For several months now, many Redskins fans have been clamoring for management to use the fourth pick in the upcoming draft on a left tackle (Russell Okung). These fans' main argument is well known: "A quarterback can't succeed behind a horrible offensive line, no matter who it is."
In fact, the argument for using the first round pick on a lineman goes hand-in-hand with the arguments of the Jason Campbell sympathizers. Most of the people who want Okung in the first round also believe Campbell is the long-term answer for the Redskins at quarterback.
The problem with their argument lies in the reality that an offensive line cannot be fixed in one year, and certainly not with one high draft pick. This is demonstrated clearly by Washington's draft in 2000. With the third pick overall, the Redskins selected Chris Samuels.
Did the selection of the best left tackle in the 2000 draft lead to years of prosperity for the Redskins? Obviously not. Their offensive line was okay in the early 2000s, but their offense was not lighting the league on fire. In fact, the biggest problem for the Redskins' lack of offense in the past decade has been the absence of a franchise quarterback.
In its current disastrous state, Washington's offensive line will take at least two years of drafting and free agent signing to properly strengthen. That fact leads to the question of whether or not it would then be worth spending such a high draft pick on a player such as Okung. Even if he plays at the level of Samuels for the next decade, will he fix the Redskins offensive woes?
History shows that only one position can consistently put a team into the upper echelon of offenses: the quarterback. And, unlike the offensive line, the quarterback position can be completely fixed by a single draft pick.
I'm a firm believer in what Mike Mayock said this week about the Redskins' draft philosophy this year. He said that if the Redskins believe there is a franchise quarterback available in this year's draft, then a "franchise quarterback trumps all other needs." The question is whether or not Mike Shanahan believes Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen is a franchise quarterback.
In 2000, when the Redskins badly needed Chris Samuels with the No. 3 pick, what would have happened if they had taken Tom Brady instead? Would Brady not have had the success he had in New England because his offensive line was not very good? If that would have happened, the Redskins would have built the line around Brady, and he would have been just as great in Washington as in New England.
There will always be several good offensive linemen available in every draft, as well as in free agency. But how often does a team have the opportunity to pick up a franchise quarterback? There might be one, maybe two, good quarterbacks available every year, and usually in the high picks of the draft.
It may be a long time before the Redskins have an opportunity to pick so high in the draft again. Simple economics of supply and demand come into play in this situation. The supply of good offensive linemen is high, but the supply of good quarterbacks is very low. Therefore, the value (or demand) of a good quarterback is much higher.
The Redskins will be looking at a quarterback in the first round, unless Shanahan seriously believes Jason Campbell will be very good in the future. Does he believe in Campbell? The suspense is almost over, and we're all about to find out.