Despite all the hoopla over Robert Griffin III, the Redskins’ draft was more like an inauguration than an election. RGIII was going to be a Redskin ever since Washington had made the record-setting trade with St. Louis to move up four spots to second overall nearly seven weeks earlier.
There was not even a little bit of doubt as there had been when Washington last chose a quarterback so high, opting for the more athletic Heath Shuler over better pocket passer Trent Dilfer with the third overall selection in 1994.
Since a very highly-placed source had told me that the Redskins preferred Carlos Rogers over fellow cornerbacks Pacman Jones and Antrel Rolle, I knew what Washington would do with the ninth choice in 2005 if Rogers was still there. I also figured correctly that cornerback Tom Carter (1993) and defensive end Kenard Lang (1997) would be the chosen ones with the 17th picks in those drafts. And I knew that then-general manager Charley Casserly loved Champ Bailey in 1999.
However, no one could’ve guessed that — after choosing RGIII and not having a second-round selection because of the trade with the Rams – the Redskins would cause such head-scratching with their next two picks this past weekend.
First, with a number of highly-regarded players on the board at offensive tackle where left-side starter Trent Williams is one failed drug test from a year-long suspension and right-side starter Jammal Brown’s hip hasn’t been fully healthy since it was injured three years ago, Washington chose a lower-rated guard. At least SMU’s Josh LeRibeus – who said, when asked about dropping 70 pounds while academically ineligible in 2010, “I lost a toddler off the side of my belly” — should add some color to a bland locker room, assuming his third-round status trumps his lack of speed.
But Mike Shanahan and Co. outdid themselves in the fourth round by not just passing on the tackles again, but by choosing Kirk Cousins. The Michigan State product seems like a very nice guy and he was probably a legitimate fourth-round pick. Just not to the team that had anointed a fellow quarterback the face of the franchise for the next decade just three rounds earlier.
I admit that I’m a drafting for need instead of taking the best available athlete guy, but this move was ridiculous. A team that is 11-21 under Shanahan’s command and 17-39 over its past three and a half seasons can afford to use a fourth-rounder on a player it hopes will never play a down? Are you kidding me? Suddenly the downtrodden Redskins are the perennially powerful Patriots or Packers, making luxury picks?
When the unlamented Vinny Cerrato chose pass-catchers with Washington’s top three selections in 2008 that was stupid, but becoming the first team in 23 years to draft two quarterbacks in the first four rounds is sensible because Shanahan won back-to-back Super Bowls with John Elway in Denver in 1997-98? Please.
Not to mention that: the poor Cousins knows that his dreams of being a starting quarterback are gone until he leaves town unless RGIII gets hurt or is as much of a bust as Shuler was; 2011 starter Rex Grossman, who re-signed a week after the trade knowing his role was to mentor Griffin, might bristle at taking a back seat to two rookies; and RGIII has to have a kernel of doubt about how much the Redskins truly love him no matter what Shanahan tells him or how much Dan Snyder markets him.
If my 20 years covering the Redskins aren’t enough for you to believe my judgment on the foolishness/arrogance of this move, consider that much-respected analyst Ron Jaworski, a longtime NFL quarterback, blasted it on ESPN, saying that Shanahan had created a controversy where none existed.
Dilfer, now also an ESPN analyst, said that Cousins has to be beside himself after being told that he can never be anything but a second banana. The Redskins didn’t even tell Gus Frerotte that when they took him 194 spots after Shuler in 1994. Knowing that he had some hope might have helped Frerotte play decently when given the opportunity during his first two seasons and win their competition to be the starter in 1996 after which Shuler became an afterthought before being traded the following spring.
If Shanahan really needed another young quarterback, he could have waited until the seventh round and swooped up Kellen Moore, the Boise State standout who signed with Detroit as a rookie free agent. Instead, the Redskins hope they wasted a fourth-rounder. And that’s just no way to run a draft.
David Elfin began covering sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since last March.