Skins Damned If They Do, Damned If They Don’t


As I sat here trying to come up with the words for this article it hit me. The Washington Redskins went after what they needed, got what they needed, and paid for what they needed. This is something that they have failed to do properly in the past and their fan base has been rabid in their efforts to let their team’s owner, Daniel Snyder, know it. And yet, while some Skins fans are rejoicing the imminent arrival of RGIII (prematurely so, I believe, but more on that later), many fans are declaring that Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan have “mortgaged the team’s future” on RGIII (again premature). They say that the price was too high. Some were screaming for Peyton Manning. And there was a minority expressing wishes for the team to hold on to their draft picks and select a lower tiered quarterback with a later pick. Each of these points of view has its merits as well as its faults. The purpose of this article is to address each of these points of view with observations of my own.

I’m going to start with the rejoicing that is taking place in D.C. over the imminent arrival of RGIII. The two most significant reasons that this is premature are that:

1. The Redskins traded for the number two overall pick in the upcoming 2012 NFL Draft, not a specific player and …
2. Fans’ assumption that RGIII will be the number two pick is just that, an assumption (we know the storied pitfalls of assuming, right?). While I believe it is extremely safe to say that Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will go one-two in the draft. I am of the firm opinion that only a fool can claim to know who the Colts are going to pick with their number one overall selection. It is also noteworthy that Bruce Allen recently stated in an interview that the Redskins are “in love with two players.” So obviously the Redskins are taking nothing for granted and they are confident that they will get the quarterback they want with either Luck or Griffin.

Now we’ll move on to the future of the Washington Redskins resting on the shoulders of the quarterback that they pick. Firstly, such a trade for a player is not unprecedented. In 1999 Mike Ditka infamously gave away the New Orleans Saints’ entire draft for the opportunity to select Ricky Williams. Then there’s 1989, when the Dallas Cowboys sent Herschel Walker to the Vikings for three firsts (in 1990, 1991 and 1993), second- and sixth-round picks in 1990, a 1991 second-rounder, and a third-round pick in 1992. The Cowboys turned this trade into the foundation of a dynasty in the 90’s.

More recently the Chicago Bears gave Kyle Orton (a former starter), and first-round picks in 2009 (18th overall) and 2010, along with a third-round pick (84th overall) in 2009. That’s a backup quarterback, two first rounders, and a third round pick for Jay Cutler. The Broncos parlayed that trade in a series of moves that led to a greater number of picks and at least indirectly led to the selection of Tim Tebow.

Another example of a franchise giving a lot for the player they want was when, in 2004, the New York Giants acquired the rights to the number one overall pick (Eli Manning) from the San Diego Chargers for the 2004 number four overall pick (Phillip Rivers), a third rounder (Nate Kaeding), a 2005 first round pick (Shawn Merriman), and a fifth rounder which was traded to Tampa Bay for left tackle Roman Oben. At first glance it looks like the Chargers made out like bandits, but who’s got two Lombardi Trophies now? So it is NOT unprecedented for a franchise to pay heavily for a player they think is “THAT GUY”, and the Redskins were in a position where they knew they had to deal for this number two pick, period.

As for those Skins fans that are clamoring for Peyton Manning, just give it up … now. The Redskins never had a shot at landing Manning because the NFC East already has a Manning who’s winning Super Bowls. Like it or not, Eli’s being in the NFC East pretty much eliminated the Redskins from contention before this Manning escapade even began.

And finally to those that view such a trade as too costly and wanted the Skins to use the picks that they had to select a lower tiered quarterback with a lower pick; be real. For the last two years these same fans have hammered Shanahan, Allen, and Snyder for the SNAFU that was McNabb and then the Rex/Beck fiasco of last year. It is certain that the Redskins staff and front office knew that they had to deal with the void at quarterback effectively this year. When compared to the risks that were a geriatric McNabb and Rex & Beck, this risk seems minor. As for a lower tiered quarterback, there is a cliff-like drop off of talent after you look at Luck and Griffin as one-two or even tied at number one. The Redskins would have really been betting their future on an unknown quantity such as Brandon Weeden or Ryan Tannehill. Does anyone truly consider either one of these guys to be a number six pick in the first round? Sixth in the second maybe, but definitely not sixth in the first round.

So where are the Washington Redskins after this trade? Well for starters, they have gained the number two overall draft pick this year which will be used on either Luck or RGIII. In return they gave three first round picks (2012, 2013, & 2014) and a 2012 second round pick. Some basic math reveals that the Redskins really only sacrificed two first round picks (just the 2013 and 2014 because the 2012’s are SWAPPED) and a second round pick for what promises to be a talented young quarterback with the potential to be exactly what they need at that position. So when someone says the Redskins “gave up” three first round picks they are incorrect. As for future drafts, how many picks do the Redskins have remaining? The answer to that in 2012 is seven. 2013? Seven. And 2014? Six. Those picks can and will add talent. As for the NFC East quarterback picture? Well the Redskins have been going to war with a .22 against teams packing heavy artillery for a while now. But this pick can change all of that. Looking at the ages of the three other starters in the East, there’s Super Bowl Champion Eli Manning who’s 31, Michael Vick who’s 32, and Tony Romo is 32. With Andrew Luck being 23 and RGIII at 22 (at the start of next season), the years ahead may show that it will be the Redskins bringing the big gun to the fight.

Washington also has an estimated $41 million of cap space after the Fred Davis franchise tag. This money, spent wisely, can provide the talent (at a proven NFL level) that the traded draft picks could have brought to them. Many don’t believe Super Bowls are won in free agency, and I agree with them. But going back to last year’s draft where the Redskins parlayed what they had into twelve picks; one could make the argument that they are building through both the draft and free agency.

My conclusions are that this trade was years in the making and that it was a price that the Redskins were going to have to pay some time. They have been inadequate at quarterback for a long, long time and they absolutely had to address this issue if they ever had any hope of becoming relevant again in a division that they used to truly compete in. Given their past mistakes, there are many that will doom whatever they do right out of the gate. And if they had gotten Manning, he would’ve been another “McNabb move.” If they had failed to get the second pick, people would have blasted them for not being aggressive enough in the draft. And if they had settled for a riskier proposition at quarterback, then people would have hammered them again, for not making “the obvious move” to move up in the draft. When it comes right down to it, the Skins were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t this year. Only time will tell who’s right and who’s wrong or which quarterback can play and which can’t. But at least the Redskins did what they thought they had to do. They did not sit back and wait for something to come to them and they did not rely on subpar talent to “manage games.” Love the move or hate it, at least Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen did something. This trade will be scrutinized for years to come, but at least the Redskins are doing something. And on that I’ll close with at least it is far, far better (in this writer’s humble opinion) to be damned in making a concerted effort, than to be damned in frivolous actions or no action at all.

Update: It would seem that shortly after this article was published, the NFL saw fit to relieve the Washington Redskins of $36 million in salary cap space. They have also relieved the Dallas Cowboys of $10 million in salary cap space as well. The NFL has stated that both the Skins and the Boys “front loaded contracts” in an uncapped year and has also said that this practice was not a violation, but created “an unfair balance in competition” in the NFL (or something like that). Well … wow. It was not a violation but we’re going to take millions of your cap money anyway?!?!?!? Was 2010 an uncapped year or not? No salary cap and no CBA in place should have allowed teams to go out and spend like George Steinbrenner. It sounds like it was shrewd business and the other owners got their feelings hurt. After reviewing this situation it is clear that the NFL bought off the NFLPA with these sanctions. The only way they could do this was with the union’s approval so they spread around $1.6 million to 28 other teams and raised the salary cap this year to $120.6 million. I would be surprised if this was the last to be heard on this issue. Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones are highly successful businessmen with the best lawyers money can buy.