Washington 20, Bengals 9: 'Franchise QBs' A Deciding Issue

Mike Fisher

The Washington Football Team openly states that it is not sure it employs a "franchise quarterback.'' The Cincinnati Bengals, meanwhile, employ the very definition of the concept.

Given that the NFL is a "quarterback league,'' some might've thought it not too difficult to figure out what would be the Sunday NFL Week 11 result once the Bengals' visit to FedExField was over.

But that was before Cincy's franchise QB, rookie Joe Burrow, was knocked from the game in the third quarter with was appears to be a serious knee injury - a major storyline from Washington's 20-9 win.

READ MORE: Breaking: Bengals QB Joe Burrow Carted Off In Washington

WFT coach Ron Rivera recently said: "The question we have to answer as coaches: 'Is our franchise quarterback here? Is he on the roster? Is he being developed, or is he somewhere else?' Again, we’ll continue to go through that and look at it and evaluate it and see exactly where we are.''

It can be argued that if a team doesn't know if it has a "franchise QB,'' the wondering is itself the answer; if you don't know it, you don't have it. Oddly, WFT has employed three different starters this season, two of them former first-round picks. But young Dwayne Haskins (the No. 15 pick a year ago) continues to watch as not-young Alex Smith, 36 and the No. 1 overall pick a decade-and-a-half ago who is working his way back from a two-year injury absence, continues to be ... well, on this day, just good enough.

Smith (17 of 25 for 166 yards) threw a short TD pass to Steven Sims while Antonio Gibson (16 carries, 94 yards) recorded WFT's other TD. Terry McLaurin led Washington in receiving with five catches for 84 yards.

Maybe WFT will get a high pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, and maybe QB will be the target, as it nearly was a year ago, when the Bengals used the No. 1 overall pick on LSU's Burrow, leaving Washington to take defensive end Chase Young of Ohio State at No. 2. Cincy (now 2-6-1) liked Young, but is pleased with its choice. Washington liked Burrow, but is pleased as well.

And both rookies on Sunday were head-liners, for lots of reasons, including Young's spectacular goal-line work on Burrow. Washington came into Sunday with the NFL's statistically top-ranked passing defense and leaned on that heavily here, registering four sacks.

Still, WFT remains a player - at the most important position - away.

Haskins started the first four games of the year before he was benched in favor of Kyle Allen, who got hurt, causing Rivera and staff to turn not to Haskins, but to Smith. Smith's story is an inspirational one, but as he'd surely concede, it ultimately needs to lead to wins in order to be truly fulfilling.

The "franchise QB'' is an elusive thing. The Bengals have one ... but him not being able to finish the game meant a loss. (Said Bengals QB Ryan Finley, who finishing the game after Burrow's injury: "I think guys were a little shook, to be honest.'')

When did Washington last employ one in the truest and long-term sense? Maybe Joe Theismann? WFT will take this win, which vaults the team to 3-7 and keeps it in the NFC East title chase with a coming Thanksgiving visit to Dallas. But there is a bigger picture regarding that "franchise QB'' issue. Losing one can be a straight line to a loss. Getting one is the most obvious - but elusive - path to an eventual WFT turnaround.

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