Once upon a time, the Washington Redskins were one of the NFL's flagships, filling the stadium every Sunday and going to the Super Bowl with regularity. They were a model organization, what other franchises aspired to be. That's changed in recent years, and we don't need to plunge into another discussion here of why it's changed. We've all got a pretty good handle on that, don't we?
The Camelot of the 1971-to-'92 period — of George Allen, Joe Gibbs, the Over the Hill Gang and the Hogs — might never be seen again in Washington. Indeed, it was so long ago, it almost seems like a hallucination. The Redskins' bungled attempts to return to those days have turned them into a league laughingstock, a late-night punch line, the antithesis of what they used to represent. And now they've hurled another "Hail Mary" with their megatrade for the second pick in the draft, one that's expected to secure them the services of Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Baylor.
But this desperation pass actually might have a chance of being completed. Griffin — whip-armed, athletic, smart, charismatic — looks to be the genuine article, the kind of QB who could return the Redskins to the gated community of the Haves. Of course, they had to empty their wallets to make this deal, hand the St. Louis Rams three No. 1 picks and a No. 2, and some have been horrified by that. But most of them, I'm convinced, are just victims of Battered Fan Syndrome. They've gotten so accustomed to the team making head-slappingly bad decisions that they don't recognize a good one when they see it.
These same gloom-and-doomers will tell you the Redskins are under tremendous pressure to be right about Griffin (and that RG3 will bear an equally heavy burden as the anointed savior of the franchise). But to me, the Rams and the Indianapolis Colts are under just as much pressure. St. Louis, after all, traded the chance to draft Griffin, feeling it was set at quarterback with Sam Bradford; and Indy, with the first pick, appears to prefer another QB, Stanford's Andrew Luck.
But what if Griffin turns out to be better than Bradford and/or Luck, perhaps even a lot better? What if RG3 outduels Sam in the NFC title game or Andrew in the Super Bowl? Do you think the Rams and Colts might spend a few moments revisiting their decision to pass up Robert Griffin III?
As history has shown, over and over again, the first quarterback drafted isn't necessarily the best quarterback. Alex Smith was taken with the first pick in 2005, but he hasn't been nearly as good as Aaron Rodgers, who went 24th. Michael Vick (1) and Drew Brees (32), Chad Pennington (18) and Tom Brady (199), and Tim Couch (1) and Donovan McNabb (2) are three other examples in recent years. These miscalculations happen, scouts say, because quarterbacking is such a mysterious enterprise, so dependent on unmeasurables (e.g. heart, leadership and, increasingly it would seem, a cranium that's concussion-proof).
So the Redskins aren't the only club that's under the gun. Heck, a decade from now, the Cleveland Browns' front office might be donning hair shirts because they didn't offer enough for the second pick — and let Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen swoop in and grab it. There's much at stake for many people in this draft, as much as there's been in quite a while.
Speaking of "a decade from now," that's the benchmark, isn't it? Everybody's trying to find a quarterback who can play for them for 10 years. And that's what the Redskins are hoping Griffin can do. But you forget how rare a QB like that is. In the free agent era (1993-present), only Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Brady, McNabb and Matt Hasselbeck have started for one team for 10-plus full seasons. Five others (Dan Marino, John Elway, Troy Aikman, Jim Kelly and Warren Moon — all Hall of Famers) had streaks of 10 years or longer that began in the '80s and overlapped with the era.
If RG3 can hold down the Redskins job for a decade, it would put him in awfully accomplished company. He'd be the biggest thing to hit the town since air conditioning.
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