NEW YORK — Franchise quarterbacks don’t fall off trees, Mike Shanahan said earlier this month. He would know after finishing last in the NFC East in his first two seasons as Washington Redskins coach.
So Shanahan bought one last month by trading three first-round picks and a second-rounder. And Thursday night, the team finally completed the transaction by drafting Heisman Trophy-winner Robert Griffin III out of Baylor with the second overall pick.
“We want to develop him to be the face of the organization,” Shanahan said Wednesday. “He knows there’s a lot of luck and a lot of pressure that goes with it. We understand that as well, but we’re looking forward to it.”
The anticlimactic selection ended seven weeks of waiting for RG3. The Redskins assured themselves of either Griffin or Stanford’s Andrew Luck when they acquired the No. 2 pick from St. Louis in March. Washington traded the sixth- and 39th-overall picks in 2012 and first-rounders in 2013 and 2014 to the Rams for the single selection.
Washington has won only two playoff games since its last Super Bowl championship in the 1991 season. Instability at quarterback has been the biggest reason for the franchise’s woes. The Redskins have used 21 starting quarterbacks since their last title.
It’s now Griffin’s job to not only stabilize the position but also to shine in what has become a passing league. The Redskins love his combination of accuracy, arm strength and elite footspeed. He completed 72.4 percent of his passes during his Heisman campaign and threw for 37 touchdowns compared to only six interceptions. He also rushed for 10 touchdowns.
“He’s got great speed, does a great job in the pocket throwing the ball downfield,” Shanahan said. “He’s got all the attributes you look for in a quarterback.”
Their prize is even sweeter because of Griffin’s upstanding character and intelligence.
“He’s an overachiever,” Shanahan said. “As a person, he’s got great parents. His work ethic is off the chart. I love the way he handles himself.”
The organization and its fans expect Griffin to inject life into an offense that turned the ball over more times than all but two teams in the NFL last season. And, truthfully, the organization’s fans expect more than that. Griffin is their savior.
That much was clear late last month when he appeared at a memorabilia show in Chantilly, Va. He signed autographs for more than an hour longer than the allotted 90 minutes, and the hundreds who waited in line paid $100 each for his signature.
Amid all the hype, Griffin maintains respect for the challenges involved in transitioning from the college to the professional level. Not only must he learn Washington’s playbook quickly if he is to beat out incumbent Rex Grossman for the starting job, he must earn the respect of his teammates.