Colt McCoy is taking over after Alex Smith’s gruesome leg injury, but will the Redskins really lose anything under center?
In an awful coincidence, Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith suffered a significant broke leg on Sunday, 33 years to the day since former Redskins’ quarterback Joe Theismann did the same. The answer of who Smith’s backup is came, with Colt McCoy coming in and completing 6 of 12 passes with a touchdown as he finished up a loss to the Houston Texans.
Thanksgiving Day has become a critical game in the NFC East, as the Redskins (6-4) will travel to take on the Dallas Cowboys (5-5). Dallas has won two games in a row, and a win on Thursday will give them a split of the season series with Washington and bring a tie for the division lead.
At first glance, the Redskins are automatically vulnerable with McCoy stepping in for Smith. But are they really losing much?
Prior to Sunday, McCoy had not thrown a regular season pass since 2015 with appearances in two games since the start of that season. He started four games for Washington in 2014, including one against the Cowboys.
In that game, McCoy went 25-for-30 for 299 yards with an interception and a rushing touchdown as the Redskins won 20-17. In 2015 McCoy also played against Dallas, and went 7-for-11 for 128 yards and a touchdown in a 34-23 victory for Washington.
Smith is the poster boy for a quarterback as a game manager, often turning down risky throws for safer passes that prioritize taking care of the ball. Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger spoke to that during a radio appearance on Monday, with an opposite label for McCoy.
McCoy’s last substantial run of playing time came in 2011, when he started 13 games for the Cleveland Browns. So comparing his career sample to Smith’s may tip toward irrelevancy, but let’s do it anyway.
McCoy’s career completion percentage is 60.2 percent, which would have looked pretty good even five years ago and is only slightly below Smith’s career rate of 62.4 percent. Smith also has an edge in career passer rating (87.3, to 79.1 for McCoy) and yards per attempt (6.9, to 6.6 for McCoy). In terms of yards per completion, the two signal callers are close for their careers (11.1 for Smith, 11.0 for McCoy).
Redskins’ head coach Jay Gruden has a history of getting good production out of quarterbacks, from Andy Dalton to Robert Griffin III to Kirk Cousins. The fact there’s so little tape on McCoy should also work to Washington’s advantage heading into Thursday’s game.
The Redskins have particularly been hit by some injuries at wide receiver. But those that have played over the course of the season have been reliable, as has the group of pass catchers as a whole for Washington, and that will help McCoy.
If they win the division, Washington won’t be able to compete on the same level with the top teams in the NFC come playoff time. But that would have been true with Smith at quarterback, and McCoy seems capable of playing close to the same level while possibly mixing in some more downfield throws.