Although the fan and media conversation about the NFL draft focuses on needs for the coming season, the draft is more about the long-term future than the short-term outlook. Between now and the draft we’re looking at how the Redskins are set up for the long haul at each position on the field. Today, we look at the quarterback position.
The Redskins were widely expected to take a quarterback in last year’s draft and the expectation became a slam-dunk when they traded up to the second pick of the draft. The selection of Robert Griffin III was hardly news by the time it happened.
But two days later Mike Shanahan made news in the fourth round when he tabbed Kirk Cousins. The surprise pick sparked outrage and ridicule among many fans and analysts saying that other needs had to be addressed. Talking heads stirred the pot by concocting scenarios of a quarterback controversy brewing.
The events of the past year, with Cousins filling in nicely for Griffin when RG3 had some injury issues, have more than vindicated the pick already. If Griffin misses significant playing time and Cousins can keep the team’s playoff chances strong for as long as he’s the starter the pick could be labeled as a stroke of genius. If the Redskins are able to get a high draft pick or two for Cousins at some point after this season, the Cousins pick would be up there with the best draft picks of all time.
Given all of that, it would be dangerous to predict that there is no way the Redskins will pick a quarterback in this year’s draft. But it is safe to say that taking a QB is unlikely.
The reason is the situation with Griffin’s knee. Despite the talk of a record setting, ahead of schedule recovery by the superhuman quarterback, the fact remains that of he might not be ready for Week 1. That means Cousins could well be the starter for a period of time at the beginning of the season. Rex Grossman, a veteran who knows the offense well, would back up Cousins. (It seems unlikely that the recently signed Pat White will be in the picture but if he is, that makes getting a QB in the draft even more unlikely.)
If the Redskins drafted a quarterback (presumably somewhere in the late going) there would be no place for him on the 53. Grossman would be handcuffed to the roster. There is no way that Shanahan would set up a situation where the team would be one hit away from having a sixth-round quarterback taking the snaps.
The situation probably would not change during the season. When Griffin gets back into the lineup, his right knee will be under the microscope. Even assuming that all precautions are taken, there is a risk that he will have to miss games later in the season. That again puts the third-string quarterback one hit away from taking snaps and Shanahan will want an experienced hand available for that role.
A year from now things could be different. If Griffin doesn’t have any setbacks the organization could be confident enough to let Rex walk away and either go with two QB’s or draft one as a future backup.
One thing that has to be considered is Cousins’ contract. He has three years left to go. Cousins is going nowhere this year. After the 2015 season he will be able to walk away for not compensation. So they have two more opportunities to deal him, in the spring of 2014 and in 2015. In order to do that, they will need to have a backup quarterback in place. Since the quality of free agent quarterbacks on the market has tended to be poor lately, that might mean drafting one.
Could they go with a QB who, unlike Cousins, is capable of running the read option offense that helped Griffin thrive? Perhaps, but it has to be the right guy. Plenty of college quarterbacks have mobility but few have the arm strength and accuracy of RG3 and it is the passing threat that makes the offense click. And those few could be in very high demand.
But that is next year. For 2013, it would be very surprising if the Redskins tab a quarterback. But remember that the conventional wisdom, even when it is backed up by sound logic, does not always apply.