PALM BEACH, Fla. — Mike Shanahan made it his mission this winter to find the Washington Redskins a franchise quarterback. After two straight last-place finishes and way more turnovers last season than he cares to remember, it became the coach’s top priority.
The quest has taken him all over the country. It’s not over yet, but Shanahan at least knows he’ll draft his man April 26. The thought of selecting either Baylor’s Robert Griffin III or Stanford’s Andrew Luck had Shanahan beaming during the coaches’ breakfast at the NFL’s annual meetings Wednesday.
“It’s the difference in your organization, winning and losing,” he said. “It’s big.”
In his first public comments since trading three first-round draft picks and this year’s second-rounder to the St. Louis Rams to move up in the draft, Shanahan expressed confidence in both prospects and explained how he continued to pursue free agent Peyton Manning after the trade.
“When I think back about when the Broncos got John Elway, I don’t think anybody looks back and says, ‘Hey, did we overpay?’ ” Shanahan said. “To get a guy like that doesn’t happen very often. So to get a guy that you feel is a franchise quarterback, I think you’ve really upped your organization over the long term.”
Shanahan praised Griffin’s and Luck’s mental makeup and physical abilities after meeting with them last week during their respective on-campus pro days. He would not say whether he values one over the other or who he expects the Indianapolis Colts to draft first.
“When you make a move to the second pick of the draft, you’ve got to feel very comfortable with both guys,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot of different things. Whatever happens, happens, but you’ve got to feel great about both.”
“To get that franchise quarterback is pretty tough,” he said. “They just don’t fall off the trees. If you can get a guy that you feel is a franchise quarterback, then you’ve got to make decisions in the best interest of your organization, and we felt it was.”
Shanahan wanted more than just one rookie, though. He confirmed a Sports Illustrated report that he and Kyle Shanahan, the Redskins‘ offensive coordinator and his son, flew to Denver after the trade and met with Manning at the family’s expansive home there.
They watched film for five hours and discussed personnel, Mike Shanahan said. He believes they were legitimate contenders for Manning’s services because their meeting was so long. Manning ultimately signed with the Denver Broncos last week.
“I can say that we had a great conversation,” Shanahan said. “I know he gave it a lot of thought.”
Now Shanahan’s focus is to surround the rookie quarterback with quality players. He expressed measured expectations for what a rookie might accomplish in his first season, but he expects greatness over the long term.
“If you want to win the Super Bowl, you’ve got to have that guy that gives you a chance to win year in and year out,” he said. “You’ve got to give them the right supporting cast … but once you have that guy, it picks up everybody on your football team.”