in team history, and as an all-time great cornerback, he was named to the NFL 100 All-Time Team in 2019.

To have a 20-year career in the NFL is an incredible achievement on its own, but to do it with one team is even more rare. Green, offensive tackle Jackie Slater (Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams), kicker Jason Hanson (Detroit Lions) and kicker/offensive tackle Lou Groza (Cleveland Browns) are the only players to spend the entirety of 20-plus-year career in the NFL with one team. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady played 20 seasons with the New England Patriots before signing in Tampa this offseason, moving his name off that list.

Green has put himself in all types of legendary company throughout his NFL career, and there is no better representative for longest-tenured Redskin.

The shortest-tenured player in Redskins history is…

Ryan Grant (1 snap in one game in 2012)

Photo Credit: Brian Murphy

According to Pro Football Reference, 98 players have appeared in just one game for the Washington Redskins, so in order to narrow it down between those players, you have to find whoever played the fewest snaps. Unfortunately, the NFL did not start officially tracking snap counts until 2012, making it impossible to discern the snap totals prior to 2012.

Luckily, there is one player who at least shares the title of least active Redskin of all-time, as Grant played the minimum possible number of snaps. He should not be confused with Ryan Grant, the former Redskins wide receiver who played all 64 games across four seasons with the team from 2014-2017, and most recently played for the Oakland Raiders in 2019.

This Ryan Grant was better known as a Green Bay Packers running back from 2007-2012. Didn’t know he suited up for the Redskins as well? Neither did I, and I was in attendance for the lone game he played in.

On Oct. 7, 2012 in Week 5 against the Atlanta Falcons, the score was 7-0 in favor of Washington thanks to a Ryan Kerrigan pick-six early in the second quarter. With around four minutes left in the half, the Skins were quickly marching down the field. Starting the drive on their own 32, quarterback Robert Griffin III connected with running back Alfred Morris on a screen pass that Morris took 20 yards. The next play, Morris took it on a hand-off for 29 yards to quickly reach the Falcons’ red zone. In need of a break after amassing a total of 49 yards in consecutive plays, Morris went to the sideline. For the first time as a Washington Redskin, Grant entered an NFL game.

1st & 10 on Atlanta’s 19, RG3 took the snap and handed it to Grant, who hit a gap in the offensive line to gain five yards. It was now 2nd & 5 from Atlanta’s 14, but that was it for Grant. Off the field he went, and the drive would eventually end with a missed 31-yard field goal attempt from Billy Cundiff. The Redskins would go on to lose 24-17.

Grant was released less than three weeks later, on Oct. 23, ending his Redskins career with just one snap under his belt. It easily could have been a snap in which he were not directly involved with the play — a hand-off to a different player in the backfield, a pass to a receiver, a quarterback sneak — or it could have been a poor play, like a five-yard loss rather than a five-yard gain. Instead, Grant’s singular moment with the Redskins had him at the center of attention, and in a game where 4.0 yards per carry is considered good for a running back, his five-yard rush would be considered a good play in all NFL circles.

Not to mention, this five-yard rush occurred in the red zone, in a one-possession game just minutes before halftime. The drive ended in a missed field goal, sure, and in the grand scheme of things Grant’s play was largely inconsequential, but to have just one play to make some kind of impact, Grant could have done much worse.

He would end up signing back with the Packers on Dec. 5, 2012 to finish off the season in Green Bay, and he retired at season’s end. His first stint in Green Bay was much more successful; after rushing for 956 yards and eight touchdowns in 15 games as a rookie in 2007, Grant eclipsed 1,200 yards in each of the following two years. His best year came in 2009, where he started all 16 games and rushed for 1,253 yards and 11 touchdowns (seventh-most in the NFL that year for both categories).

In 2010, the season the Packers won the Super Bowl, Grant suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 1, which led to the emergence of James Starks. By 2011, Grant and Starks were in a committee, and Grant rushed for 559 yards as the Packers went 15-1, losing to the New York Giants in the Divisional round of the playoffs.

While there’s no way to find any player with just one snap prior to 2012, there have been two Redskins players that slot in just behind Grant, as each have just two snaps with the team: Jester Weah and Demetrius Rhaney.

Weah, a former University of Pittsburgh wide receiver, played two special teams snaps with the team in 2019. He totaled 870 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior at Pitt in 2016, and followed that up with 698 yards and four touchdowns in 2017. He spent 2018 on the Houston Texans’ practice squad as an undrafted free agent before joining the Redskins in 2019. If his last name seems familiar to any soccer fans, it’s because his uncle is George Weah, the only African player to win the Ballon d’Or (and the current president of Liberia), and his cousin is Tim Weah, a 20-year-old forward for the United States national team.

Rhaney is a center from Tennessee State who was a seventh-round pick in 2014 to the St. Louis Rams. After playing 370 total snaps with the Rams from 2015 to 2016, Rhaney landed with the Redskins and played just two special teams snaps in 2017. Rhaney left the team after 2018, and went to play with the Memphis Express of the AAF, then joined the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats when the AAF folded. He spent the 2019 offseason with the Buffalo Bills, but was waived before the season. His most recent stop was with the Houston Roughnecks in the XFL.

(Cover Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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