We continue to appreciate all of your contributions on the comments section. Thanks in advance for adding your own stories of the players who wore these numbers and filling out the ranks. We have not given the old-timers their full due yet in this continuing piece, and unfortunately for all those leather-heads today is no different.
Which isn't to say our #15 is a fresh-faced youngster. Wait...he actually is a little fresh-faced. You would be too if you went 10 years between starts.
With Al Saunders as our offensive coordinator on the staff, the Skins brought in Collins in 2006 to help install the offense. It was a rather robust playbook, and he was relied upon to be an extra coach for the quarterbacks specifically. As you all know, we did not net any Super Bowl rings under the Al Saunders system. But we did manage to secure a player who would take the helm of one of the more enjoyable and exciting stretches of football we have seen in recent years.
The Redskins were 5-7, nine days removed from the death of Sean Taylor, and going into a Thursday Night game against the Chicago Bears. I was at this game. It is the coldest home game I have ever attended. Since evening rush hour traffic is a bear in the DC area without game traffic, they tend to open the gates a little earlier than they otherwise would to help people get to the stadium ahead of the gridlock. For an 8 o'clock game, this meant I was in the parking lot at about 2 PM (in cities around the NFL, this is nothing, as FedEx is one of only a few that restrict the tailgating time--something that really bothers me). I had brought with me a full complement of layers of clothes to put on as the sun went down. We were expecting a cold night. We did not bring a cooler to the parking lot--we set out all the beer on the Beirut table. Cups of beer were freezing solid before we could drink them. As each hour went by, the temperature dropped in a way that you could physically notice. It was not gradual, rather, all of a sudden the air would just feel a LOT colder and you would reach for the next layer. Well, I ran out of layers just before 6 PM. Clothes layers that is. Thankfully, I had brought a few extra liquor layers.
When Jason Campbell left the game that night with a knee injury, I did not have the benefit of instant replay to show me the nature of the injury. I did not need it. I could see it plainly from my seat. You figure at 5-7, the QB goes down, and it is not as immediately depressing. But it was as deflating as it could have been. As Todd Collins came out on the field, all I could remember thinking was, "Jim Kelly's backup is coming in." His age was all I could focus on. How was he going to handle that Bears defense? Bore them to death?
But he came in, went 15-20 with 224 yards and two touchdowns. We improved to 6-7 and in that limited action, everyone could see that in place of youth and athleticism, Collins brought an understanding of where the ball is supposed to go, and he did it calmly and efficiently. At 6-7 in December, your team gets on the board as a bubble team. Although our team was mentioned as a wild card hopeful, we had to listen to the talking heads tell the world that we were pretenders and not contenders. After all, we were about to trot out a QB who had not started a game in over TEN YEARS, on the road, against the same Giants who would upset the Patriots in the Super Bowl a couple months later. In a game where the wind refused to be tamed, Collins out-dueled Eli Manning and we found ourselves set up for a match-up against the Vikings, in Minnesota, with a lot on the line.
You remember this game, right? As crushing as those two Joe Gibbs timeouts against Buffalo were, the red flag challenge for Minnesota having 12 men on the field was simply brilliant. The game was absolutely not over. In fact, it appeared the Vikings were gaining the upper hand, and had we not gotten that call right, we would have lost the momentum completely and probably the game as well.
So we are 8-7 now, on TOP of the wild card list, with a huge home game against the Dallas Cowgirls. If you recall, this game was not close. While the final score was 27-6, the game was never in doubt. Collins finished that season with a 106.4 quarterback rating and was the NFC Offensive Player of the Month.
What else could you possibly ask of a backup quarterback? Take over the team at one of the worst times not just in the season, but in the history of the franchise. Your best player is tragically murdered, your quarterback of the future goes down with a knee injury and your Hall of Fame coach is showing very obvious signs or mortality. Yet Todd Collins comes in and just takes it one play at a time on the way to getting the team into the playoffs.
This one was easy.
Additional Note: Someone created a quite comical Todd Collins blog imitating his greatness.
We (sort of) covered Jeff Hostetler in the Gus Frerotte post. Hoss was a great quarterback in his own right, but when he came off the bench in the headbutt game, he was no Todd Collins. We actually tracked down Hostetler for an interview, who currently lives by WVU, but the phone number turned out to be a fax number. Ah well. Who else do you guys like at #15?
Image via i.a.cnn.net