The Washington Redskins guaranteed themselves the chance to draft Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III by trading for the St. Louis Rams' second overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Luck and Griffin, as I have previously attested to, are two of the best quarterback prospects to come out of the draft in a very long time.
For that reason, the Redskins had to pay a very high price for the Rams' pick, giving up a first- and second-round choice in this year's draft as well as two more first-round picks over the next three years. The Redskins made the move once it became clear that Peyton Manning was not going to be signing for them.
By trading for the right to select Griffin, who is more likely to be the second pick than Luck, the franchise is investing its future in a 22-year-old quarterback who hasn't played a snap of professional football in his career.
While Andrew Luck will face the daunting prospect of replacing Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, Griffin must now deal with the pressure of having the future of the Redskins franchise hang over his head.
Or does he?
When you break down the trade, the Redskins really aren't mortgaging their future on Griffin. Obviously they are investing in him and hoping for him to be their franchise quarterback for the next decade, but they aren't really giving up that much to get him.
First and foremost, teams no longer have to invest massively in unproven draft choices because of the rookie wage scale which was implemented after last season's lockout. The Redskins have a lot of cap space to build around Griffin in the short term, while they won't have to commit to a potentially franchise-crippling contract to sign him.
The days of committing $40 million to unproven draft choices are gone, so even if Griffin is not as advertised and becomes the next JaMarcus Russell, then the Redskins can simply reboot in three years time, essentially in the same position as they are now.
NFL quarterbacks generally take three years to properly adjust to the professional game, and as such, cannot be evaluated properly until after their third year. The Redskins have given up draft choices in each of the next three seasons to give themselves the opportunity to evaluate Griffin as their starter during that span.
Unlike most teams who get a prospect on Griffin's level, the Redskins roster doesn't need to be completely rebuilt, so Griffin should have every opportunity to succeed.
Despite finishing 5-11 last year, much of the Redskins' failures were caused by poor play at the quarterback position. Rex Grossman, who started most of the games ahead of John Beck, anchored the Redskins offense with his mediocre and inconsistent performances, putting too much pressure on the defense.
The Redskins are not far away from being a playoff side.
Like every team, they have holes to fill, but they also have enough talent to take advantage of Griffin's abilities. Defensively, Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen, Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, O.J. Atogwe, Josh Wilson, DeAngelo Hall and, should they return, London Fletcher and LaRon Landry are all more than capable NFL starters who form a formidable defensive unit underneath Jim Haslett. Defensively the Redskins do not have 5-11 talent. They were hurt massively by the team's minus-14 turnover ratio, as the offense had 35 turnovers.
More importantly for Griffin, the team's offense is built to flourish with the former Heisman Trophy winner under center. Griffin has a huge arm with very good accuracy as well as an ability to escape defenders with his feet. He doesn't have a problem with hanging in the pocket, while he can also throw on the move. All of those aspects of his game are better than Rex Grossman's, which make him the perfect fit in Kyle Shanahan's offense.
He will need upgrades at wide receiver, but his transition to the NFL will be eased by having star left tackle Trent Williams in place, as well as a reliable tight end in Fred Davis. As I have already pointed out, the Redskins have enough cap space to build around Griffin in the short term. Bringing in wide receivers would be the only major need the offense has to deal with.
Because the Redskins don't actually need to fill that many holes on their roster, they can afford to not have first-round picks over the coming years. Draft picks are vital for rebuilding sides. Sides who are just looking to retool certain parts of their roster can do so through free agency.
With their franchise quarterback in place, the Redskins would only need to find role players in free agency to complement him. With their franchise quarterback in place, the Redskins would have a chance to compete for supremacy in the NFC East.
Having a franchise quarterback is the most important thing in the NFL.
When you look at the surface of the league's landscape, you can see that there is a gulf in class between the teams with an elite quarterback and those without. In fact, if you go back through the past 10 Super Bowl winners, you will find a recurring theme.
Since 2002, Tom Brady, Brad Johnson, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers have been the Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. Save for Brad Johnson, whose defense forced five turnovers in the 2003 Super Bowl, each of those quarterbacks are considered elite in today's NFL.
The simple fact is, if you haven't got a capable quarterback in today's NFL, those who do have one are going to easily sweep past you.
Just look at last season. While Brees, Brady and Matthew Stafford all joined Dan Marino as the only players to ever pass for over 5,000 yards, Cam Newton was having the greatest rookie season of all time with the Carolina Panthers.
The Redskins had no chance of competing with those teams on the arm of Rex Grossman. Grossman has always been a mediocre quarterback because of his inconsistent play. Mediocre quarterbacks anchor offenses and render them ineffective.
Washington couldn't continue with mediocrity at the position and expect to improve over 5-11. With the opportunity to add a rare talent to the roster in his place, the Redskins had no choice but to trade with the St. Louis Rams.
Every personnel move in the NFL is a task of balancing the risk and reward factors that come with each acquisition. The risk factor of taking Griffin is almost nonexistent. Sure, they may miss out on drafting a quarterback like Matt Barkley next year or the year after, but what would be the point in waiting to draft another quarterback to go through the same process with?
Franchise owner Daniel Snyder made the right move this time despite failing dramatically in the past.
Washington Redskins, I salute you.
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