John KeimESPN Staff WriterClose
- Covered the Redskins for the Washington Examiner and other media outlets since 1994
- Authored or co-authored three books on the Redskins and one on the Cleveland Browns
Washington head coach Jay Gruden said the Redskins discussed Colin Kaepernick but opted against pursuing him because they’d have to change too much of their offense. With only four weeks left in the season, Gruden said the Redskins did not want to go in that direction.
Redskins starter Alex Smith broke his leg two weeks ago.
Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since 2016, when he started kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.
“He’s been discussed for sure,” Gruden said. “It’s just going to be a matter of which way you want to go.”
Gruden said the fear with Kaepernick is that the team would have to “teach a whole new offense with a lot of zone-reads.”
“There’s not a lot of time to get a brand-new quarterback and system installed in a couple of days,” he said. “He’s been talked about, but we’ll probably go in a different direction.”
Gruden said the Redskins made a football decision only on Kaepernick.
“Just football, strictly football,” Gruden said. “When you’re talking about a backup quarterback this late in the game you want someone with a similar skill set to the quarterback you have. Not that Colin can’t do some of the things we’ve talked about, but we want someone with a little more familiarity.
“Sanchez had experience in a pro-style offense. That helped out a lot. But when we had a short week going to Dallas [on Thanksgiving] you had to have someone in here who had some similar conceptual awareness that we had with Colt. That’s why we went with Sanchez.”
Gruden said the Redskins wanted to add a quarterback who either knew his system already — Josh Johnson, who worked out for them two weeks ago, played one year with Gruden in Cincinnati and was with him in Tampa in 2008. Or, he said, they want someone who is similar in style to Sanchez.
The Redskins signed Sanchez in part because their passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell played with him in New York.
Redskins offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh was the Jets’ quarterbacks coach for Sanchez. And Redskins assistant head coach/offensive line coach Bill Callahan served in the same role with the Jets when Sanchez was there.
O’Connell did coach in San Francisco for one season when Kaepernick played for the 49ers. Redskins defensive line coach Jim Tomsula was the 49ers’ head coach for one season during Kaepernick’s time.
“Gruden said if it were Week 1, there would be a “great possibility” of signing Kaepernick. But with four games left, it’s harder to alter a system.
“In order to utilize someone like Colin Kaepernick’s skill set, you’re talking about a whole new group of formations and run concepts,” Gruden said. “It’s very difficult. … Whoever the backup is, they have to have skill sets similar to Mark, that he can fit into the plays we’re going to run vs. the Giants.”
Sanchez had only about 20 percent of the Redskins’ playbook at his disposal when he replaced McCoy on Monday night. Sanchez completed 13 of 21 passes for 100 yards and led a field goal drive to close the second quarter. He threw an interception and fumbled once, though he recovered the ball.
Gruden also said McCoy might return this season. He underwent surgery to repair his fibula Tuesday. Gruden said there’s a chance McCoy would be ready for the Dec. 30 finale vs. Philadelphia. The Redskins are 6-6 and have lost four of their past five games. But they’re still alive in the playoff race, trailing Dallas by one game in the NFC East.
Kaepernick has filed a collusion suit against the NFL, arguing that owners have colluded to keep him off any NFL roster since he hit free agency in 2017.
Several owners, coaches and team executives have been called to testify, and the case is scheduled to go to trial.