Tomorrow, Kyle Allen will be the 22nd different player to start at quarterback for the Washington Football Team during Dan Snyder’s reign as owner. After an underwhelming start to the season, incumbent Dwayne Haskins Jr. was not just benched, but sent all the way down the depth chart, as Alex Smith is now QB2.
We have yet to see what type of statement coach Ron Rivera is making with that decision, whether he wants Haskins to have a chance to sit back and learn the system without the on-field pressure, or it’s the beginning of the end for Haskins in Washington. There are valid arguments both for and against his benching, but now it just comes down to how he’ll respond.
Allen’s Washington career is just starting, and no matter how long (or short) it may end up lasting, it seems premature to measure him against the rest of the Washington quarterbacks in the Snyder era, so he will not be included. It may also be premature to judge Haskins, but since he has 13 games to look at, he will be included on the list. Hopefully he can rebound, elevate his ranking and become the quarterback the franchise envisioned when it drafted him. If not, then his current spot is likely where he’ll stay.
The rankings will be based solely on each player’s tenure with the franchise. Donovan McNabb, for example, probably has the best overall career out of the players on this list, but he is by no means the top Washington quarterback over the past 20 years.
The success of these quarterbacks will be measured based on individual statistics as well as team success. They have been broken up into five tiers ranking from worst to best. Putting this together was not fun; it was a sad reminder of whom the Washington offense has had to put their trust into for the past 22 years.
I’m not sure what is more upsetting: the number of terrible quarterbacks that have started a game for this team, or how the quarterbacks at the better end of the spectrum are just extremely underwhelming. In any case, here are the definitive rankings of every Washington quarterback to start a game in the Snyder era. Try not to cry.
Tier 5: The Scrubs
21. Mark Sanchez (2018)
- 2 GP, 0-1
- 138 yds, 0-3 TD-INT
20. John Beck (2011)
- 4 GP, 0-3
- 858 yds, 2-4 TD-INT
19. Josh Johnson (2018)
- 4 GP, 1-2
- 590 yards, 3-4 TD-INT
18. Tim Hasselbeck (2003)
- 7 GP, 1-4
- 1,012 yards, 5-7 TD-INT
17. Danny Wuerffel (2002)
- 7 GP, 2-2
- 63 compl%, 719 yards, 3-6 TD-INT
16. Jeff George (2000-2001)
- 8 GP, 1-6
- 1,389 yards, 7-6 TD-INT in 2000
- 168 yards, 3 INT in 2 starts in 2001
15. Shane Matthews (2002)
- 8 GP, 3-4
- 1,251 yds, 11-6 TD-INT
This entire list of quarterbacks is uninspiring, so to qualify for the bottom tier is truly impressive in the worst possible way. Mark Sanchez was far removed from his back-to-back AFC Championship appearances with the Jets, and did so poorly in his limited sample size that he falls to the bottom. John Beck wasn’t much better, going 0-3 in 2011 after replacing the struggling Rex Grossman, who promptly took over after Beck squandered his opportunity.
Josh Johnson and Tim Hasselbeck each managed to win one of their starts, but otherwise didn’t amount to anything else. The same can be said of the remaining three players in this tier. Neither were here for long, and Jeff George’s atrocious 2001 stat line puts him squarely in this tier among the worst.
Tier 4: The ‘Meh’ at Best
14. Colt McCoy (2014-2019)
- 12 GP, 1-6
- 1,679 yards, 8-7 TD-INT
13. Case Keenum (2019)
- 10 GP, 1-7
- 64.8 compl%, 1,707 yds, 11-5 TD-INT
12. Dwayne Haskins Jr. (2019-present)
- 13 GP, 3-8
- 2,034 yds, 10-11 TD-INT
11. Patrick Ramsey (2002-2005)
- 33 GP, 10-14
- 5,649 yds, 34-29 TD-INT
10. Rex Grossman (2010-2012)
- 17 GP, 6-10
- 3,151 yds, 16-20 TD-INT in 13 games in 2011
9. Donovan McNabb (2010)
- 13 GP, 5-8
- 3,377 yds, 14-15 TD-INT
8. Tony Banks (2001)
- 15 GP, 8-6
- 2,386 yards, 10-10 TD-INT
This tier is made up of two types of quarterbacks: 1.) the backups who were thrusted into more playing time than what they were meant for, and 2.) some failed long-term experiments. Colt McCoy is a solid NFL backup, but is nothing more. Case Keenum was merely a bridge to Haskins, neither of whom performed well, although the supporting cast shares some of the blame (and the door isn’t quite yet closed on Haskins).
Patrick Ramsey stuck around, but just wasn’t a good enough starter at this level, and Grossman spent his time in Washington moving up and down the depth chart. McNabb was brought in to stabilize the quarterback position, but that quickly fell apart before the 2010 season ended.
Tony Banks actually did somewhat decently after replacing George in 2001, and is one of the few players on this entire list to boast a winning record in Washington.
Tier 3: The Playoff QBs*
7. Alex Smith* (2018-present)
- 10 GP, 6-4
- 62.5 compl%, 2,180 yds, 10-5 TD-INT
6. Todd Collins (2006-2009)
- 8 GP, 3-0
- 63.8 compl%, 888 yds 5-0 TD-INT in 4 games in 2007 at 36 years old
5. Mark Brunell (2004-2006)
- 35 GP, 15-18
- 9-6, 3050 yds, 23-10 TD-INT in 2005
4. Jason Campbell (2005-2009)
- 52 GP, 20-32
- 10,860 yds, 55-38 TD-INT
All of the quarterbacks in this tier helped lead the team to the playoffs in one season, but didn’t do much else beyond that. Smith is the lone exception, but the team was 6-3 entering the fateful game in which Smith’s famous leg injury occurred. The game was still in reach when Smith went out, but whether they would have been 7-3 or 6-4, I believe the team would be in the playoff hunt all the way down to the wire.
Smith may also return, but he likely won’t even be close to the same player that was stretchered off the field nearly two years ago. Todd Collins, meanwhile, took over for an injured Jason Campbell in 2007, winning out to earn the team a Wild Card berth. Despite ending the season with a 106.4 QBR, Collins threw two pick-sixes en route to a 35-14 loss in the Wild Card round.
His limited sample size is what drops Collins below the rest on this list, but considering his single month as a starter was better than over two-thirds of the other quarterbacks on this list just proves how little success this franchise has achieved under Snyder.
Mark Brunell had a relatively strong season two years prior to bring the team to the Wild Card round in 2005, where they beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before losing to the Seahawks in the Divisional round. That 2005 win over Tampa is the last time Washington has won a playoff game.
Campbell, meanwhile, was drafted in 2005 but didn’t debut until 2006. While he didn’t get a single playoff start, he put the team in position to reach the playoffs when he went down in 2007 and Collins took over. Campbell is one of just seven players to have thrown for over 10,000 total yards with the franchise, but the team never got close to any major success in his time here.
Tier 2: The One-Year Wonders
3. Robert Griffin III (2012-2015)
- 37 GP, 14-21
- 2012 Pro Bowl
- 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year
- 8,097 yds, 40-23 TD-INT
2. Brad Johnson (1999-2000)
- 28 GP, 17-10
- 1999 Pro Bowl
- 4000-yd season in 1999
- 6,510 yards, 35-28 TD-INT
The three remaining quarterbacks on this list are the only ones who made a Pro Bowl in the Snyder era, and they also happen to be the only quarterbacks who led the team to a division title. We all know Robert Griffin III’s story, and while his career in Washington will go down as one of the biggest disappointments in recent franchise history, his incredible 2012 season alone is enough to make him the third-best passer in the Snyder era.
Brad Johnson led the team to the division title in 1999 and also made the Pro Bowl that year passing for 4,005 yards and 24 touchdowns to go with 13 interceptions. His performance dipped in 2000, but he still had a 7-4 record as the starter.
Johnson signed with Tampa Bay in 2001 as Washington turned to George as starter. Johnson had a bounce-back year with Tampa in 2001 before winning the Super Bowl in 2002, while the Washington quarterback search went on.
Tier 1: Kirk Cousins
1. Kirk Cousins (2012-2017)
- 62 GP, 26-30-1, 24-23-1 as full-time starter
- 2016 Pro Bowl
- 16,206 yds, 99-55 TD-INT
- Had three of the four highest single-season passing yards in franchise history, including franchise-record 4,917 in 2016
As underwhelming as it may seem, Cousins was far and away the best quarterback Washington has had over the past 22 years. He played more games with the team than anyone else in this span, and while he never had the talent or supporting cast to lead the team far in the postseason, he flourished statistically under the Jay Gruden–Sean McVay offensive system.
He made a Pro Bowl, he won a division title, and he broke the franchise single-season passing record in each of his first two years as the main starting quarterback, breaking Jay Schroeder’s original record of 4,109 in 1986 with 4,166 in 2015 before smashing that mark the following season with 4,917. Cousins’ 4,093 yards in 2017 were just behind Schroeder’s former record and the two marks he set in 2015 and ’16.
His 16,206 passing yards with the franchise are the fourth-most behind Joe Theismann, Sonny Jurgensen and Sammy Baugh, which is pretty impressive considering all three spent seven years or more as the team’s primary starter, while Cousins only spent three.
There really isn’t much room for debate when it comes to the top spot. Cousins was (and still is) a fine starting quarterback. He won’t take any team over the top, but he can put up strong numbers and can hold down the position securely. Washington is still looking for a transcendent quarterback to not only lift this franchise out of the basement, but also keep it at a winning level for an extended period of time. If the past 22 years is any indication, it could be awhile until we find one.
Cover Photo Credit: ESPN