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Washington Redskins need a quarterback, but Peyton Manning not the answer

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The moment has arrived for the Redskins to finally get serious about their starting quarterback. And that means avoiding the temptation of pursuing Peyton Manning.

The Redskins need a foundation for their future. No more chasing fading stars. Draft and develop someone capable of becoming a young one. Signing Manning, who turns 36 in March, missed last season because of a serious neck injury and might never fully regain his arm strength, doesn’t fit that plan.

By March 8, the Indianapolis Colts must pay Manning a $28 million bonus or release him. Colts owner Jim Irsay seems to have sent Manning a message, removing many of the future Hall of Famer’s allies while overhauling the Colts’ leadership in preparation, presumably, to select Andrew Luck with the first pick in April’s NFL draft.

For months, there has been a buzz around the NFL about the possibility of a Mike Shanahan-Peyton Manning partnership. The drumbeat is growing louder daily, as my esteemed colleague Sally Jenkins’s most recent column shows. It figures to reach a crescendo if Manning becomes free to leave the only team he has led in an incredible 14-year pro career.

If Manning becomes available, there are reasons why the Redskins would consider pursuing him. No player has been more important to his team than Manning to the Colts; he elevated the play of everyone on their roster. Arguments could be made that he would do the same thing in Washington. They wouldn’t be crazy. Just wrong.

Granted, Manning is one of the best quarterbacks ever. His understanding of the game, competitiveness and leadership skills are second to none. It’s just that he doesn’t have enough left to take the Redskins where they’re trying to go even if they, as we could expect, made additional personnel moves should Manning come to Washington.

The Redskins’ offense still has too many question marks. The offensive line is problematic, as is the receiving corps. And the two best players — tight end Fred Davis and left tackle Trent Williams — face a season-long suspension if they flunk another NFL test for recreational drug use.

The Redskins have gotten younger under Shanahan the past two years. We still don’t know, however, if they’re getting better.

That’s the real reason behind all the Manning talk. Despite having three years remaining on his contract, Shanahan is essentially on a one-year deal. Unless the Redskins show significant improvement next season, it would not be surprising if owner Daniel Snyder made another coaching change.

Having failed with Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman and John Beck, the pressure is on Shanahan to make a big splash at quarterback — now.

Instead of looking backward again, however, the Redskins need to focus ahead. Yes, they should be in the quarterback market this offseason. The right one for them, however, isn’t still rehabbing from an injury. He’ll be in the draft.

Robert Griffin III is a perfect fit. The charismatic, polished and talented Heisman Trophy winner could end Washington’s search for a franchise quarterback.

The impressive young man has the “it” factor. Immediately, Griffin would own the town. His presence would re-energize a long-suffering fan base tired of watching the New York Giants ride in Super Bowl parades.

For the Redskins, getting Griffin would be a great move for today and, more importantly, tomorrow.

To make it happen, the Redskins would pay a steep price. Undoubtedly, the St. Louis Rams, who hold the draft’s second pick but already have a young quarterback in Sam Bradford, would want a whole lot. The starting point most likely would be the Redskins’ first rounder (the sixth overall) this year and a future No. 1 pick. It’s the cost of doing business. Just ask the Giants.

During the 2004 draft, the Giants gambled big, agreeing to the San Diego Chargers’ demands for the draft rights to Manning’s younger brother, Eli. In the past five seasons, Eli has led New York to two NFL championships.

Seems like that worked out okay.

Obviously, there are no guarantees. There are the Mannings. And then there are the Ryan Leafs, JaMarcus Russells and Akili Smiths of the world.

If the Redskins signed Peyton Manning, though, there are no assurances he could, at this late stage of his career, replicate even a portion of what he accomplished during his Colts days.

This should be the year of the quarterback for the Redskins. Just not another old one.

For Jason Reid’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/reid.

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