Those Redskins fans exasperated by their franchise's profligate free-agent spending and wasteful attitude when it comes to draft picks (especially in the Vinny Cerrato "era") would be forgiven for believing that owner Dan Snyder had finally gone completely around the bend. Under different conditions, the Friday trade with the St. Louis Rams that gave first-round picks in 2013 and 2014, switched first-rounders in 2012, and cost an additional second-round pick in 2012 for the right to select Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III with the second-overall pick in 2012 would seem to be yet another case of Snyder's team being pennywise and pound-foolish. And when it comes to multi-pick trades for quarterbacks, there's no middle ground -- if you do it, you're either a genius or an idiot.
In 2004, the New York Giants swapped first-round draft picks with the San Diego Chargers (going from fourth overall to first), their 2005 first-round pick, and their third- and fifth-round picks in 2005 for the rights to quarterback Eli Manning. Since that day, and after some rough spots early on, Manning has proven the wisdom of the move by nabbing two Super Bowl MVP awards.
In 1997, the Chicago Bears traded their first-round pick outright (the eleventh overall) for the "privilege" of acquiring Seattle Seahawks quarterback Rick Mirer. Mirer was a washout in Chicago, while the Seahawks selected tackle Walter Jones, the greatest player in franchise history, with one of their two first-round picks. Meanwhile, the Bears' ongoing and fruitless search for an elite quarterback had them acquiring Jay Cutler by sending first-round picks to the Denver Broncos in 2009 and 2010, and sweetening the pot with a third-round choice and quarterback Kyle Orton.
So, yeah -- the risk/reward meter is pretty much off the charts here.
But in the case of Griffin and the Redskins, there are a few myths that need busting. First, the oft-repeated idea that the Redskins are giving up three first-round picks? They're not. They're giving up two first-round picks outright, and moving up from sixth to second overall this year to select a player who might change their quarterback situation for the better after a decade of serious misfires.
Second, the idea that without first-round picks in 2013 and 2014, the Redskins are doomed in a draft sense. While it takes more football acumen to make those later picks stand out, current Giants general manager Jerry Reese said at the 2008 scouting combine that the second half of the draft is where personnel executives earn their paychecks. Reese knows of what he speaks -- with just four picks in the 2005 draft as a result of the Eli trade, the Giants hit big on three of those picks with cornerback Corey Webster, running back Brandon Jacobs, and defensive lineman Justin Tuck. Reese was the team's Director of Player Personnel at that time -- he coordinated all the scouting reports and ran the draft room when the Giants transcended their relative lack of draft capital. The Redskins are not "totally hosed" by this trade if they exhibit similar skill in the later rounds.
Third, this Redskins organization is more willing to do so.
To a certain degree, the Mike Shanahan organization is paying the price for the sins of others, and Shanahan proved that in 2011. When he could have overpicked with the 10th overall selection, Shanahan instead traded down and out, leaving the 'Skins with 12 overall picks -- the first time they'd selected in every round since 1995. In addition to outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan in the first round, the Redskins also got value and talent with less-heralded players like Roy Helu, Jarvis Jenkins, and Evan Royster. The Redskins took a gamble on Donovan McNabb and failed, but the idea that Shanahan will follow Cerrato into the depths of personnel hell is a canard.
And speaking of canards, let's please dispense with the myth that Griffin is a single-read spread offense quarterback who can do nothing but outrun his mistakes. In 2011, Griffin completed 72.4 percent of his passes while leading the nation in yards per attempt. Not only can he make every throw, he can make every throw consistently and accurately -- and he can do it from the pocket. And if you want to know how quickly he can transition from a three-digit shotgun system to "Brown Right F Short 2 Jet Flanker Drive," let's just say that it won't take years for Griffin to grasp Shanahan's West Coast offense concepts.
Before Griffin re-drew the play (and even drew up the protection without being asked or shown what the protection was), Mariucci asked Griffin what he thought was the biggest misconception about him. "That I'm an athlete playing quarterback -- I'm just a quarterback who happens to be an athlete. I don't have to run first; I like to stay in the pocket. My job as the quarterback is to be the point guard of the team. Trying to help everybody -- whether it's the running back, trying to tell the offensive line where to go, or getting those receivers the balls they deserve."
Griffin discussed more advanced offensive ideas during his media seession at the scouting combine.
"West Coast offenses with Washington and Cleveland -- [they're] highly concept-based, long verbiage in the plays," he said. "But other than that, once you get into a system, it's easy to learn it. I'm not saying I'm going to open the playbook and know it immediately. Once you can get on the field and start going through the routes and the protections that you're going to have to run in those types of offenses, it comes to you a lot sooner."
The Griffin comparisons are many; it seems that people want to pigeonhole RGIII into a slot that makes him like every other African-American quarterback to come down the pike in the last 30 years -- from Cam Newton (goofy) to Vince Young (utterly ridiculous). I see Griffin as a more accurate and efficient version of Randall Cunningham at this point, but the frequent Michael Vick comparisons could prove instructive in this case.
When Vick had his post-jail coming-out party in the NFL, remember who he did it against? Yep -- Mike Shanahan's Washington Redskins. On November 15, 2010 -- the same day McNabb signed a contract extension with the Redskins -- Vick showed what a mobile quarterback with a demon arm could do to a defense when he was at the very height of his abilities. In a 59-28 thrashing of the 'Skins, Vick became the first player in NFL history with at least 300 yards passing, 50 yards rushing, four passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in a game. The Eagles haven't lost to the Redskins since.
The Redskins made a mistake with McNabb, and they've made so many mistakes before that one, especially at the quarterback position. But even with the inevitable uncertainly surrounding any draft prospect, the 'Skins are making this move for all the right reasons.
And for that reason, they could be the big winners when this trade is discussed years from now.
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