Robert Griffin III is the most talked about draft prospect in the country right now, and while he isn’t expected to be taken with the No. 1 pick this April, nobody in the 2012 NFL draft class will attract more headlines or conversation than the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
But when his highlights are the top story on NFL recap shows this fall, will he be wearing a Redskins jersey?
There’s little doubting that Washington – currently slotted to draft sixth – would like to trade up to the No. 2 pick to draft Griffin. But the Redskins aren’t alone.
The Cleveland Browns, among other teams, may also be interested in moving up to draft the Baylor product. And if the Browns want Griffin, they’ll get him. They have the 4th and 22nd picks in this year’s first round, which could both be shipped to St. Louis as part of a package that the Redskins would have trouble matching.
But assuming Cleveland decides that they’re going to stick with former third-round pick Colt McCoy, I think the Redskins should do what it takes to move up and land Griffin.
Here are five reasons why.
Griffin is a play-maker and the Redskins need several of them.
Let’s list the plays made by members of Washington’s offense last season. Anthony Armstrong’s mid-air adjustment to a long-ball that resulted in a 50-yard touchdown in Seattle. That’s one. Roy Helu’s defender-hurdling touchdown run in the same game. That’s two. And then there was … Wait there has to be another. Keep searching.
The Redskins struggled to create plays that Kyle Shanahan’s scheme didn’t dictate. Washington doesn’t have the ability to turn first downs into touchdowns, or to score on a three or four-play drive after ripping off 65 yards after the catch.
Until you can find skill position pieces who can do those things, adding a quarterback who can create offense is a nice way to improve your personnel.
Griffin can buy time by extending plays with his feet the same way Ben Roethliserger and Aaron Rodgers do. The longer a defender is asked to cover a receiver, the better the receiver gets. Pretty simple, right?
Also, Griffin’s mobility and dynamic speed will give Washington a chance to add some wrinkles to its offense. Perhaps Mike and Kyle Shanahan can even design some packages to utilize Griffin’s legs.
If the Redskins draft Griffin, defensive coordinators will have to spend the entire week game-planning against his dual-threat abilities. They’ll have to spy him with a defender and they’ll have to spend time scheming against him. There may not be another player like that on the Redskins’ offense right now.
That isn’t to say that Washington doesn’t have some reliable offensive talent. It just means they don’t have anybody that scares a defense. Trading up to get Griffin would change that.
Twelve draft picks are not making your roster again this season.
The Redskins’ 2011 draft looks like it will ultimately be graded as a tremendous success. Washington drafted a player in every round for the first time since the mid 90’s, and in addition to adding quantity the Redskins found some quality as well.
Trading back to get outside-linebacker Ryan Kerrigan looks like a savvy move and if last year’s preseason is any indication of future productivity, second-round defensive end Jarvis Jenkins could end up being a real player. Leonard Hankerson is expected to start this season if he’s healthy and running backs Roy Helu and Evan Royster both showed that they could succeed in a Shanahan-run offense.
But 12 drafted rookies will not make the roster for the Redskins again this season.
As much a success as last year’s draft looks like it was, having 12 draft picks make your team says more about your roster than it does all of those players.
The Redskins don’t need 12 rookies to make this year’s team.
Adding a plethora of young legs and as many bodies to compete and provide depth as possible was a great idea a year ago. But the Redskins now need difference-makers if they’re going to make a leap from 5-11 to being a contending team in the near future.
You generally don’t find those players in the mid to late rounds. You can sometimes. We’ve all heard about the finest sixth and seventh round success stories. But for every Tom Brady in the 6th round there are hundreds of Dennis Morris’. (Morris was a tight end Washington drafted in 2010 who was not on Washington’s roster at the end of his first training camp with the team).
This is not me trying to de-value the draft. The Redskins have done that long enough. I’m a believer in building through the draft and supplementing through free agency.
But I am also a realist, and at this point I think the Redskins would be better served with a draft class that nets them Griffin and maybe two other players that make the team, than they would be with a player in every round an no Griffin.
Take a look at the Redskins’ 2010 draft, as an example.
Washington drafted six players that year, just two before the sixth round. This year’s draft results could be similar if the club decides to move up to get Griffin. Of the six players Washington drafted two years ago, four are still on the team and only two of those four will open the season as a starter.
Having a draft like that – assuming you can find a contributor in the fourth round like the Redskins did with Perry Riley that year – is way more tolerable if you’re adding a quarterback of the future.
But you don’t need to draft seven or eight players in seven rounds to feel like you had a good draft.
The object is not to play as many lottery cards as possible; it’s to win the lottery. It’s to hit on the cards you play. I don’t think there is an executive in football who would trade a franchise quarterback for a typical seven player draft class, comprised of one star player, a couple of starters, and a bunch of other pieces. Why? Because, you can find some of those pieces elsewhere.
The Redskins’ starting fullback, Darrel Young, was a undrafted-linebacker in his first training camp with the team. Tight end Logan Paulsen was undrafted so was left tackle Willie Smith, both of whom ended last season at the top of the depth chart at their position.
It comes down to quality over quantity.
Drafting as many players as the Redskins did last year was necessary, because Washington didn’t have enough youth or depth. But with both of those two areas having been improved, it’s time to start finding elite talent. One way to do that is to draft a quarterback prospect with a breath-taking skillset.
The NFL is a quarterback league, and if you don’t have one, you’re in trouble.
The two passers who guided their team to the Super Bowl this season combined for 10,168 passing yards and 68 touchdowns in 2011. Both of those quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Eli Manning, have won multiple Super Bowls.
A list of the most recent quarterbacks to help guide their teams to a championship is a who’s who of NFL signal-callers. The younger Manning (the Giants beat three-time champion Tom Brady), Aaron Rodgers (the Packers beat two-time Super Bowl winner Ben Roethlisberger), Drew Brees (the Saints beat former champion Peyton Manning). Notice a trend here?
Before that it was Roethlisberger winning his second, Eli helping the Giants get their first of two recent rings (over a three-time champion at quarterback).
Going back before that: Peyton won his only title to date, Roethlisberger winning his first (over former champion Kurt Warner), and of course Brady helping the Patriots go back-to-back.
Sure, if you dig enough you’ll find Brad Johnson helping manage the Bucs to a title. You’ll see Trent Dilfer’s 9-for-16 performances assist Baltimore in netting a ring. But those guys are the exception. (And I’d argue that Johnson – the last Redskins quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in a season – is underrated. But that’s another blog for another day).
When you have a chance to get a quarterback who you think is going to be elite, you have to try to do it. And if that means giving up several picks, then that’s what has to happen. If you are convinced that a quarterback prospect has what it takes to be special, than mortgaging the majority of a draft class is never too rich.
I often compare finding franchise quarterbacks to love. If you know somebody is the one, do what you have to do to make them yours.
If you keep looking for something and can’t find it, look elsewhere.
You can make the case that the Redskins have been searching for a “franchise quarterback” since Joe Theismann’s eight year run as the team’s leading passer from 1978 to 1985.
For the purposes of this exercise, I’ll say that Mark Rypien’s five-year stretch from ’89 to ’93 was franchise-passer caliber. With Rypien at the controls, the Redskins won double-digit games three times and hoisted the Lombardy Trophy. Good enough for me.
So, with that in mind, the Redskins have had 10 different quarterbacks lead the team in passing yards in a given season since Rypien last did. Those 10 quarterbacks all failed to become “the guy” in Washington.
How were they acquired?
Rex Grossman was signed as a free agent. Donovan McNabb was acquired in a trade. Jason Campbell was drafted late in the first round (25th pick). Mark Brunell was added in a trade. Patrick Ramsey was drafted late in the first round (32nd pick).
Tony Banks was signed of the scrapheap. Brad Johnson was traded for. Trent Green was signed after a stint in the Canadian Football League. Gus Freotte was drafted in the seventh round, and finally Heath Shuler was drafted 3rd overall back in 1994.
So to recap, the Redskins have drafted one quarterback in the top-half of the first round during their two-decade quest to find an elite quarterback.
But during that time while not finding the right guy, the other nine quarterbacks who have led Washington in passing in a given season were acquired by way of trades (3), free agency (3), or through the draft (3).
Why not try the one thing you haven’t attempted in the last 17 years: Drafting a quarterback at the top of the draft-board?
And don’t tell me that missing on Shuler at No. 3 is a reason why you shouldn’t take Griffin at No. 2. It is 2012. 1994 was a long time ago.
My point is, when you can’t find what you’re desperately looking for, maybe you’re looking in the wrong place. Perhaps you’re shopping at the wrong store.
Why not give the whole, “trade up to draft the guy everybody wants” thing a shot? Griffin isn’t Mark Sanchez. You wouldn’t be doing it just to do it. You’d be doing it because you think he could be your quarterback for a long time.
Redskins need long-term solutions, not short-term fixes.
There’s no denying that to improve on three straight double-digit loss seasons, Washington is going to have to get substantially better quarterback play this season. I’ll understand if the Redskins target a veteran in free agency who can help the team play better football immediately.
But signing 36-year-old Peyton Manning, or journeyman starter Kyle Orton is only fixing a problem for the moment.
You see, Washington has something hanging down from under its car and Manning or Orton will just be serving as duct tape. But adding Griffin – if he ends up being the star he’s projected to be – would mean that the Redskins got under the car and took some time to actually fix the problem.
I have no issue with using duct tape if you want to get your car off the side of the beltway and back to your garage so that you can work on it the next day. That’s a fine solution for the time being. But it’s time for the Redskins to start finding some long-term answers.
Mike Shanahan is entering his third season in DC and he still doesn’t have his future quarterback. The time to find that passer is now.
Could the Redskins stay put and draft Ryan Tannehill with the sixth pick? Sure. He’s got a lot of upside and stellar athleticism. I like him as a prospect. Could they move down and grab Brandon Weeden in the second round? Possibly. But neither of them possesses Griffin’s upside.
Washington clearly has a lot of options, and trading up to get Griffin is just one of them. I just happen to think it’s the option that presents the best chance of resulting in the Redskins finding what they’ve been looking for.