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Colt Brennan a modern-day Babe Laufenberg?

Colt Brennan a modern-day Babe Laufenberg?

The Washington Redskins with a sixth-round quarterback with a cool-sounding name fighting for a roster spot and creating a stir by leading the Skins to dramatic wins in the preseason?

Been there, done that. The Cult of Colt was preceded by Save the Babe.

Twenty five years ago Babe Laufenberg played the role of underdog fan favorite, fighting against the odds for a roster spot.

It may be a stretch to call Laufenberg a DC legend, but he is probably the most famous Redskin never to play a down in an NFL game in a Washington uniform. The quarterback thrilled big crowds in sweltering weather during the preseason, but he never got the chance to show the RFK faithful what he could do when the games counted.

Laufenberg's prospects for ever being heard of at all looked slim when the Redskins drafted him in the sixth round of the 1983 draft. Ahead of the Indiana Hoosier on the depth chart was Joe Theismann, who had just quarterbacked the Redskins to a win in Super Bowl XVII. Bob Holly was the backup, but that job saw as little action as the Maytag repairman. Theismann prided himself in being durable and he rarely left a game.

Still, Laufenberg managed to draw a regular paycheck in 1983, landing on injured reserve with a mysterious ailment. The next draft, the Redskins showed how impressed they were with Laufenberg's potential when they took a quarterback in the third round. Jay Schroeder was a UCLA product who hadn't played football in two years, having played minor-league baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays organization. In addition, Washington signed an experienced veteran, former Cardinal Jim Hart, as its second-team signal caller.

The battle for third string behind Theismann and Hart was joined in the third preseason game when the New England Patriots paid an August visit to RFK. Theismann played in the first half and turned a 17-10 lead over to Schroeder. The rookie's first pass attempt was tipped and intercepted deep in Redskin territory, leading to a Patriot TD. In four series, Schroeder had nearly as many of his passes caught by Pats (2) as by Skins (3).

In came Laufenberg with the Redskins trailing 31-17. He led a drive to a field goal and then passed Washington into New England territory again. A 36-yard TD pass to Steve Stapler got the Redskins within striking distance. Even though a last-gasp drive to the Patriot 30 ended with Laufenberg throwing an interception the gusty performance made the underdog QB a fan favorite.

It didn't quite make him enough of a favorite of the organization to win him a roster spot, but his peculiar arm ailment returned and he again got a spot on injured reserve. Laufenberg would get one more chance in 1985.

He gave it his all in training camp. "I've got a world of respect for Babe," said Joe Gibbs. "No one we have has worked harder or had a better attitude. He deserved this opportunity."

The Patriots again visited RFK in August and Laufenberg knew he would have, as he put it, his "one big chance" to unseat Schroeder for the last QB roster spot in the second half. He made the most of it, although there were some shaky moments.

He was 12 of 21 passing and the home team had trouble moving the ball for much of the half. Midway through the fourth quarter, Laufenberg found his stride, scrambling and launching a 75-yard TD bomb to rookie wide receiver Gary Clark, giving the Redskins a 30-26 lead.

The Patriots responded with a touchdown and a field goal to take a six-point lead. Laufenberg's fumble had set up the field goal. When the Redskins got the ball back at their own 26 with 1:04 left, one big chance for Laufenberg had come down to one last chance.

He made the most of it. Going four for five for 59 yards on the drive, Laufenberg earned a loud roar from the crowd when he threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Clint Didier with four seconds left to give the Redskins the win.

His status as a cult favorite was sealed. Around town many men ceased shaving, growing "Save the Babe" whiskers to show their support for the bearded Laufenberg.

As cut down day approached, Laufenberg made his case. "They (Redskins) can do what they want now," he said. "I felt that if I got a chance, I'd produce. I realize that this might help me with another team if I don't fit into the plan here, but I'll say right now that here is where I want to play."

"I've got some very tough decisions to make," Gibbs said, "including the one at quarterback. I'll probably just wind up going with my heart."

Gibbs' heart told him to cut Laufenberg and stick with Schroeder. The Babe was brought back after Theismann suffered a career-ending broken leg in November of that year, but Schroeder played well taking over for Theismann and Laufenberg saw no action. The next year the Redskins decided to go with a more experienced player as their backup quarterback, a USFL refugee named Doug Williams.

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Enemy Intel: Yes, Redskins fans, you need to root for the Cowboys again

Enemy Intel: Yes, Redskins fans, you need to root for the Cowboys again

Here is my weekly Redskins-centric spin around the NFL:

Before we get going, let’s line up the NFL wild card contenders by current seed and their remaining four games.

Giants (8-4): Cowboys, Lions, @Eagles, @Redskins
Bucs (7-5): Saints, @Cowboys, @Saints, Panthers
Redskins (6-5-1): @Eagles, Panthers, @Bears, Giants
Vikings (6-6): @Jaguars, Colts, @Packers, Bears
Packers (6-6): Seahawks, @Bears, Vikings, @Lions
Cardinals (5-6-1): @Dolphins, Saints, @Seahawks, @Rams
Saints (5-7): @Bucs, @Cardinals, Bucs, @Falcons
Eagles (5-7): Redskins, @Ravens, Giants, Cowboys

—The Redskins can knock the Eagles out of any practical chance of making the playoffs with a win on Sunday. An Eagles loss would mean they could finish no better than 8-8 and that is highly unlikely to get it done this year.

—For a second straight week, Redskins fans need to root for Cowboys to win. Or for their opponent to lose. Some wanted to make that distinction last week when Cowboys played the Vikings and the optimal outcome for the Redskins was a Dallas win. However you want to look at it, a Giants loss to Dallas could move the Redskins to within a half game of the No. 5 seed.

MORE REDSKINS: Assessing the four remainig opponents

—There should be no hesitation about pulling for the Saints to beat the Bucs. A Washington win and a Tampa Bay loss puts the Redskins back into playoff position with the No. 6 seed. The Bucs are 2.5-point favorites at home. They are the hot team, coming in with four straight wins while New Orleans has lost three of four. The Saints are on the fringe of contention but Redskins fans need to pull for the teams ahead of Washington in the standings.

—The Redskins can’t look for much help when it comes to the team immediately behind them in the standings. The Vikings visit the Jaguars, who are locked in to yet another season of double-digit losses. You might be tempted to look for the home underdog to put up a fight and they might. But Blake Bortles has thrown three pick sixes this year and the Vikings have returned two interceptions for TDs this year. Look for such a play to be decisive and for the Vikings to remain tight with Washington in the standings.

—The other team a half game behind the Redskins is the Packers. They host the Seahawks in what could be very snowy conditions in Green Bay. Seattle is a three-point favorite but if the weather gets crazy anything could happen. Redskins fans need to root for the Seahawks, for obvious reasons.

RELATED: Three Redskins out on Sunday, Reed questionable

—The Cardinals creeped back into contention with their win over the Redskins. That win and the fact that they have a tie on their ledger means that the Redskins do not want to finish with the same record as Arizona. This is one of the few situations where a tiebreaker would matter. It’s an easy call to pull for them to fall to the AFC Dolphins.

—I went 2-1 last week, winning with the Patriots over the Rams and the Seahawks over the Panthers. I have four NFL picks this week, all of them road favorites: the Redskins -1 on the road over the Eagles, the Cowboys -3 at the Giants, the Falcons -6 over the Rams in L.A., and the Seahawks giving three to the Packers.

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Need to Know: Assessing the Redskins' four remaining opponents

Need to Know: Assessing the Redskins' four remaining opponents

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, December 10, one day before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: No media availability

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 9; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 14; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 22

Injuries of note:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Lanier
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Final injury report

Around Redskins Park

The Redskins have four games remaining on their schedule. Three wins would give them a record of 9-6-1 and a very good shot at the playoffs. Four will almost certainly get them a ticket to keep playing; two wins or fewer will have them needing a whole lot of help to make the postseason

Let’s take a look at the Redskins’ remaining four opponents and revisit the confidence level on the Redskins’ chances of beating each one of them. (I first did this exercise a few weeks ago).

@Eagles, 5-7, weighted DVOA via Football Outsiders, 15.3% (ranked 5th)
The Eagles looked like playoff contenders for about half of the season but they have taken a tumble back to earth, losing five of their last six. Right now the Redskins are the better team, although their long injury list is an area for concern. The Eagles appear to be in some degree of disarray after their coach accused some unnamed players of giving less than full effort. Confidence that the Redskins will win: High

Panthers, 4-8, DVOA -7.5% (25th)
They won’t be able to defend their NFC championship much longer. By the time this game comes around they could be either eliminated or on the verge of being mathematically out of the playoffs. Their problems are numerous including big issues at cornerback (too bad they didn’t have a guy who could have helped franchise tagged) and an offensive line that has been injury-wracked all year. Still, Cam Newton is a scary quarterback and he still has tight end Greg Olsen and receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Ted Ginn Jr. If the Redskins get into a shootout they could be in trouble. Confidence: Moderately high

@Bears, 3-9, DVOA -3.0%, (24th)
Matt Barkley is the Bears’ third starting QB this season and in most statistical categories he’s the worst of the three. The Bears have been hit by injuries as hard as any NFL team with multiple starters on injured reserve. They probably would have struggled even with those players healthy; without them they are one of the five worst teams in the NFL. The one thing to beware of is the late December weather in Chicago, which could randomize the outcome to an extent. Confidence: Very high

Giants, 8-4, DVOA 5.0%, (12th)
The new players on the Giants’ defense were just starting to gel when end Jason Pierre-Paul’s season ended after sports hernia surgery. Their defense, with the No. 7 DVOA (-9.6%), won’t collapse but it won’t be as strong. Eli Manning’s stats are down a tick from last year but as long as he has Odell Beckham to throw to the Giants won’t be totally stymied on offense. This one is hard to get a good feel for this far out, not knowing what might be at stake for either team. Confidence: Moderate

For comparison purposes, the 6-5-1 Redskins have a DVOA of 9.8% (10th)

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