[With 15 days until the start of training camp, we take a look back at Todd Collins’ 2007 performance. Collins, who spent the majority of his career as a backup, led the Washington Redskins to an improbable playoff appearance.]
Entering the 2013 season, the Washington Redskins have, perhaps, the most depth on the roster in years. Nothing is more symbolic of the franchise’s deep pool of talent more than the most important position on the roster—quarterback.
Heading into training camp, the Redskins currently have four quarterbacks on the roster to include AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III, undefeated NFL starter Kirk Cousins and Rex Grossman, who led the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl appearance.
With two rookie signal callers at the top of the chart, few thought the Redskins could climb out of the cellar of the division last year, let alone a playoff appearance. Then the impossible happened.
While No. 10’s magic is simply unmatchable, his guidance for a team far out of the playoff picture to postseason football wasn’t exactly a franchise first.
Insert Todd Collins.
Despite Griffin III’s and Collins’ differences (815 rushing yards to one), their late-season performances enchanted a fan base and had the team back in the postseason once again.
In the second round (45th overall) the Buffalo Bills selected Todd Collins after a standout career at the University of Michigan. During his collegiate years, Collins threw for 5,858 yards and 37 touchdowns, 17 of which came during a junior season where he led the Wolverines to a 42-7 Hall of Fame Bowl victory over North Carolina State University.
Collins was drafted by the Bills brass with the intention that he would be Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly’s replacement. Although Kelly had led Buffalo to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances, his age was creeping closer the 40 mark.
Following Kelly’s retirement in February of 1997, Collins was handed the reins of a Bills team in transition, only to have them taken away again after 13 starts for fellow 1995 draft pick Alex Van Pelt.
It was the last time Collins would trot out as a starting quarterback in the NFL for 10 years as his next stop, Kansas City, was for a mere roster spot and veteran leadership in a backup role.
In 2006, at Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs’ request, Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders agreed to take the same position in our Nation’s Capital.
With Jason Campbell in town, the two coaches, both of whom came from the Air Coryell offense, wanted a savvy backup who would help the former first round pick with his transition to the NFL. Saunders tapped Collins with the role of being the former first round pick’s backup.
There were no expectations that No. 15 would take the field for the Redskins during a regular season game. Instead, he would provide Campbell with a cliff-noted version of Saunders’ extensive, 700-page playbook.
Season one went according to plan—Collins took no snaps. His inactive streak, though, would soon end.
Late in the 2007, the Redskins had a rare Thursday night home tilt against the Chicago Bears, and despite the fact that they were two games below .500, the playoffs were still somehow attainable—but winning out was the only way to stay alive.
On the Redskins’ second drive of the second quarter, Campbell went down with an apparent knee injury and was clearly out for an extended period of time. Gibbs and Co., with playoff aspirations on the line, turned to the veteran journeyman.
Almost everyone eliminated the Redskins with Collins in control—before he had even taken a snap.
224 yards, two touchdowns, one victory and an NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors–that’s what happened when Collins subbed in for Campbell. A performance deemed as one of the best ever coming off the bench by Gibbs.
While Collins’ performance was a surprising delight for Redskins Nation, few though he could replicate the success, especially with two of the last three games on the slate coming against division foes. Collins, however, once again proved that there was a reasoning behind his employment for so many years.
He led the Redskins to victories over the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings—completing 30 of his 54 passes for 420 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. His gutsy performances led a Redskins team to a do-or-die Week 17 match against the Dallas Cowboys.
I feel like I’ve heard of a matchup with similar consequences before.
Anyway, just like they did during the 2012 finale, the Redskins defeated the Cowboys by a score of 27-6 behind a 104-yard, two touchdown performance from Clinton Portis and 244 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions once again from Collins.
Collins’ 42-yard touchdown pass found the hands of Santana Moss.
Moss, a Cowboy killer of sorts, later told Fox Sports “He doesn’t give us a chance to sleep out there. When we think we’re not getting the ball, it’s coming. Now, I’m looking at single-,double-,triple-coverage and it might not be coming. That’s fun football. You go out there knowing you have an opportunity at any given time. It makes you want to go out there and make a play.”
The quarterback finished the month with 888 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions and a 106.4 passer rating, numbers good enough for NFC Offensive Player of the Month.
While the storybook resurgence ended with a sour defeat at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks, Collins later went on to say “I knew that if I got another chance, it might be my last chance. I knew I had to play well, I didn’t want to have any regrets.”
There will never be another doubt about the quarterback’s credentials—at least not with the Redskins Nation.
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