It's the height of draft season, ladies and gents.
We are only a few short weeks until the 2011 NFL draft takes place, and the Redskins faithful can look at their newest batch of players ready to suit up in burgundy and gold, whenever it is that the season gets under way.
The Washington Redskins have many, many holes to fill, and not a lot to fill with them. But in a lot of people's minds, there is no bigger hole than quarterback; as has been said time and time again, you're only as good as your quarterback. Lots of solid football teams struggled because their quarterback couldn't play, and the Redskins and their fans certainly can understand that.
The Redskins haven't had a franchise quarterback since the times when Joe Theissman played. From Heath Schuler to Jason Campbell to Donovan McNabb, the Redskins have searched for a franchise caliber quarterback for years, to various and mostly mixed results. Some guys have had brief flashes (Gus Ferrotte, Mark Brunell, Jason Campbell), others have been utter busts (Jay Shroeder, Heath Shulder, Patrick Ramsey). Hell, Steven Spurrier drafted, like, three quarterbacks and still couldn't find one who was good enough to play.
The 2010 season wound up being another turn in the "Redskins can't find a quarterback to save their lives" (literally) saga, as a year has passed since Donovan McNabb was traded for, and for all intents and purposes, he's going to be gone as well.
So here we are yet again. Another draft, another question of who to take at quarterback.
If you ask me, the majority of the fanbase seems to be split between University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker, and TCU quarterback Andy Dalton. Both guys are four year starters who bring very, very different skill sets to the table.
Jake Locker was actually a running back before being converted to a Wing-T quarterback in high school. He was recruited to the University of Washington and was originally an option quarterback, until Steve Sarkisian was bought in to be the head coach and installed a Pro-Style offense. Locker is seen as a guy who has all the physical tools; he's got great size, a big arm, and can make plays with his legs. But he's struggled with accuracy his entire collegiate career.
On the move, he's a playmaker. When rolling out and getting Locker out of the pocket, you'll be hard pressed to find another quarterback on the board that has his accuracy and playmaking ability. But when you make him stay in the pocket, it breaks down. His completion percentage fell from 58 percent in 2009 to 54 percent in 2010. Locker attributed the drop in completion percentage to him being more judicious with the ball and throwing the ball away more often instead of taking more chances, which could be seen as a good and bad thing.
It's not hard to see why Locker would be more accurate on the move than in the pocket; he's always been on the move, since high school. But the jury's out on whether he can develop that kind of accuracy in the pocket.
Meanwhile, Andy Dalton is a guy that many a fan would be happy to have. All Andy Dalton did was win at his time in TCU. His completion percentage consistently rose all four years, the interceptions fell, and as a senior he led his team to a perfect season, and helped the Horned Frogs stun the Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl.
There are a few knocks on Dalton, however. For one, he comes out of the ever-popular spread offense. This probably isn't as big an idea from a "reading defense" standpoint as much as a coming out from under center standpoint, as TCU's offense was still relatively close to being pro-style—he still had to make multiple reads, communicate protections and go through his protections.
The other knock on him is his arm strength. It's not that it's bad; it's solid enough for the offense the Redskins run. It's more about how much "oomph" he can put on the ball; while he has good touch and solid accuracy, he can also float balls, and his release and delivery isn't as quick as you'd like.
Perhaps the best way to view two quarterbacks is to look at two quarterbacks already in league, and with ties to the Redskins in one way or another; Donovan McNabb and Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub.
Locker compares to McNabb in a lot of ways. Coming out of Syracuse, McNabb also had concerns about his accuracy, and people wondered if he relied on his legs too much as well. There has never been any doubt about McNabb's physical traits; he had the body. He had the arm. He had the leadership ability. But people wondered about his consistency.
Those questions still remain about McNabb today, especially after this season. In McNabb's 15-year career, he's only had four seasons where his completion percentage was over 60 percentage. In college, after being a four-year starter, he had just two seasons where his completion percentage was over 60 percent. Just like Locker, these inconsistencies were often blamed on the lack of talent around him, and those same things were said about McNabb after he came to the NFL. Is that not the number one thing Redskins fans have heard?
Meanwhile, Matt Schaub was a third-round draft pick by Atlanta in 2004. Coming out of Virginia, Schaub had a solid track record of success, but wasn't thought of as starting quarterback material. Schaub served primarily as the back-up to Michael Vick, before Gary Kubiak and the Texans traded for him in 2007.
Schaub doesn't have the biggest arm in the world, and he's not going to make a whole lot of plays with his legs, but he makes up for it by being accurate with the football, having a solid command of his offense, and utilizing good decision making.
Ultimately, the quarterback of this team will have to be decided by one thing: does Mike Shanahan pick the quarterback, or does Kyle Shanahan get an honest say?
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was reported to have been against the Donovan McNabb trade for the start, and he was proved to be right; McNabb wasn't a good fit for the offense. In Houston, Kyle had a quick-thinking, accurate quarterback who could get himself out of bad plays and did a solid job of identifying defenses weak points.
Meanwhile, head coach Mike Shanahan saw someone with a big arm and great mobility and made a move on him. In some ways, McNabb must have reminded him of John Elway; 34 and towards the end of his career. A playmaker and a known leader who made it to championships, but never quite managed to win the big one. Shanahan has become known as a man who can groom quarterbacks and fix some of their issues; why would McNabb be different?
It's no wonder that McNabb and Kyle butted heads; Kyle never wanted him to begin with, because he was a big play quarterback in an offense that operated between the hashes, that utilized shorter passes to move the ball, while McNabb came from big play central in Philadelphia. There is a reason why Rex Grossman looked better in his playing time than McNabb did through thirteen games. Grossman showed McNabb up between the hashes, and was more accurate on the short and intermediate stuff than McNabb was.
While some knock Kyle for not adapting enough, even when he did add more screens and checkdowns to the offense, McNabb still struggled to make the throws. The switch from Andy Reid's more "quarterback friendly" (read: throw it deep if you have it, check it down if you don't) offense was too much for a quarterback that has struggled with accuracy for most of his career.
Ladies and gentlemen, in this scenario, Jake Locker is Donovan McNabb. Big arm, all the intangibles, a stand-up guy in a lot of ways. But his lack of accuracy makes him an ill fit. Meanwhile, Andy Dalton is Matt Schaub; he doesn't have the big arm, doesn't have the same kind of mobility, but he's accurate, he's a great decision maker, and he's got all the other intangibles.
The NFL is a pass-first league, but even so, some of the most elite quarterbacks don't have arm strength and aren't hugely mobile. Drew Brees and Tom Brady don't have the biggest arms, but they make up for it by making quick decisions with the football that keep their offenses moving and defenses on their heels.
Which quarterback would you take if given the opportunity?
So there's the big question when it comes to quarterbacks: it's a battle between the intangibles, the physical and the consistency, so who is the best fit?
If you ask me, the better fit would by Andy Dalton. Rumors leaking out of Redskins Park say that Kyle Shanahan likes what Dalton brings to the table as well.
Rumors also have it that Mike Shanahan is still high on Jake Locker, in his quest to find the next John Elway.
The last time the Shanahans wanted different quarterbacks didn't turn out too well for them.
Here's hoping Mike Shanahan listens to his son Kyle.
And here's hoping no matter what, we Keep DC Cam Newton Free.