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.
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.
After a disappointing 6-10 2011 campaign by Mike Shanahan and the Redskins, there are many areas on this team that need to be upgraded. While the defense made strides in their second year of a 3-4 defense; the offense, aside for a late year improvement in the running game, left much to be desired. Excuses regarding learning “systems” and injuries are overused and non-applicable. What is clear is that despite Mike Shanahan’s reputation being staked on the quarterback pairing of Rex Grossman and John Beck, there was no starting talent lining up behind center for the Redskins in 2011. Indeed, the second year of the Shanahan offense yielded poorer quarterback play than the first.
QB Comp % Yards TD INT Rating
Donovan McNabb in 2010: 58.3% 3,377 14 15 77.1
Rex Grossman in 2010 55.6% 884 7 4 81.2
Rex Grossman in 2011 57.9% 3151 16 20 72.4
John Beck in 2011 60.6% 858 2 4 72.1
This, of course, was with another year of familiarity in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s (and Mike’s son) offense. Interceptions were up and touchdowns were down. Now, I would never say that Donovan McNabb should have been kept for another year. It is clear that his skills diminished even more this year and proved to more of a malcontent than what he was worth (sad to see, I’ve got to say). But giving the reins to “system” quarterbacks Grossman and Beck, didn’t yield any better results.
One thing is clear when seeing this offense for two years under Shanahan: learning this system is overrated, the Redskins need talent at this position more than any other.
It’s good to have options…
The Skins were so bad this year, they are given the opportunity to improve their team with the 6th overall pick of the draft. However, with USC QB Matt Barkley returning to school for a shot at becoming the number 1 pick next year, and Oklahoma QB Landry Jones following suit, the Skins may likely be out of the running for the two top QB prospects – Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III. The lack of quarterback talent across the league across the NFL exacerbates the issue. Obviously for Luck there’s a 99.9% chance of the Colts picking him #1 overall. For Robert Griffin III there’s a good chance the Rams hold an auction for the 2nd overall pick for teams willing to sell the farm. Even if he slides to number 3, the Cleveland Browns are poised to take him and show a slightly struggling Colt McCoy the door.
Some are reporting the Skins should sign Aaron Rodgers’ back up Matt Flynn to a long term deal for the potential he’s shown in limited action. While others in the media spread rumors of the Skins being willing to package future first round picks and/or players to draft RG III or Luck. While those are interesting propositions, the most intriguing and possibly the most destructive (maybe even more so than keeping Grossman and Beck for another year) is the scenario that the Redskins either trade for or pick up in free agency, one of the greatest signal callers the game has seen, Peyton Manning.
The Peyton Propositon
Peyton Manning at 36, is one of the best the NFL has ever seen. But after three neck surgeries in one year, he is possibly one hit away from retirement (assuming he’s healthy even now-which is a big assumption in and of itself).
Pro’s for Peyton:
- He has a huge impact on the team around him through motivation, excellent quarterback play, and elevating the play of those around him significantly.The Colts have been a perennial playoff contender, but became the worst team in the NFL without him this year. Replacement QBs Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky, and Kerry Collins weren’t able to make much use of the same cast that Peyton had and the Colts only put up two wins.
- No one in the league is like Peyton: 94.9 career passer rating with 64.9 completion %, 399 TDs to only 198 Interceptions.
- IF he’s healthy, this differs from a Donovan McNabb situation in two ways
- No one works harder than Peyton in regards to film study, and being on top of his game.
- Peyton is not statistically in decline, his last full year played in Indianapolis was solid: 91.9 passer rating, 66.3%, 33 TD’s and 17 INT’s.
- FILLING OTHER NEEDS: The Skins have a lack of talent at many different positions on this squad. That’s why they were 6-10 last year. Picking up Peyton gives the Skins the ability to address other needs in the draft like cornerback, offensive line, linebacker, and wide receiver. The Redskins may even be able to draft a QB in a later round to groom under Peyton for two to three years.
Problems with the Peyton Plan
- Health- The Redskins would be gambling on Peyton not only being able to recover from his neck surgeries but to stay healthy for a 16 game (or more, hopefully) season. For a veteran of 14 years, this is nearly impossible and more difficult with an often times shaky Redskins offensive line.
- Short term vs. long term- The Redskins may risk mortgaging future progress by taking the band-aid solution now. A young quarterback can often progress much more easily if they are enabled to grow with their offense early on (see Andy Dalton in Cincinnati) and the Shanahan club can ill afford to waste ANOTHER year of quarterback quagmires after the lost years of McNabb and Grossman. This could be a fix for a year or two, but a franchise quarterback be groomed for the next decade and beyond in that time period.
- $$$- Getting Peyton Manning may be costly even though it’s a high risk. There are reports that the Jets, Dolphins and Cardinals are also interested in getting Manning’s services. With the exception of the Dolphins, Manning may see other teams as being closer to another Super Bowl with his help putting them over the top. The Skins may have to make up for that in extra cash (and thus limiting their options for surrounding Peyton with playmakers to help him in his quest).
- Personality, Experience, and Strife – Clashing is bound to happen. Peyton has proved his worth and skill as has Mike Shanahan. But Kyle Shanahan… has not. There could be a clash of epic proportions that made the McNabb wristband, cardiovascular battles look like nothing. This would embarrass and crush the fan base even more than the Swinging Gate or Spurrier years.
If the Redskins can’t trade up to nab RGIII or if they don’t find another young QB they believe is worthy of a first-round draft pick, the Skins should pursue Peyton. I don’t have a problem with a Peyton-led team if everyone on the staff understands their roles AND they draft another qb in a later round they think can groom (not a Chase Daniels or Colt Brennan, but a Ryan Tannehill or Nick Foles). Peyton is the master and must be given flexibility and freedom. It’s going to be interesting to see what the Skins do, but one thing is for sure. This quarterback problem needs to be fixed, and Peyton Manning may be the answer.
After the Redskins started the season 3-1, many fans hoped they were coming out of the rebuilding phase faster than anticipated. Then, they went 1-7 (with six straight losses) and it became clear that it would likely be two more years before they could be considered serious contenders. Now at 4-8 they are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. So, I thought now would be an opportune time to look ahead to their future by grading the two drafts General Manager Bruce Allen and Head Coach Mike Shanahan oversaw in the rebuilding process.
Round 1 (4) LT Trent Williams Oklahoma
Williams has shown that he has the talent to become the rock of the offensive line. He has been a bit inconsistent, but when the line around him gets better that shouldn’t be an issue anymore. He has the speed and strength to get to the second level on run blocking. In pass protection he has proven he can stop elite pass-rushers like DeMarcus Ware.
On the downside, Williams has character issues that may affect his NFL career. He has lost his temper on the field before; earlier this season he pushed a 49ers defender after the whistle and was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. This weekend, news came out that he had failed three drug tests and will be suspended for four games.
If Williams can mature and keep his conduct in check he can be a franchise player and a potential Pro Bowler. If continues to make stupid mistakes he may find himself out of the NFL and considered a huge bust.
Round 4 (103) LB Perry Riley LSU
Riley had a disappointing 2010. He didn’t get on the field often and when he did he made bad mistakes. He’s turned it around this season though. He overtaken Rocky McIntosh as London Fletcher’s starting middle linebacker counterpart. This is thanks in part to his good run defense. He recognizes the run quickly and wraps up well. He had 14 tackles in the Seahawks game. He still needs to work on his pass coverage, but overall he’s been a pleasant surprise this year.
Round 7 (219) WR Terrence Austin UCLA
Austin has been on the active roster both this season and last season but has hardly put up any stats. He’s had strong pre-seasons both years but that hasn’t translated too much regular season opportunity. The fact that the Redskins brass drafted three wideouts in this year’s draft is a little worrying for his future in DC.
Round 7 (229) C/OG Erik Cook New Mexico
Cook spent his rookie season on the practice squad, and was forced into a starting role this year because of a spate of injuries. He has played awful; he is consistently being pushed back into the pocket. Worse, he apparently refused to play guard, which forced center Will Montgomery to slide over and play out of position when starting LG Kory Lichtensteiger was placed on injured reserve. In the seventh round you can only really expect to get backups for your o-line. However, Cook is pretty useless in that role as well. His inflexibility makes him a wasted roster spot.
Round 7 (231) OT Selvish Capers West Virginia
Capers was a practice squad member for all of 2010 and was then cut before the 2011 regular season. He wasn’t given an opportunity to play here but he must be pretty terrible if couldn’t crack the active roster of the Redskins offensive line in the past two years.
After the 23-0 loss to the Bills on Sunday, many Skins fans are calling for head coach Mike Shanahan’s head. That is understandable emotion from a fan base sick of years of losing and embarrassing performances. I’ve certainly overreacted to a loss before and pondered firing Shanahan. But I hope owner Dan Snyder doesn’t get impatient and pull the plug too early, something he’s arguably done before. Norv Turner was fired during a winning season, a year after going to the playoffs. Marty Schottenheimer was never given a chance and was pulled after one year in DC. Joe Gibbs retired from his second stint as Redskins head coach after a year he led the team to the playoffs. What would have happened if any of these coaches had another year or two in DC? What if one had become the guy long term? Would the Redskins still be in this constant state of rebuilding that has lasted over a decade?
So far Mike Shanahan has led the Redskins to a 9-14 record and his offense looks terrible. Still, Snyder and the Redskins fans need to be patient. Firing Shanahan would create more problems than it would solve. Even if the team finishes out the season 3-13, Shanahan should get the 2012 offseason and at least six games next year. Why? To finish out what he started.
Shanahan is currently in year two of a rebuilding process. Fire him and the last two years of losing will have been for nothing. If Snyder brings in a new coach what is the likelihood that the new coach will want to run a 3-4 defense, West Coast offense, and a zone-blocking scheme for the offensive line? Why would Snyder want to bring in a Shanny-clone if he thinks Shanahan failed? Any new coach Snyder brings in will want to blow apart the roster and start again.
A case for Shanahan’s firing can be made easily enough. He misjudged the roster coming in, believing he could win with the team last year. He has put too much faith in his system and his defense. He’s cut players that didn’t fit and brought in some questionable talent that did. Instead of working with players that have obvious football skills but weren’t system matches he let them flounder. Offensive guard Derrick Dockery and defensive end/outside linebacker Andre Carter failed so miserably under Shanahan that they weren’t even tradable.
His QB evaluation has been terrible in his coaching stint so far. First he let go of Jason Campbell last year and brought in Donovan McNabb. Campbell was having a career year and putting up wins in Oakland this year before his season-ending injury. Meanwhile, Donovan McNabb flamed out in D.C. last year, was shipped to Minnesota where he flamed out even more quickly this season. Shanahan went into this season with John Beck and Rex Grossman, two career journeyman as his top two QBs. He believed he could win games with either. It turns out he CAN’T win games with either.
So, why should he get another season after those mistakes? Because some progress has been made and firing him would destroy all that progress. In the first four games the Redskins 3-4 defense was looking stout. The team is still 7th in points allowed at the end of Week 8. They have given up a lot of points and yards since the Week 5 bye, but they have also been dealing with injuries and an offense that hasn’t held the ball for more than 25 minutes the past three games.
That offense has looked horrendous the past few games but it’s had one of the worst rashes of injuries in the NFL. In two of the first four games the Redskins rushed for over 170 yards. Then starting left guard Kory Lichtensteiger went down for the season and starting left tackle Trent Williams injured his ankle. Without those two starters the o-line has looked overmatched. The losses on the offensive line, combined with losing starting RB Tim Hightower for the season, starting TE Chris Cooley for the season, and number one wide-out Santana Moss has turned an average offense to an abysmal one.
But the point is that GM Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan were able to create a good starting core for their West Coast offense and 3-4 defense in the two seasons they’ve been here together. Give them another off-season and they should be able to finish filling in the holes and put some reliable backups in place. Next year an injury to a starter hopefully won’t have such a drastic effect on the team’s chance to win.
Lastly, Shanahan’s hasn’t yet chosen his QB of the future. I admit this is a bit of cop-out here as Rex Grossman, John Beck, and Donovan McNabb have all been floated to the media as “Shanahan’s guy”. Shanahan has had two drafts and not only didn’t spend a high draft pick on a QB he didn’t spend any picks on one. This is almost unconscionable in what is becoming an increasingly quarterback-driven league. The last five Super Bowl winning coaches had their Super Bowl winning QB starting or on the roster during their first year behind the reins. But the fact is Shanahan has bought himself extra time by avoiding this necessary step (perhaps purposefully). There are many QB options in the draft and through trades in the 2012 off-season. Shanahan should be easily able to get a guy that is both high-talent and fits his system. He may even be able to trade for his “now” QB and draft his future QB.
So, let’s stay patient DC. If after six games into the 2012 regular season the Redskins don’t look like they’re on their way to a winning record then Shanahan should get the ax. He’s clearly not going to win here. But I think if you give him another off-season he’ll put in place the next franchise QB, a quality starting offensive line, and roster depth on both sides of the ball. At that point the Redskins should be setup to win for the next few years. But if Snyder gets impatient and fires him this season or during the off-season, he’ll just be restarting the three year rebuilding cycle with a different coach.
Jake and Bryan talk about the Washington Capitals offseason moves. Then Bryan tries to upset Jake in a game of Washington Redskins fantasy football.
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