Since 1992, the Washington Redskins have had many problems as they've sunk to the eighth-worst record in the NFL over the past 26 years.
But few problems have been worse than one that barely has been noticed: The Redskins' utter inability in all that time to draft a single high-quality wide receiver while spending 25 picks, including five first-rounders, on that position.
In all that time, no NFL team has used more first-round picks on wide receivers. Yet Washington is dead last in the NFL among all teams that existed in '92 at drafting productive wideouts. The scale of this ineptitude is staggering. During this long dreary era, the team has "spotted" its foes tens of thousands of yards apiece — and some teams more than 30,000 yards — over those 26 years.
It is revealing that the men with the largest decision-making responsibilities at Redskins Park — owner Daniel Snyder, current team president for the last eight years Bruce Allen, and former general manager Vinny Cerrato — have never shown that they even knew this problem existed much less studied how to fix it.
Let's try to focus our minds quickly on the size of this hideous issue. The five best wide receivers picked by the Redskins since '92 have been: Michael Westbrook (4,374 career receiving yards), Rod Gardner, Albert Connell, Jamison Crowder and Desmond Howard. In their careers, they gained roughly 14,000 receiving yards combined (only Crowder is still active).
In those same drafts, the Indianapolis Colts used just 16 picks on wide receivers. But their five best picks gained almost 50,000 yards in their careers.
Colts: 49,611. Redskins: 14,050. Let that sink in.
The only franchise lower that Washington is Jacksonville (12,684), but they didn't exist until 1995.
The five best wide receiver picks of the Steelers, Cardinals and Rams gained almost 45,000 yards per group . Those of the Bengals, Packers and Jets are each close to 40,000 yards . A dozen other NFL teams have from 29,000 to 38,000 yards. The NFL average since 1992: 29,292 yards from your five best wide receiver draft picks.
Obviously, many players change teams over their careers. Those great Colt draft picks — Marvin Harrison (14,580 yards), Reggie Wayne (14,345), Pierre Garcon (7,568), T.Y. Hilton (6,827) and Sean Dawkins (6,291) — did not gain all their yardage for Indianapolis. Garcon had good seasons in Washington.
The point is that some teams can evaluate talent at wide receiver and some can't. And the huge gulf between those who can and those who can't has an enormous cumulative impact over long periods of time.
No matter how you slice it, the Redskins' record is inexcusable. Washington has used elite picks that were fourth, fourth and 15th overall in the draft on wideouts (Howard, Westbrook and Gardner) . Many teams crush the Redskins' draft record while never using an ultrahigh pick on a wide receiver.
The Colts have never used a top-15 pick on a wideout! The Packers have used only one first-round pick — No. 20 overall — on a receiver since '92, despite wanting to give Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers a talented supporting cast.
Yet Green Bay has drafted nine receivers who've had more 4,000 receiving yards — the level of Westbrook, the best Washington pick — with overall picks No. 20 36, 52, 62, 64 78, 90, 181 and 213 (Donald Driver: 10,137 yards).
Apparently, it's not so hard — if you know what you're looking for.
Because the Redskins can't pick receivers who are worth a darn, they have to turn around and spend valuable resources in trades or in salary cap expense to acquire the good wide receivers that other teams have already drafted, such as Henry Ellard, Santana Moss, DeSean Jackson and Garcon.
Just 13 times in 26 years has Washington had a receiver who caught 1,000 yards in passes in a single season. That by itself is an extremely lower number. Redskin quarterbacks, such as Kirk Cousins this past season with a "leading receiver" with just 789 yards, must often do it on their own. But even that comes at a high cost. Ten of those 1,000-yard season were by players acquired in trade or free agency. Out of 25 wide receiver picks, this team got just three 1,000-yard seasons.
Don't forget, even buying your wide receiver "talent" isn't foolproof — at least if you're Washington. Last season, the Redskins paid Terrelle Pryor $8 million guaranteed to fix one wide receiver spot. Pryor provided 240 yards in nine games, then missed the rest of the season. Now, he'll be gone. Thanks for the memories.
The latest Washington first-round pick is Josh Doctson, taken 22nd overall in 2016. He missed nearly all of his rookie season because of injuries. Last year, he played in every game, started 14 of them, but caught just 35 balls for 502 yards. His route-running was so inconsistent and his hands so un predictable that he caught just 45 percent of the passes on which he was targeted — one of the worst totals in the NFL.
In contrast, Ryan Grant, who has a fraction of Doctson's obvious size and athletic talent, and was taken with the 142nd pick in 2014, caught 69 percent of his targets for more catches (45) and more yards (573) than Doctson.
But, you never know, maybe Doctson will still be the exception to the rule.
How do you fix this problem? Are you kidding me? Tons of NFL teams have good-to-excellent records at drafting receivers, yet they've done it without using a pick in the top 15 since 1992. For example: the Vikings, Broncos, Cowboys and Eagles. Find out who evaluates receivers for them, then go hire 'em. That'll cost a lot less than the fuel for Redskin One.
Or maybe hire anyone who has ever worked for Bill Belichick in New England. Since he came to the Patriots in 2000, Belichick has never used a pick in the top 35 overall for a wide receiver. Yet Tom Brady seems happy.
In coming months, you can be sure that Washington will spend hundreds of hours trying to figure who will be their quarterback in 2018, and how to spin that information so their fans won't rebel and, who knows, leave even more empty seats at FedEx Field.
They might consider spending a few minutes thinking about how to draft a wide receiver. Or maybe just hire somebody who already has proven he can.