It is something of a relief to read the stories about all the visits the Redskins have arranged for defensive players on whom they might spend their draft choices. Whenever I read in somebody’s mock draft that Washington is coveting a quarterback, I tremble. I know, I know, the Shanahans would like to find the right college player and train him in their offense and create a superstar. But, as a fan, I would rather pass.
Washington has a bad history drafting quarterbacks. A very bad history. All our biggest stars at that position have come over in trades or free agency. The draft has been around since the 1930s, and, yes, the Redskins drafted the great Sammy Baugh in 1937, but, since that time, you can count on one hand – literally, one hand – the quarterbacks Washington has drafted who have been worth the picks spent on them.
And you don’t even have to use all of your fingers.
Start with recent history. In 2008, Washington took Hawaii’s Colt Brennan in the sixth round. He wowed the fans in preseason but is no longer with the team. In 2007, also in the sixth round, the Redskins took Jordan Palmer, who turned out not to be the reincarnation of big brother Carson. In 2005, Jason Campbell came aboard in the first round, and although most fans never warmed to him, he had reasonably good skills, and would have been a steal if, say, taken at the end of round three.
In the seventh round in 2003, the team drafted Gibran Hamdan – anybody remember him? Washington spent its first-round pick in 2002 on Patrick Ramsey, and its fourth-round pick the year before on Sage Rosenfels, now with the Giants, who has been a career backup. The list goes on and on: Todd Husak and Gus Frerotte, he of the famous header, and Heath Shuler – hey, anybody remember Chris Hakel in 1992?) True, Stan Humphries, drafted in 1988, played some very good football, but for the San Diego Chargers.
The truth is, the last quarterback drafted by the Redskins who had both the skills and the leadership ability to take the team deep into the playoffs was Mark Rypien, who joined the team in 1986, and was voted Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl XXVI. Before that, to find quarterbacks drafted by the team who were serious NFL stars, we have to go back to Norm Snead (1962) and Joe Kapp (1959). Again, neither starred with Washington.
College quarterbacks are notoriously difficult to evaluate, and Washington is hardly the only team to have drafted a long list of busts. But that is a very good reason to listen to the growing army of number-crunchers who advise teams not to waste a first-round pick on a quarterback. Sure, you might find a Sam Bradford every now and then. But remember, all the teams picking a quarterback at the top of the draft believe that they have found him; and, almost invariably, they are wrong.