LANDOVER, Md. - A promising season took an abrupt turn Sunday afternoon, as Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith broke two lower-leg bones, his tibia and fibula, in a 23-21 loss to the Houston Texans.
Smith was rushed off to a hospital for surgery and will miss the rest of the season. The day was already an infamous one in Redskins history - it was 33 years ago, to the date, that Joe Theismann suffered his own career-ending leg injury. Theismann was in the stands Sunday as part of the team’s homecoming festivities.
The Redskins’ immediate concern will be Thursday’s game in Dallas. Washington does not keep a quarterback on its practice squad, meaning a backup will need to be found for McCoy, but whoever that is won’t have the benefit of live practice reps between now and kickoff.
Redskins personnel chief Doug Williams will hold workouts for several quarterbacks on Monday. Among those reported to be in the group are EJ Manuel and Mark Sanchez. The only currently available quarterback who has any knowledge of the Redskins’ current playbook is Nic Shimonek, who spent a week with the team at the end of this year’s preseason.
Receiver Trey Quinn would serve as the team’s emergency quarterback, as he did on Sunday.
One thing that won’t change is Washington’s playbook. McCoy and Redskins coach Jay Gruden are comfortable with each other, and McCoy didn’t get a watered-down version when he entered Sunday’s game. Smith was running more to take advantage of perceived weaknesses in the Houston defense, and that’s exactly what McCoy did in the final minutes.
McCoy also took advantage of the talents of Adrian Peterson, who scored his 104th and 105th NFL rushing touchdowns to tie and pass John Riggins for sixth all-time, with Riggins in the stands.
That approach - establish the run, keep the chains moving with the pass - will remain the goal for Washington.
“We don’t have to change anything,” Gruden said. “We’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing, and build off the things we’ve done well, and trash the things we didn’t do well.
“I think he has the skillset that fits perfect to what we do.”
McCoy’s last trip to Dallas was his last professional victory, a Monday Night Football triumph against the Cowboys.
After Thursday, the Redskins will be able to catch their breath and assess their long-term needs at the position. Smith’s salary is guaranteed, meaning he will remain in Washington’s plans going forward. He’s likely to have a rod inserted into the leg to stabilize the broken bones, then begin a rehab process that can take several months.
If all goes well, Smith can return for the 2019 season. But success by McCoy could end up producing a different issue - McCoy can opt out of his contract at the end of the year, and if he can lead the Redskins to the playoffs, he might wish to leave for a starting opportunity elsewhere.
Those are down-the-road issues, though, and McCoy is keeping his focus on a major opportunity awaiting him on Thursday afternoon in Dallas.
“I’ve got to knock a little bit of rust off and get ready on a short week,” he said.