Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III gets off a pass as the Redskins defeat the New Orleans Saints 40 - 32 on Sept. 9, 2012. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
Sports Columnist

The Redskins desperately need a quarterback to market to a dwindling fan base. Nothing sells hope better than a rookie first-rounder.

If they had options, the team’s history suggests it should focus on free agency or a trade, last year’s Alex Smith debacle notwithstanding. Drafting a passer for long-term success has proven nearly impossible for this franchise.

The Redskins’ best-ever pick was its first in Washington, in 1937. Sammy Baugh became a Hall of Famer with two championships, and he changed the game forever with his passing. Since then, the Redskins have drafted 40 quarterbacks. Twenty-one never played, including four first-rounders.

The best modern-day QBs in Washington — Sonny Jurgensen, Billy Kilmer, Joe Theismann, Doug Williams, Trent Green and Brad Johnson — arrived via trade or free agency. The best homegrown passer in Washington in a generation was Kirk Cousins (2012-18), a fourth-round afterthought following first-rounder Robert Griffin III. Yet the Redskins let Cousins walk after three 4,000-yard seasons.

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Drafting a passer has mostly been a failure. The team has managed to draft only seven good quarterbacks, with Baugh and Norm Snead (1961) the only first-rounders (and Snead was traded in 1964 for Jurgensen). Snead was the best passer taken between Eddie LeBaron (a 10th rounder in 1950) and Jay Schroeder (third round, 1984). Mark Rypien, a sixth-rounder in 1986, was the sole QB draftee of the Redskins’ three Super Bowl-winning teams.

Still, the Redskins kept drafting passers in Round 1. Heath Shuler was the team’s biggest bust as the third overall pick in 1994. He lost his job by ’96 to seventh-rounder Gus Frerotte. Shuler is still looking for linebackers on crowded street corners.

Patrick Ramsey was a 2002 first-rounder. Owner Dan Snyder wanted him over staff objections. He was a spot player at best and traded in 2006 for a sixth-rounder. Jason Campbell was a fair choice as a 2005 first-rounder, but changes at offensive coordinator kept him from blooming.

Griffin also was Snyder’s choice — second overall in 2012 — in perhaps the team’s most electrifying marketing move. The pick looked worthwhile until Griffin was hurt at the end of his rookie season.

Unfortunately, the Redskins have salary-cap trouble and couldn’t trade recently for Joe Flacco. Nor can they sign any free agent costing more than $5 million, because Smith is still owed $20 million this year as he recovers from a broken leg.

With the 15th overall pick, the draft is the Redskins’ best option. Maybe they’ll get lucky with Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray or Duke’s Daniel Jones, but history says they won’t. Then again, there is this guy at Boise State named Brett Rypien, whose uncle played for the Redskins.

Read more from Rick Snider:

It’s time for D.C. to make its push to seal a Redskins stadium deal

Redskins should just tank next year

5 things to watch as the Redskins rebuild in the offseason