I usually try a more diplomatic tone when giving my opinion, but it’s time for me to rant and rave for once. The Redskins need to move up and take Robert Griffin III. No buts or ifs, just do it.
Here’s the thing — and I sympathize with the fan base on this one — they’ve never won when drafting a quarterback in the draft. Ramsey was a bust. Campbell, though he had some upside, wasn’t that much better. And if we go a little farther back, some people still haven’t gotten over Heath Shuler. Believe me, Redskins fans, I get it: you don’t trust the Burgundy ‘n’ Gold to pick a winner.
But if the Redskins take Griffin at No. 2 overall, as it can be surmised that that’s where Griffin will go no matter which team drafts him, he will be the highest the Redskins have taken a quarterback in the NFL Draft EVER. Yes, Shuler was a third overall pick and just one behind, but you know what the next highest after him is? Campbell at 25th overall. And after Jason? Ramsey as the LAST pick in the first round. In fact, since 1961, they are the ONLY three quarterbacks Washington has taken in the first round and two of them were on the back end.
This doesn’t mean the Redskins haven’t drafted quarterbacks. In fact, here is a list of every quarterback between 1961 and now that the Redskins have taken out of the first round: Dick Shiner, Tom Flick, Bob Holly, Babe Laufenberg, Jay Schroeder, Mark Rypien, Stan Humphries, Cary Conklin, Chris Hakel, Gus Frerotte, Todd Husak, Sage Rosenfels, Gibran Hamden, Jordan Palmer, and Colt Brennan. Out of those FIFTEEN quarterbacks, how many can you say were legitimate franchise quarterbacks for Washington? Pretty much none. Okay, how about just halfway decent signal callers for the nation’s capital? Two: Schroeder and Rypien.
My point is, despite never denying that quarterback play has been nothing short of a chronic disaster in Washington, Redskins fans have almost never been willing to throw down the big deposit to go and draft the guy that SHOULD be your franchise quarterback. Yes, it’s a risky move. But if there is a surefire way to find a winning quarterback, and I assure you there is not, the Redskins certainly haven’t figured it out.
In the case of Ramsey’s year (2002), I’ll give you the fact that no real winners were above Patrick. In fact, outside of David Garrard in the fourth round, there wasn’t anything even remotely close to a competent quarterback. I’ll give you that under the pretext that it was a fluke.
But do you know who the Green Bay Packers took just one pick ahead of Campbell? Aaron Rodgers. Do you know who the Redskins drafted 15 spots ahead of Rodgers, who is now one of the best quarterbacks in the league? Carlos Rogers. Now you could also say, “But Bryan, what if we had moved up and taken Alex Smith? Wouldn’t that have been a huge disaster?” Probably but given this past season I’m not ready to give up on Smith just yet, either.
I will be the first to admit that you can bet big and lose huge when you take a quarterback as a top five overall player. But there’s a saying that you can’t win the lottery unless you buy a ticket. And thus far in recent history, the Redskins have made nothing more than chump change after settling for two-dollar scratchers.
So here’s a little story for you. A long, long time ago (let’s call it “2001″) in a galaxy far, far away (we’ll call it the NFL Draft) there was this team that felt they needed a quarterback. This team, called the Atlanta Falcons, had the fifth overall pick but worried the guy they liked wouldn’t fall to them. So they gave San Diego three draft picks and a wide receiver (Tim Dwight) for the right to move up four spots to take a fast, athletic quarterback with a good arm named Michael Vick. Eventually, his dog fighting scandal temporarily destroyed the Falcons franchise. But whoever scouted him and told the decision makers, “You need to move up the board and get this guy no matter what” turned out to be right. And this year, that could be Washington.
But even after Vick went to prison, the Falcons walked away having learned a lesson: the top of an NFL draft is the best place to find a franchise quarterback. So in 2008, after licking their wounds from a miserable season, the Falcons went out and did it again and drafted Matt Ryan third overall. Thus far into his young career, Ryan has already made the playoffs with that team that went just 4-12 the year before they drafted him. Oh, by the way, the year before the Falcons took Ryan the Redskins took THEIR “franchise” quarterback who is currently no longer with the team.
So since I have already made the lottery metaphor let’s look at some odds. Here is the list of quarterbacks that have been taken as one of the top five overall selections in an NFL draft since the Redskins bet and lost on Heath Shuler:
-Cam Newton (2011)
-Sam Bradford (2010)
-Matthew Stafford (2009)
-Mark Sanchez (2009)
-Matt Ryan (2008)
-JaMarcus Russell (2007)
-Vince Young (2006)
-Alex Smith (2005)
-Eli Manning (2004)
-Philip Rivers (2004)
-Carson Palmer (2003)
-David Carr (2002)
-Joey Harrington (2002)
-Michael Vick (2001)
-Tim Couch (1999)
-Donovan McNabb (1999)
-Akili Smith (1999)
-Peyton Manning (1998)
-Ryan Leaf (1998)
-Steve McNair (1995)
-Kerry Collins (1995)
There are two things that this list tells me. First, according to this sample size, you have a 57.1% chance of landing a solid quarterback, which is a little better than the typical “bust rate” for ALL first round selections in the NFL. The second thing I see when I look at this list is that, thus far into their careers, the last real flop of a choice was JaMarcuss Russell in 2007. The NFL has gone five years without seeing a serious bust at quarterback when they are considered to be a top-five talent, which is the longest span of time in that entire period. This shows me that scouts are getting smarter and smarter about red flags when it comes to these guys and the odds of finding a franchise quarterback so high is really now even greater.
Redskins fans are saying they don’t want to “mortgage the farm” to go out and get Robert Griffin III, not because they don’t believe he can be a franchise quarterback, but because they’re afraid he might not be. They’re worried they’re looking at a Ryan Leaf when they could just as easily be looking at a Peyton Manning or Michael Vick, and I DARE a Redskins fan to say, dog scandal aside, that they wouldn’t move up the board to take one of those two talents.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: Every draft selection comes with risks and trading away draft picks to move up the board may only increase the pressure, but sometimes you simply get what you pay for. The Redskins have tried too hard for too long to solve their quarterback problems with mid-level draft and free agency talent. Guys like Jason Campbell and Mark Brunell certainly have had their moments in the nation’s capital, but ultimately they proved to be misguided stopgap measures in a bridge to nowhere. If the Redskins believe that Robert Griffin III IS a franchise quarterback that could play the position at a high caliber in Washington for a decade or so, than they should exhaust every effort to get him, because he is just that. Washington has seen what settling for a Ryan Tannehill later in the draft or signing an aging veteran like Peyton Manning in free agency gets them and it doesn’t include a Lombardi trophy.
NOTE: This article was originally published on SportsHead. To read this story and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t standing on a soap box, he’s tweeting! Follow him on Twitter @bclienesch!