It may only be Week 8, but it's never too early to start looking at the future.
It's (mostly) safe to say that as good as the Washington Redskins have looked (or as bad), the team is probably not going to the Super Bowl this year, unless a lot of things fall their way. Which isn't to say the season is a total bust; quite the opposite. This year has already been a tremendous success compared to last season in terms of competency and leadership on the the team.
That being said, with a year to mature in the system, and solid free agency and draft classes on the horizon, it looks like maybe the 2011 Washington Redskins will be an even better team, and have a better shot to contend. Again, we're a ways off from the Super Bowl, but continued improvement is key.
That in mind, let's look at some of the pieces that will fall into (or remain) in place for a future that looks a bit brighter than it has in a long time.
Let's start with the quarterback, as that's the backbone of our team. For years, the Redskins have been without a true leader and franchise quarterback at the helm. Occasionally people have come close, but for the most part, our QB situation has been grim.
This year, we finally have the one guy who can add stability to the position. That one man is...
Some of you rejoiced when you read the title of this slide, some of you gritted your teeth, but face it: there's no one out there better than Donovan McNabb.
I know that he's struggling. I know that some want youth, and others just want a better quarterback in general. And I know some love him for what he brings to the table regardless.
Let's look pragmatically at this here. There is only one quarterback who could come into the system and do what Donovan can do, given time to mature in the system. The QB free agent market isn't the best except for that one guy, and even he would have to come in and learn a completely new system. That means we could end up in the situation we are now; a franchise QB with wildly inconsistent play and boneheaded moves.
Playing one offense and one style of football for 11 years is a hard thing to get over. Coming and having everyone expect you to grasp a new system all in a matter of months is even tougher.
McNabb simply gives us the best chance to win, and will continue to do so next year. If not, the only other viable option at QB is...
That's right. Michael Vick.
The next best thing to Michael Vick is Matt Hasselbeck. That's how you know next year's free agent quarterback marketplace is bad, unless Peyton Manning magically ends up making it to free agency.
In theory, Michael Vick is the exact kind of quarterback Coach Mike Shanahan loves. Big arm. Able to get out of the pocket and make plays with both his arm and his legs. Michael Vick is a nightmare for teams to defend and game plan for, and would usually be the kind of guy Mike Shanahan would love to have. This year he's displayed great accuracy and has apparently gotten better at standing in the pocket and trying to let the play develop before he takes off.
There is a certain amount of drama surrounding Michael Vick, that will always surround Michael Vick, considering what he did. No matter how great a player he is, his character will be forever tarnished, no matter how many changes he's made. I'd go as far as to say that the Redskins would lose a lot of older, hardcore fans if Michael Vick were to come to the DMV.
And if there's one thing Coach Shanahan wants less of, it's drama.
Of course, provided he's available, Coach Shanahan could always draft his next project quarterback. Perhaps...
Cam Newton is a quarterback that Shanahan would love to have and develop under McNabb, and he's also the one that's slightly more attainable, should he decide to declare himself eligible for the NFL Draft in 2011. But if McNabb were to leave, he wouldn't be a bad option to draft. He may not be able to start right away, but once he got acclimated with the speed of the game, he seems to possess the tools to get the job done.
He's a big quarterback at 6'6" and 250 pounds, but he's a big guy who's able to get out of the pocket and make plays with his legs. He's also has something that McNabb has struggled with--accuracy. A big guy, that size, that can run, roll out of the pocket, make play action passes, and run for a first down...what the hell is not to like?
Newton is a contender the Heisman troph, and has already broken many of the records set by former Heismann winner Tim Tebow.
There are a lot of teams in desperate needs of quarterbacks this year. When Jake Locker, Andrew Luck and Ryan Mallet all get taken in the first round, teams will come looking for Newton...
Likewise, I don't see the Redskins spending a first round pick on a quarterback unless they absolutely have to. There are bigger things that the Redskins need in the draft, or at least I'm sure they'll think about it that way.
They still need a better guy at nose tackle, and solid pass rusher to work alongside Brian Orakpo, and help on the o-line. With no third-or-fourth round picks, taking a quarterback when the position may be settled is a risky proposition.
However, this QB class looks pretty good. And should either one of these two fall into the second round of the draft, it might be pretty good to move up in the draft and snatch them up...
Yes, that Jay Cutler. Yes, the guy who just threw four picks in the game versus the Redskins, then went on to say he'd target the guy who picked him off four times every time.
(Chicago QB's have a knack for saying stupid crap; just ask Rex Grossman sometime.)
It's hard to ignore the fact that it was Mike Shanahan who drafted and bought Jay Cutler to Denver in the first place. It's also hard to ignore that he had a fair amount of success in Shanahan's offense as well, and that he was traded to Chicago not over his inablity to play (he made the Pro Bowl in 2008, after all), but over personal issues with new head coach Josh McDaniels after Shanahan was fired.
The Bears are just not a quarterback friendly team. Shanahan himself pointed out the fact that the Broncos kept Jay protected in Denver. He's been critisized for holding onto the ball too long, but behind that line, a sense of paranoia has to set in. Cutler was solid in his time in Denver and was panning out to be the kind of QB whose name was being spoken with the likes of Brady and Manning.
Provided that we could get a good value for him, bringing Jay Cutler to the team wouldn't be a bad idea, other than a potential UFC match between him and Hall. It would be yet another Bronco added to the Redskins, but hey, Jay Cutler is young, and his best years of football are still ahead of him. And if Ryan Torain and Kory Lichensteiger are any sign, Mike Shanahan has a pretty damn good eye for talent.
A Shanahan/Cutler reunion wouldn't be a bad thing, all in all. In theory. Unless he throws four picks to Asante Samuel in a game or something.
Kyle Orton is yet another young quarterback who has been stuck in bad situations. He always seemed to be tugged around by the Bears, as they never seemed willing to completely commit to the guy, despite the fact that he played well whenever he got in the game. His first season in Chicago seemed to be an eternal struggle to get a starting job. He eventually did win it and led the Bears to a 9-7 season...and was thanked by getting traded to Denver.
For a while the trade seemed to work for Denver, as they got out to a 6-0 start in 2008, before falling off a cliff and finishing the season 8-8. This prompted Denver to draft the heavily hyped Tim Tebow.
While Orton has been on pace to have a good season, without a running game to support him, the Denver Broncos have struggled, including an embarassing thrashing at the hands of the Oakland Raiders.
With Coach Josh McDaniels on the hot seat and pressure from the fan base (and the media, to a lesser extend) to start Tim Tebow, Orton may soon find himself on the outs in Denver. Again, provided McNabb doesn't sign an extension, Orton would be another good guy to target and trade for next season, and it's possible he could be had for a steal.
Of course, there's still a back up.
"Sexy" Rex Grossman has the most experience of anyone in this offense, and would have spent two years in the offense. It could be possible that, should McNabb slip away to free agency, the Redskins chose to stay with Rex for the experience factor of all.
In theory, there's worse quarterbacks to have than Rex Grossman. After all, he did help the Bears to the Super Bowl versus the Indianapolis Colts.
However, there's a number of downsides as well. He was drafted by the Bears in 2003, but inconsistent play and nagging injuries kept him bench for most of his tenure. When he finally got in the game, he did lead the Bears to an NFC Championship win, but most of that success was pinned on the great Bears defense. Grossman's "gunslinger" style means he's willing to take chances like the best gunslinger there is, Brett Favre.
Of course, the best gunslinger there is also has the most interceptions and makes the most dumb plays.
Rex Grossman is the same kind of guy as McNabb is, in that he can have an outstanding game one week and completely tank it the next. He also doesn't have the same playmaking ability as McNabb does under pressure. His work ethic has been questioned and he's been benched a number of times.
This was clear in the preseason, as Grossman seemed solid at times while looking incredibly bad at others. Rex Grossman also doesn't bring the kind of leadership you need in a quarterback.
Has a team ever rallied around Rex Grossman?
Even though he's playing well, it's likely that Hasselbeck's career in Seattle will be over. If there are simply no better options...he's the best one.
Alex Smith is a free agent, but he's the worst of the bunch as far as consistency. Matt Moore has shown flashes of goodness (not greatness) in his time in Carolina, but it's not likely he'd be able to be the quarterback we need.
Hasselbeck, at the very least, brings another veteran to the mix to keep the leadership going, if not the play. Hasselbeck was great at one time, and he's performed solid this season, but it's not likely we'd get much production out of the guy if we were that hard up for a QB.
God forbid we get that hard up.
For now, I still think McNabb will be our quarterback. With the uncertainty of the CBA, and with Peyton Manning still waiting for a contract, not to mention having to work with a salary cap in the next season, it's not really surprising that contract negotiations have been slowly, despite some fans panic (and other fans satisfaction, apparenty) that he won't be here by the end of the year.
Donovan McNabb gives the Redskins the best chance to win, now and in the future, just because of his play making ability. He'll always have his bad games, but then he'll come back and look like a superstar stud in another game.
That said, there are some good quarterback prospects that can come in and perform well, depending on how the cards fall. There's also a couple not so good options that you hope it doesn't come down to.
I still believe the Redskins have a solid team for the future. With a coach with an eye for talent like Mike Shanahan and a competent front office, I feel confident we'll be safe in the future.
Or we'll have Rex Grossman as our quarterback, and I'll curl in a ball and cry.