With ‘Quarterback,’ John Feinstein details NFL’s most-pressured position

Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (11) scrambles past Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON — Best-selling author John Feinstein is at it again. The Washington Post columnist who brought you “A Season on the Brink” and “A Good Walk Spoiled” has a holiday offering, and instead of attempting to turn a new phrase he keeps it simple: “Quarterback.”

For an author who is at the point of his career where he has a lot of leeway regarding future projects, why football? And why a book about quarterbacks?

“I’ve been fascinated by the position since I did a book called ‘Next Man Up’ 14 years ago with the Baltimore Ravens.” Feinstein said. ”I became fascinated by notion of the pressures NFL quarterbacks face. Because if things are going well, they’re the biggest star in town. But if they’re not going well, they become the target very quickly. We see it here in Washington all the time. … Even when the football team was 6-3, Alex Smith wasn’t quite good enough, was he? And now everybody is wishing he was healthy again.”

Feinstein on the physical demands of the position

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The quarterback when Feinstein wrote his book with the Ravens was Kyle Boller. For this project he chose five, and three have a local flavor. Doug Williams led the Redskins to victory in Super Bowl XXII, while Alex Smith was signed by the Burgundy and Gold in the offseason.

Joe Flacco — until recently — was firmly entrenched as the Ravens’ longtime starter. Feinstein also spoke with Indianapolis starter Andrew Luck and Tampa Bay backup Ryan Fitzpatrick.

What was his biggest take-away while writing the book?

“One was just how difficult it is to play the position physically. They take a pounding in every game.” Feinstein said. “Remember, they’re the only player who gets hit while going backward —and they get hit hard by very large, very strong men.”

Alex Smith was playing for Kansas City when Feinstein reported the book, and began this season as the Redskins starter, but Smith’s broken leg suffered against Houston last month put his playing career and the team’s future at the position up in the air.

“We don’t know how he’s going to recover from this injury, with the setback that forced him to go back into the hospital,” Feinstein said. “He’s going to be 35 next year — we don’t know if he’s going to have a chance to play. Washington certainly has to go out and find itself a young quarterback — because Colt McCoy’s going to be 33 next year — also coming off a leg injury.”

Joe Flacco’s future is just as cloudy after suffering a midseason injury. Rookie Lamar Jackson has led the Ravens to three wins in four games, and is now keeping a healthy Flacco on the bench.

“I think Joe Flacco will be a starting quarterback somewhere other than Baltimore next year,” Feinstein said. “I think the Ravens will look to trade him this offseason, much the same way the Chiefs looked to trade Alex Smith — they’ll try to get a starter and a second-round pick.”

“Quarterback: Inside the Most Important Position in the National Football League,” is available online and in local bookstores.

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