In big trade, Redskins make a midnight call

Mike Wise
Columnist March 10, 2012

This is being typed minutes after it has been confirmed the Washington Redskins have moved up in the draft to pluck their first genuine franchise quarterback out of college in almost 20 years.

And though it makes all the sense in the world to question the wisdom of giving up so much of your future — three first-round picks, including Washington’s No. 6 overall selection and a second-round pick this year, to the St. Louis Rams for the No. 2 pick – it’s time to pause for one millisecond to reflect on what just happened:

Mike Wise is a sports columnist for The Washington Post. View Archive

Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor whose dreadlocks flowed from his helmet as he darted upfield like a souped-up racecar and treated defenses like pylons, will almost certainly be coming to Washington with the hope he can rescue the Mike Shanahan era and bring Daniel Snyder the one thing money has never been able to procure for the owner:

The adoration of his fan base, agonizingly waiting, two decades now, for a genuine Super Bowl run.

Yes, Washington, you just got RGIII. His accurate arm, his tuck-and-run legs and the smile and I-got-this-covered demeanor that will sell more club seats than Donovan McNabb or Rex Grossman could ever dream.

Now comes the reality check: The kid needs to show promise immediately and deliver a postseason to remember within five years or less. In point of fact, he needs to be a Pro Bowler.

The Redskins finally addressed their No. 1 need. Shanahan’s cutting-and-pasting at quarterback — first the McNabb debacle, then trying to siphon something out of Grossman and John Beck — held the franchise back in ways that an occassionally nails defense could not fix. But the future was just mortgaged on one player.

If RGIII isn’t special, if he can’t resuscitate the offense, this move basically sets the franchise back for the rest of this decade.

This was incredibly risky for a team with so many holes — a bet-big-to-win-big move, a roll of the dice predicated on Shanahan’s belief that this well-put-together young man on seemingly every level is the key to turning around the Redskins.

Among their needs still remaining — safety, offensive line, wideouts — the Redskins now must go out and get one big-time wide receiver in free agency for RGIII. Another playmaker should be a priority.

But let’s be honest: When the news began filtering out late Friday night, when the team emblem was plastered all over ESPN and NFL Network under the heading “Blockbuster Deal,” it suddenly felt like old times, didn’t it?

Less than five days before the free-agent signing period began and the Redskins had already made a gallant run at the offseason title, Champions of Buzz.

Again.

Steve Spurrier and Jim Zorn were monster gambles by Snyder, out-of-the-box hires that ultimately blew up in the owner’s face. But never has he made a larger wager on a player, literally betting it all on the hope that the Heisman Trophy winner can become the key cog in multiple playoff runs for a franchise that hasn’t been to back-to-back postseasons since 1993.

Look, I was on record saying three first-round picks and more were too much for RGIII. But now that the deal is all but done, how can you not like this kid and the risk vs. reward he represents?

If he is the alternative to acquiring Peyton Manning, I’m for it. They needed to get younger at that position and get away from buying some other town’s star.

But let’s be clear: His initials might as well stand for Riverboat Gambler, because that’s what he represents to Shanahan.

Griffin’s got a little Steve Young and Michael Vick in him, mixed in with a little Randall Cunningham and Fran Tarkenton. He can throw as well as he runs. Yes, it’s a drop-back passer league. That’s who always wins the trophy in February.

But this is a new league, built around offensive stars – many of whom are more and more protected by the rules and by the fact that their numbers earn millions via fantasy leagues co-opted by the NFL.

It’s still surreal, even as I type this at 12:50 a.m., it appears RGIII is a few months from officially becoming a Redskin. Daniel Snyder, Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen just bet the house on one electrifying college player. Hope has been sold again, and this time they all better be right.

Either way, away we go.

For Mike Wise’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/wise.

More on the Redskins:

Redskins make blockbuster trade for No. 2 pick

Poll: What do you think of the trade?

Gallery: Robert Griffin III in photos

Redskins not on Peyton Manning’s itinerary

Latest Redskins updates on The Insider

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