Among Mike Shanahan’s observations during the 90 minutes he spent on ESPN 980 Wednesday afternoon: that the Redskins considered selecting Russell Wilson as Robert Griffin III’s presumptive backup later in the 2012 draft.
“And when Kirk [Cousins] was there, he was a little different style of quarterback — more of a drop-back, play-action type guy,” Shanahan went on. “But we felt we had to have some depth. We felt the quarterback [position] was more loaded in 2012 than it was the two previous years, and we were gonna take advantage. And when Kirk was there, that’s why we took him.”
Shanahan also said that the team was heavily interested in Peyton Manning earlier that spring, when the veteran was the biggest free-agent prize.
“We were talking to Peyton at that time,” Shanahan said. “That was a strong consideration. Talked to him a number of hours out at my house one day. He was as guy that we were strongly thinking about, but at the end of the day, I really felt with Eli being with the Giants, that he was not going to come in our direction.”
That left the Redskins focused on the draft, and Shanahan talked about the internal debates over the trade that led to Griffin’s arrival.
“When we did make the decision, there was a lot of differences of opinions on what direction we should go,” he said. “But at the end of the day we decided to go with Robert, and obviously the rest is history.”
Shanahan said he “really liked” Griffin coming out of Baylor, praising his arm strength, his velocity and spin, his competitive spirit, his courage, his intelligence, his mobility, his release, his leadership, his height and his weight. But Shanahan also said Griffin’s potential weaknesses were clear.
“He wasn’t a pocket passer,” Shanahan said. “I said ‘Hey, we can do this, but we’ve got to run the style of offense that he ran at Baylor.’ I said we don’t know if he’s a pocket quarterback; he’s never done it. He never did it in high school It is gonna take some time. Now does that mean he can’t learn it? Of course it doesn’t. It just means he’s never done something.
“If you have never done something, it’s not gonna happen overnight. It’s gonna take some time. But if he works on it, if he understands that we’re gonna run things that give him the best chance to be successful, I think he’s got a great chance. Giving up two No. 1s and a No. 2 for him, I said that really puts us in a hole for the future. But as we all know, if you don’t have a quarterback in the National Football League, you’re not gonna win. You’re not gonna win a Super Bowl. So that’s where it starts….
“I did not feel good about giving up two number ones and a number two, and they all knew I felt that way, because of the unknown,” Shanahan said. “But at the same time I said hey, if he’s willing — and it’s gonna take four or five years, it’s not gonna happen overnight – if he’s willing to understand that it is gonna take some time and be patient and work on the things that give him a chance to be better, I said hey, yeah, I would take the chance. But I want you to know that he’s gonna have to really commit to what we’re doing and he’s gonna have to follow the little things and do the little things the right way, both in the running game and the passing game. I said he’s got a chance to do things that nobody else has done.”
But Shanahan also said that if he had known the Redskins were going to be hit with onerous salary-cap penalties later that offseason, he would not have felt the same way about the trade. The Redskins traded for the pick that became Griffin on March 9; the penalties were announced on March 12.
“I don’t think you could have” made the deal,” Shanahan said. “Any time you’re gonna lose two number ones and a number two, and you’re gonna get penalized like you did [where] obviously you can’t bring players in, it would be very hard to make that decision.”