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Collins Re-assumes a Backup Role

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Todd Collins' magical performance in the final four games of the 2007 season would make for a very inspiring movie.

Let's review the storyline:

An obscure backup quarterback supposedly past his prime who hadn't completed a pass since 2004, who hadn't started a game in a decade, substitutes for the injured starter and leads his reeling squad to four straight wins and a spot in the playoffs. Sounds fictional, but it's true.

In four games, the 36-year-old Collins completed 67 of 105 passes (63.8 percent), with five touchdowns and no interceptions, for a phenomenal quarterback rating of 106.4, as the Redskins topped the Bears, Giants, Vikings and Cowboys to finish 9-7 and earn a Wild Card playoff berth.

He threw two scoring passes that lifted the Redskins to a 14-13 lead over the Seahawks in the fourth quarter of their first-round playoff game, before tossing two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns in an eventual 35-14 loss.

Many would agree that Collins was a primary reason the Redskins rebounded from a four-game losing streak--a period that included the death of superstar safety Sean Taylor--to win their final four.

He became a favorite of Redskin fans and those who enjoy pulling for the underdog.

"It was good for me to go out there and get a chance," Collins said. "I thought I could play at that level. Doing it during the playoff run was even better.

"Hopefully, it brings some comfort to the team that I can step in and help and continue to win games."

Collins tested the free agency market in the offseason in hopes of being signed as a starter.

Due to limited interest around the league, he opted to stay in Washington and has returned to an all-too familiar spot: backing up the starter, in this case Jason Campbell.

Collins said he's not disappointed being back in the No. 2 role and understands he's only one play away from being tapped again as the starter.

"Oh yeah, I've been doing that for so long, for 10 years," he said. "I understand the situation completely. I'm just working to be at that level of efficiency so I can step in this year if I'm called on."

Collins is such a hard worker and a stickler for details, that it's likely he'll be prepared should Campbell again succumb to injury.

The Redskins are learning the West Coast offense of first-year head coach Jim Zorn. For Collins, the concepts are basically the same as when he played in the West Coast system under Jimmy Raye in Kansas City from 1998-2000.

It hasn't always been an easy transition. Collins has struggled at times during training camp.

"Todd has some different factors to deal with than the other quarterbacks," Zorn said. "[In practice], he plays with the backup offensive line against our first-team defense. He goes up against our first-team defense more often than any of the other quarterbacks. He also plays with a lot of the younger guys who are still learning.

"The thing that I love about Todd is that he is very competitive, and wants to do things right. What you will see is that as he gets into the game with some of the more experienced players, he will have more success."

His statistics in four preseason games are solid.

Collins has completed 33-of-47 passes--a 70.2 completion percentage--for 260 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His QB rating is a respectable 81.9.

Collins enjoys working with Zorn, who knows a thing or two about quarterbacking. A former NFL quarterback himself-he threw for 20,122 yards in 11 NFL seasons--Zorn was the Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks coach for seven seasons before coming to Washington. He molded Matt Hasselbeck into one of the league's elite passers.

"Coach is a character guy, I enjoy being around him," Collins said of Zorn. "He obviously has an affinity for quarterbacks and brings a lot of experience through his playing days and his years as a quarterback.

"Gives a different perspective than some of the coaches I've had in terms of the drills and specific ways he wants the ball thrown and things like that."

Michael Richman is the author of The Redskins Encyclopedia, a 432-page book that spans the 75-year history of the storied franchise. His web site is *www.redskinshistorian.com.*

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