One of the surprises, at least to me of the final round of cuts was Derrick Frost. In retrospect however it makes perfect sense. But first the empiricals:
Derrick was among the last round of 22 cuts and he did not go quietly, outright accusing the team of dishonesty and of letting the better punter go so as to make Vinny Cerrato and his magical new drafting ability look better. It got in print and in the news cycle both at the Washington Post and the Washington Times. There was some tut tutting by the hoi polloi and finally Derrick walked it back with a tepid apology.
After drafting Durant Brooks with a sixth round pick, the only punter taken in April's draft, Derrick and Durant dueled throughout all of training camp for the one and only punter position. Mostly it was a low key competition with Matt Terl's ORB (Official Redskins Blog) providing the majority of the coverage, the day to day.
In the preseason games Durant got all the kicks in the Hall of Fame preseason game against the Colts, Derrick got all the kicks in the second preseason game against the Bills, Durant got all the work in the third preseason game against the Jets, Derrick got all the work in the fourth preseason game against the Panthers and Durant and Derrick split the work, three punts apiece, in the fifth and final preseason game against the Jaguars.
In the end it was practically even with Derrick's average longer by three whole yards and Durant's net longer by two whole yards. Derrick dropped four inside the 20, Durant dropped five.
And so it went, after a spirited competition based on skill and in theory a level competition Derrick was on the outside and the draft pick was in, helping to ensure all ten of the Redskins 2008 draft picks made the team, a class that was going to need some help making the team if not looking good since both of the top receiver picks came to camp out of shape, got injured and will not be able to contribute much early in the season, the tight end pick is stuck behind Chris Cooley and the cornerback pick was getting beat like Alan Keyes in the final two preseason games, by the way he, Justin Tryon made the team over a player, Matteral Richardson that seemed to outplay the draft pick down the stretch.
Durant, not a popular guy in training camp because he was there trying to take the job of an incumbent teammate, was not given any explanation or told in advanced that he had won the job.
Here's the thing: I think Derrick is right, it is apparent to me that looking back this was not a fair competition, when the Redskins signed Derrick to a one year contract at veteran minimum they were, as Mike Wise says (op. cit.), not drafting a punter to compete for Derrick's position, they were bringing Derrick back to compete for Durant's position. If it had been a fair competition then the incumbent, who appeared to outperform the rookie however slightly, should have gotten the job, the guy has real NFL experience and represents a known quantity at the position and in collateral duties such as holding on place kicks. Otherwise the Redskins should have cut Derrick earlier in training camp so he could move on. Holding him that long, watching him perform as well or better than the rookie then letting him go is indicative of predetermination by the team.
Here's the other thing: it makes perfect, if insensitive football sense. If we take as assumed that the team was always going to keep the rookie as long as he could hang with the incumbent then it benefits the rookie to have the pressure of competition, of needing to perform to get the job. Then they keep the cheaper guy with the longer contract, punters are punters. If Durant has a weak rookie season then the team will bring a veteran in next training camp to challenge.
It sucks for Derrick, the team showed again how ugly the business of football can be, that I do not think it has to be, that the team chooses it to be.
After a planned tryout with Seattle Derrick signed today with Green Bay (where he will need to take another number, 4 belongs to er someone else), without a workout. Thanks for three seasons Derrick, best of luck and we will see you around the league
Derrick Frost: Getty Images from here.