Apr
1

Why Trading Up for RG3 was the Right Choice

The decision by the Redskins to trade up to the number 2 overall pick in this year’s draft has divided Redskins nation. The Redskins will presumably pick up Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III with that second pick and hopefully finally solve the quarterback question.

There are those that think the price was too high no matter how good he is. There are those that think the price was too high and he’s going to be bust. And then there are those that think a future franchise QB is worth it. I am firmly in the worth it camp. Let’s look at why this was the right decision for the Redskins.

The Redskins desperately needed a franchise QB
The Redskins have been searching for the answer at QB ever since Joe Theismann’s career ended in 1985. Since then the Redskins have had 26 different men starting under center. In Mike Shanahan’s two years as head coach he has already used three different starting QBs. Rex Grossman began last year as the starter, but performed so poorly against the Eagles in Week 6 that he was benched for John Beck. Beck was an even bigger disaster, and Grossman was eventually given his job back. Last year Grossman and Beck combined for only 21 touchdowns against 33 turnovers. The Redskins ranked 29th in Red Zone Scoring
and 26th in Points Scored.

Not all of the blame for that goes to the QBs, but the fact is Beck couldn’t move the ball at all and Grossman couldn’t move the ball without taking too many chances.

There is no way that Shanahan and General Manager Bruce Allen could stand pat at QB. After two seasons of six wins or less and three QBs that didn’t work out, they had to make a move. Not doing something and bringing back Beck and Grossman for round two would have been the end of their careers in Washington. Let’s look at the other options that were available at and why those other options would have been worse choices.

Go After Peyton Manning
The most obvious flaw with this plan is that Manning never seemed in interested in coming to Washington in the first place. But there would have been other potential problems if the Skins had snagged Manning.

Firstly, no one knows for sure if Manning is truly healthy and recovered from his neck surgery. The Broncos are taking a huge risk to sign him to a big contract if he’s not as game-ready as he says. Secondly, supposing he is completely healed, he’s already 36. That would mean he would play in DC for four years tops. The first year  he would be learning the system and the last year he would probably be declining. So the Redskins would only get prime Peyton Manning for two years.

But the biggest potential problem would be Manning fitting into the Shanahan system. Manning had a great offensive line in Indy that allowed him to be pocket passer. Shanahan designed his offensive line schemes and has acquired personnel based around a mobile QB running the plays. In Indy Manning had speedy receivers and pass-catching running backs.The Redskins have acquired faster wideouts this offseason(including Manning’s one-time teammate Garcon) and their running backs can catch out of the backfield but it’s still not a great fit. Roy Helu and Evan Royster rushed well last year, but if Manning ran his type of offense their talents would be largely wasted.

Finally, Manning had a lot of say in how the Colts offense was run and Mike Shanahan is control-freak. There would be instant head-butting over not only the offensive approach but playcalling. From a personnel standpoint, Manning could potentially fit the Shanahan system even worse than Donovan McNabb.

Drafting a different QB
Another route the Redskins could have chosen to go was to keep the picks they had and draft a QB other than Stanford’s Andrew Luck(projected to go #1 overall to the Colts) or RG3. The problem with this is that they would be gambling on a prospect’s upside. After Luck and Griffin, draft experts think this year’s QB crop is pretty weak. Texas A & M’s Ryan Tannehill is the only other QB consistently mocked to go in the first or second round, but the feeling is in another draft year he wouldn’t go until at least the second round. He has a lot of upside, but is very raw. His completion percentage and QB rating wasn’t anywhere near Griffin’s numbers. He is also coming off a foot injury. Additionally, the Redskins would likely had to have used their sixth overall pick on him, despite his borderline first round talent.

Some are saying that the Redskins needs are so large, they should have drafted another position like cornerback or wide receiver at number 6 overall and drafted a QB in the later rounds. By then it is likely Luck, Griffin, and Tannehill would all be gone and the Redskins would be stuck drafting someone based almost solely on potential. The thought being if you can fill out the Redskins roster around a decent prospect they might have more success than a potentially great QB like Griffin.

The number of “decent” QBs leading their NFL teams to playoff and Super Bowl victories over the last few years has been very few. The NFL has become more and more of a passing league and coaches can’t simply plan on winning based on their great defense and rushing attack like they used to.

Signing a Free Agent QB
Signing a former backup to become your starter has almost as much risk as drafting a QB. It worked for the Texans and Matt Schaub and to a certain extent for the Chiefs and Matt Cassell, but Kevin Kolb was a huge disappointment for the Cardinals last year. Having a few good games in one NFL city, doesn’t necessarily make you a franchise QB.

Green Bay’s Matt Flynn was most highly regarded free agent QB out there, but he’s only played a few games. The Redskins reportedly weren’t very impressed by him anyway.

There were a number of starting QBs or former starting QBs out there like Alex Smith of the 49ers, the Chiefs Kyle Orton, and the Dolphins Chad Henne. None of the older veterans would have been much of an improvement over Rex Grossman. Some of the younger QBs have potential,  but they haven’t lit the league on fire despite their starting opportunities. The fact is most of the free agent QBs were signed on as backups in their new cities. Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn are the only two free agent QBs who are locks to start for their new teams.

In the end, trading up for RG3 was really the only choice Shanahan and Bruce Allen could have made. If they had more faith in some of the free agent QBs or had rated some of the other draft prospects higher maybe they wouldn’t have given up so much. But they didn’t. They saw Griffin as one of the special QBs of his generation and as a possible franchise star to build around. If they’re right they’ll be set at QB and ready to contend for the next decade. If they’re wrong they’ll probably be fired and the next regime will be severely hamstrung in their rebuilding process. This move will either be remembered as the start of a Redskins turnaround or the worst personnel move in the history of the NFL. Either way, it was gamble the Redskins had to take.

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