- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2002

Now that "head coach" and "defensive coordinator" have been crossed off the Redskins' to-do list, the team can turn its attention to Pressing Issue No.3: finding the guy who's going to take the snaps next season. And wouldn't you know it, just like Steve Spurrier and Marvin Lewis seemed to fall out of the sky, there's a quarterback available that fits the Redskins' needs perfectly. I'm talking, of course, about Drew Bledsoe, the Patriots' forgotten man.

There's no point in hiring an offensive Einstein like Spurrier at $5million a year unless you're going to give him the necessary tools to work with. And Bledsoe is definitely his kind of quarterback. He's smart (his dad was a high school coach), he's tough (only three missed starts from '94 to '00), he's a team player (note how he handled Tom Brady's ascendancy last season), he can throw the ball all day (a record 70 times in one game) and, oh yes, he's already been to the Super Bowl, so we know he's capable of getting there.

About the worst thing you can say about Bledsoe is that he's no Fran Tarkenton; he's your classic drop back passer. He'll also throw an interception or two. But quarterbacking is still essentially about throwing, not running and that's certainly the case in Spurrier's offense. As for the INTs, keep in mind that Bledsoe has played under a succession of defensive-minded coaches in his career (first Bill Parcells, then Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick). It would be interesting to see what he could do in a more wide-open attack like the Fun 'n' Gun.

Is Bledsoe a great quarterback? No. But he's good enough for the Redskins' purposes. And let's not forget: He's still only 30 in fact, his birthday is today and, better yet, he's hungry to reestablish himself as one of the NFL's top quarterbacks. The latter came across quite clearly during Super Bowl week. Standing on the sideline watching his team make the trek to New Orleans drove him crazy.

So how do the Redskins get him? Well, to a certain extent, that's up to the Patriots. A writer I know in Boston says the Pats are looking for a top-10 draft pick (which the Redskins don't have) and a starting player (which the Redskins have 22 of). But perhaps New England would be willing to accept the 18th pick, another lower selection (a No.3 in '03?) plus, just for the sake of discussion, Fred Smoot.

I know, I know. I'd hate to give up Smoot, too. The kid's got a terrific future. But sometimes you have to make sacrifices especially when you're trying to deal for a starting quarterback. Besides, it's not like the Redskins would be destroying their defense. They'd still have LaVar Arrington and Champ Bailey.

You could offer the Patriots Jon Jansen instead, I suppose, but that would be counterproductive. Why? Because the Redskins need Jansen to protect their investment in Bledsoe. Drew has never had a pair of tackles like Jansen and Chris Samuels, never known that peace of mind. When the Pats went to the Super Bowl in '96, they had Max Lane, a Navy grad, blocking Reggie White. It got pretty ugly in the second half.

Then, too, Bledsoe might not want to come to Washington if Jansen isn't around to protect his right flank. And I suspect Drew will have some say as to where he gets traded. He and Patriots owner Bob Kraft have an unusually close relationship. (Indeed, Kraft has talked of keeping both Bledsoe and Brady, but that's impractical. Just as it made no sense for the 49ers to hang onto both Steve Young and Joe Montana. Kraft needs to free up some money so he can give Brady a suitable contract before some team offers Brady the moon a year from now, when he's a restricted free agent.)

Dan Snyder is going to have to do another of his famous selling jobs if he wants to land Bledsoe two of them, actually. He has to convince the Patriots to trade with him (and not, say, the Bears, who are also in the market for a quarterback). And he has to convince Bledsoe that Washington is the place he wants to be (and that he won't get treated as shabbily as Brad Johnson did).

Part of the reason the Redskins have been adrift for the last decade is that their quarterback situation has been so unsettled. Ever since Mark Rypien started going haywire in '93, the QB position has been a revolving door. Cary Conklin, John Friesz, Heath Shuler, Gus Frerotte, Jeff Hostetler, Trent Green, Jeff George so many quarterbacks you can't remember them all.

Wouldn't it be nice if the Redskins could settle on one quarterback for four or five years or even longer and take it from there? Bledsoe could be that quarterback. But Snyder has to figure out a way to get him here first.

Memo to Dan: Use your imagination.

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