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Three possible reasons why the Redskins are carrying four QB’s

Sep 3, 2013, 12:15 PM EDT


On Monday we asked Mike Shanahan why the Redskins kept Pat White on the 53-man roster and his answer seemed, well, incomplete. “Like I said all along, we’re trying to keep the top 53 players and I thought Pat was one of the top 53 players,” he said.

Perhaps he was one of the best players but carrying four quarterbacks leaves another area of the roster short. Given that a fourth QB would only see the field in the event of a dire emergency, there must be some other reason why the Redskins held on to White.

I can speculate on three possible reasons why the Redskins have White on their roster as a fourth quarterback. Perhaps the truth lies in one of them or perhaps a combination of them.

White was kept to imitate Eagles QB Mike Vick on the scout team in practice—This strikes me as an odd use of a roster spot but the Redskins did not face Vick last year so perhaps Shanahan thought that it would be worth the risk of losing a promising player to another team.

They didn’t want him to go elsewhere and talk—In general, NFL teams don’t keep players because they are afraid of them going to other teams and spilling secrets. But maybe keeping what went on in the Redskins’ quarterback meeting room and on the practice field after they returned from training camp is worth sacrificing a roster spot. The hole in this theory is that the Eagles could pick up, say, Keiland Williams and he could spill the practice field secrets. But a quarterback does have a deeper level of knowledge of the offense than any other player on the field so maybe it’s worth keeping him locked up at least until after this first game.

A different role in the offense for White—We never saw White do anything but play quarterback in training camp or in preseason games but practices have been behind closed doors at Redskins Park two and a half weeks now. That is enough time to have White work in as a “slash” type player who can be a threat in the backfield and perhaps line up split out wide from time to time. This seems unlikely but if he turns up on the game day active list, look out.

  1. davidfchandler - Sep 3, 2013 at 1:36 PM


    What about the possibility they are thinking with a long term view. If he is here for a year learning the offense and continuing to develop as a QB, I think he would become a legitimate option to keep as your #2 QB. In effect, that would let you shop KC to the highest bidder and we could possibly garner a 1st or 2nd rounder – depending on how desperate our trading partner was.

    Just a thought.

    • Rich Tandler - Sep 3, 2013 at 1:49 PM

      Perhaps. But he’s a free agent a the end of the year so you’re gambling on investing a year in him and then losing him. Get someone out of college to develop; he’s under your control for four years.

      • robskins10 - Sep 3, 2013 at 7:45 PM

        Unless they decide that Pat White develops well enough over the year that they can finally part ways with Rex Grossman and look into trading Kirk Cousins. They may like Pat White’s ability to run read-option better than Rex’s ability to do whatever it is he does. So if you dump Rex and trade Kirk, you could draft another project and Pat White could become your backup.

  2. jnwilli - Sep 3, 2013 at 2:19 PM

    It’s the Redskins. I’m going to put my money that 1 out of the 4 is currently going through the appeal process for PEDs or banned substances. Just wait a couple more days and it will be three on the roster opening day.

  3. Urbantao - Sep 3, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    The reason why they kept White, they will use him as the option QB and take RG3 out for some option plays with designed QB runs so RG3 gets less hits.

    • Rich Tandler - Sep 3, 2013 at 3:32 PM

      Man, that would be an awful idea. Option is effective not so much because Griffin can run–a lot of QB’s, like White, can do that–but his ability to throw as well as run. In my opinion, any snap that goes anywhere but into the hands of one of the best quarterbacks in the league would be a mistake.

  4. httrsince1978 - Sep 3, 2013 at 3:41 PM

    I agree with Rich. You don’t take Robert out for any other reason except that he is injured. Then you put in Kirk Cousins.

  5. Warren Goodwine - Sep 3, 2013 at 5:36 PM

    People thought it didn’t make sense to draft Kirk Cousins in the fourth round after drafting Robert Griffin. Now it’s good move Mike

    Mike, good move again on Pat White who can run the read option. White is possible replacement for Cousins when Mike decides trade to him.

    This makes sense. Why else would Mike sign a guy who hasn’t played football in 3 years, when he could have signed an undrafted rookie free agent QB if needed a fourth arm in camp just to throw the ball around?

    • Rich Tandler - Sep 3, 2013 at 6:51 PM

      Well, my reasons why he would do it are outlined in the article. I’d be stunned if he was RG3’s backup in 2014 or even 2015. I just don’t think he has be ability to be a reasonable option as an NFL QB. I’ve been wrong before, so we’ll see.

  6. RussianBreadMaker - Sep 3, 2013 at 9:04 PM

    When Jenkins and Jackson come back from their suspensions, isn’t it almost certain that White will be one of the players demoted to practice squad?

    • Rich Tandler - Sep 3, 2013 at 9:06 PM

      White is not eligible for the practice squad. He played in too many games in Miami as a rookie to qualify.

  7. bellykilmer - Sep 3, 2013 at 9:48 PM

    The Shanahai “East Coast Offense” differs from traditional offenses by emphasizing a short, horizontal passing attack to help stretch out the defense, thus opening up options for longer running plays. The East Coast Offense features precisely run pass patterns of less than 15 yards. RG3’s record breaking rookie season was built upon his short passes, quick release, the zone read option, and his elusiveness and red zone effectiveness.

    Fans of opposing teams’ QBs complained RG3’s league leading efficiency was principally due to (1) Robert not having to throw as many times as other QBs, (2) the Skins short passing game and (3) the Skins’ league leading rushing attack. Those teams’ fans are correct. RG3 attempted a mere 36 throws of 20 yards or more last season. He averaged 2.4 throws of 20+ yards per game.

    Since most down and distance situations can be attacked with a pass or a run, Kyle’s offensive play calling was unpredictable. The play-calling unpredictability, play action, ZRO and packaged plays did more than keep defenses “honest.” It forced defenders to be prepared for a multitude of possible offensive plays rather than focusing aggressively on one likely play from the offense. We watched the ZRO keep defenders frozen in place or committing to the wrong choice.

    Another key element was the pistol formation. The quick reads after receiving the snap allowed RG3 to get the ball out faster resulting in far fewer sacks. The plays unfolded quicker than in traditional offenses and were often based on timing routes by the receivers.

    Let me give a tiny bit of history before I reveal where I’m going with all this. Ever heard of “Virgil Carter?”. No? Well, he happened to lead the entire NFL in passing percentage and was third in passing yardage, playing in the WCO. Who was he? He was a former NFL cast-off and World Football League QB. He was a guy who in college completed less than 50% of his passes all three years as the starter. Yet, you put him in a west coast offense and suddenly he becomes one of the league’s most effective QBs.

    In blitz or short-yardage situations, many of our offense’s strengths can be negated by defenses blocking running and passing lanes. This is where a running quarterback can compensate by acting as a runner himself, paralyzing an overly aggressive defense. Long before the ZRO, WCO quarterbacks Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers caused this unsolvable problem for defenses. Add in the ZRO, and the problem becomes far more acute for defenses.

    What does this have to do with Pat White? Everything. His strengths are custom built for this offense. His short throws tend to be accurate. He’s an accurate passer rolling in either direction. He runs the ZRO extremely well, he has an extremely quick release, and his elusiveness, particularly in the open field is dangerous.

    This pre-season the Shanahai made White run one pocket passing play after another to work on the weakest aspect of his game. The team seldom ran the plays that are the mainstays of this offense and extremely well suited to White’s skill set. In other words, the team kept him and their offense under wraps, refusing to allow other teams to see the mainstay offensive plays RG3 will be running.

    Mike and Kyle have commented on how quick White is to pick things up, and that he’s a film and playbook junkie, a student of the game. These accolades make sense considering White’s Wonderlic was on par (actually a bit higher) than Robert’s. The biggest problem is that White hasn’t played NFL football in 3 years before joining the Skins before OTAs. He’s only going to get better as he gets in better football shape physically and mentally, gains familiarity and eventual expertise in the Redskins offense, and takes the reps to become highly accurate on short timing routes.

    Pat White might end up being here a lot longer and being far more effective than any of us expect. He could become far more devastating to defenses than former league leading QB Virgil Carter, a guy whose skill set, while well suited to the WCO, was nowhere near as replete as White’s, and was a part of an offense nowhere near as well-rounded and dangerous as the Skins’.

    • skin94249 - Sep 4, 2013 at 10:51 PM

      Wow, great insight ! I believe Pat is here for the long term as well. Mike and Kyle are very smart football coaches and teachers. Think back for a minute when everybody jumped on Mike for saying …… “I will stake my rep. on Rex and Beck” ? Well he did, they together put him in position to draft either Luck, Griffin, Barkley, Landry Jones, Tannehill or the old Rookie in Cleveland. Now as a coach you just can’t say we will lose this year to get us a better QB next year. Your fan base will be lost forever. As further evidence of their ability to coach and teach …… 36 million in cap restrictions and you win your division, lose the second most man hours to injury and have a better team in the next year with far greater depth. Now are Mike and Kyle this devious and calculating ? For the answer to that question we only need to ask two people…… MacNabb and Haynesworth.

  8. lorcanbonda - Sep 4, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    I believe there is one simple reason to keep Pat White on the roster — use him as a “sacrificial lamb” in practice against the first team defense. It should be no surprise that Shanahan’s are gun shy about hurting their top two. Pat White creates a real challenge for the defense without risking them.

    Either that or Kirk Cousins is more hurt than we realize. This wouldn’t be the first time — Garcon was supposed to be ready the second game of the season last year. If Cousins is inactive this weekend, we’ll know. Archives

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