Some will characterize the Washington Redskins’ trade for the No. 2 overall pick in April’s NFL draft as a return to high-profile foolishness. When football teams struggle, every armchair GM thinks getting a hotshot quarterback will fix everything.
Such plans are often short-sighted, but this is a case when the right move was also the most obvious. With one bold action, Mike Shanahan has potentially done more to restart the Redskins than he could have accomplished with five years’ worth of draft classes.
Owner Daniel Snyder permitted Shanahan to pay an even steeper price than expected — three first-round picks, plus a second-rounder — to position the Redskins to get Robert Griffin III, gambling that the spectacularly talented Heisman Trophy winner will finally fill his team’s longtime opening for a true franchise QB.
The decision means Shanahan finally has a chance to accomplish the ambitious agenda he brought to Washington.
Rebuilding the Redskins, strengthening his credentials for Hall of Fame consideration and setting his son, Kyle, Washington’s offensive coordinator, along a path to become a head coach — it’s all back on the table for Shanahan because of RGIII’s enormous potential.
From the moment he joined the Redskins, Shanahan was focused, in large part, on burnishing his legacy. If Shanahan could turn around the Redskins late in his career, after what he had already accomplished with the Denver Broncos, Hall of Fame voters would surely take notice.
But the Redskins went 6-10 and 5-11 in Shanahan’s first two seasons. Washington’s lack of progress, and Shanahan’s inability to get it right at quarterback, stirred doubt about the team’s direction. All of a sudden, the what-has-he-done-without-John-Elway talk started again.
Shanahan needed to shake up the program. Now was the time to take a shot.
In the NFL, nothing is considered more valuable than first-round draft picks. Shanahan — with Snyder’s strong endorsement, people tell us — gave up Washington’s next three as well as its second pick this season. That’s like taking out a first, second and third mortgage on your home while wondering how to pay the monthly note. Without a doubt, there’s major risk involved.
Some would argue the cost was way too high, but that argument misses the most important point: Assuming Shanahan’s right about Griffin, and I believe he is, then the Redskins finally have the single most important element to building a championship foundation. It’s something they’ve lacked since Sonny Jurgensen was throwing pinpoint behind-the-back passes for laughs in practice long ago.
Does that mean Snyder should order a bigger display case in anticipation of adding to Joe Gibbs’s Super Bowl trophy collection? No. The Redskins aren’t there yet — but they’re closer than they have been since Gibbs left the first time.
Within the next three seasons, Griffin should be rolling. That’s a fair timeframe for him to become adjusted to the bigger, faster, meaner world of the NFL, learn Shanahan’s offensive system and begin to justify all it took for the Redskins to get him.
Really, once the training wheels come off, Griffin should play the single largest role in finally completing what has seemed like Washington’s perpetual rebuilding project. That’s when Shanahan could claim success in the only part of his job that matters to Snyder.
Then there’s the younger Shanahan, who has experienced a significant career downturn since he partnered with his father.
Only a few seasons ago, Kyle was considered one of the league’s rising offensive coordinators. He appeared to be on the fast track toward running his own shop. But his stock has taken a hit after his behind-the-scenes feud with Donovan McNabb and Washington’s lack of production on offense the past two seasons.
With the help of his father and Griffin, Kyle’s status could improve quickly if he proves the problem was Washington’s quarterbacks, not the person calling the plays.
In Griffin, Kyle presumably will have a willing, capable student. No more butting heads with a rapidly declining veteran set in his ways (McNabb) or relying on journeymen incapable of leading the Redskins where they’re hoping to return (Rex Grossman and John Beck) .
If Kyle could help Griffin reach his superstar potential, the same fans who have bashed him on sports-talk radio will quickly forget why they did. By succeeding with Griffin, Kyle could rehabilitate his professional image while displaying an understanding of young quarterbacks.
Remember, Kyle played a key role in the development of Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub. If he could help two guys get to the top, well, that sort of thing definitely looks good on his résumé.
Griffin just fits well for so many reasons. Occasionally, the right moves are the most obvious, too.
For Jason Reid’s previous columns go to washingtonpost.com/reid.
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