The Washington Redskins will enter the 2018 season in an unusual position, one nearly six years in the making: With almost no drama or hype at quarterback. They don't have a former Heisman Trophy winner turned rookie of the year coming off knee surgery. There's no storyline about career revivals under a new coach. Or quarterback competition. Or a quarterback playing for a new contract. Again. And again. And again.
Nope. With Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins now out of Washington the Redskins will move on from 2012, a class that produced two quarterbacks who helped win two division titles, a level of hope for the future and also years of drama that exhausted a fan base.
Enter Alex Smith who brings no drama to Washington. That doesn't mean there won't be endless debates about how good he is, especially if he plays a lackluster game. Smith has received that his entire career -- even during a 2017 season in which, for a while, he was mentioned as an MVP candidate.
But it does mean there is no question he's the starter -- now and for the next few years. It's been a while since the Redskins had any legitimate stability at quarterback, knowing who would be the guy next season and the year after.
Cousins started three straight years, but every season was played under the auspices of it being the final year of his contract. That led to three seasons of: What is Cousins worth? Depending on the pass made at the time, his value shot up or plummeted. It was a constant storyline that became a draining one. Even if the parties involved answered the questions properly throughout the season, it becomes tiring. There's a reason coach Jay Gruden expressed a desire after the season to have it settled. The same was true for Cousins. The fan base had been shouting for that as well.
Keeping Cousins around highlighted too many issues: Why didn't he want to sign here long-term? Why didn't they want to pay him a certain amount -- and would he even sign if they did? It kept alive a conversation that wasn't a good one.
The Redskins could have alleviated that by trading him last offseason, rather than keeping it as a storyline for yet another year. Some in the organization felt there was still a chance to strike a deal; others knew it was over -- or at least wanted to control the outcome and move on. That's what eventually happened in January when they acquired Smith.
It's not like the topic dominated the locker room, but when the quarterback is on his second tag the natural wonder is this: Does either side really want the other? And what does it mean from both perspectives? Guys do wonder. They also see people debating the topic on various shows. You don't think they talk about it, too? Words do get parsed.
And, for the fan base, Cousins was the guy who supplanted Griffin, who, for others, was the guy whose name seemed to divide the base -- after first uniting, and energizing, it in a way rarely seen.
There was no controversy in 2012 when Griffin starred as a rookie, though in hindsight the seeds were being planted. After that season it became about his relationship with the Shanahans, then the owner and then came the attacks at the end of 2013 and then how would he fit with Jay Gruden and then could he still play, etc... etc... etc...
And there's no doubt that some of those fans feel that Cousins was treated differently than Griffin by the coaches or by the media. Can't always say they were wrong. Regardless, there always seemed to be this backdrop. Of course, Cousins fans felt that had Griffin put up the numbers Cousins did in 2015, there would have been an immediate deal. But for some fans moving on from Griffin meant accepting Cousins, and that was difficult.
Smith comes here with nothing attached to him but his resume. He's survived his own situation like this as a former No. 1 pick in San Francisco eventually supplanted by Colin Kaepernick. But in Washington, Smith becomes the guy who can help a franchise move past what had been a mentally exhausting period, one in which logic wasn't always applied.
Could Griffin actually develop? Was Cousins really better? Should Cousins get paid $20 million per year? Twenty five million? Thirty million? A third tag?
Those conversations are over. Having Smith allows the Redskins to finally move on and have a drama-free season at that position. They have a guy they view as good and affordable, one who can provide calm at the position. Of course, if Smith struggles and Cousins ends up starring ...