Kudos to Dan Snyder

Robert Griffin III

There was a lot more hand-wringing and bad-mouthing than I expected regarding Washington’s big trade to jump up to the second pick in the draft. And yes, absolutely the cost for Robert Griffin III was high. The risk may be even higher. But even so, the Redskins front office deserves high marks for executing this dramatic move.

One of the paramount truths of today’s NFL is that your franchise is irrelevant unless it has an elite quarterback. I don’t mean that you absolutely can’t win. Teams can go far in the playoffs or even win a Super Bowl with some luck, timing, and roster dominance in other areas (See: 2011 Broncos, 2000 Ravens). I mean that you are unable to sustain or count on success.

Teams that don’t have a franchise QB grasp at straws year after year. They do what the Redskins have done. They throw second-tier, underprepared youngsters into the role and hope they succeed. They cycle through overpriced veterans past their prime and flawed journeyman. It’s the most pathetic of struggles, as the front office just tries to keep their team above water.

Since Dan Snyder bought that team in 1999, they have had seven different single-season passing leaders. It’s been a murderer’s row of Brad Johnson, Tony Banks, Patrick Ramsey, Mark Brunell, Jason Campbell, old Donovan McNabb, and Rex Grossman. Yuck.

Andy Reid is not a perfect coach, but he understands this better than anyone. He didn’t hesitate to draft Donovan McNabb, and reared him into a top quarterback. When Reid saw the end of McNabb’s career, he snared Kevin Kolb to carry the torch. And now he’s settled on Michael Vick for at least the next couple of years. All three of those quarterbacks, even Kolb, would have been upgrades over the slop the Redskins have tolerated over the last decade. Reid never would have let himself go that long without a real franchise quarterback.

Regardless of how it turns out, the Redskins should be applauded for finally grasping that half measures aren’t enough. Another couples of years stumbling along with more free agent castoffs or another mediocre prospect would have gotten that front office fired anyway. At some point, you might as well try something that could actually work.

Photo from Getty.

RG3 to Philly? It's Pretty Crazy

Robert Griffin III Eagles

Heisman-winning quarterback and draft analyst man-crush Robert Griffin III met with the Eagles at the NFL Combine late last week, sparking a mini-resurgence of speculation (read: hope) that by some twist of fate RG3 could be coming to Philadelphia.

Jimmy Kempsi wrote, “it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see the Eagles make some sort of blockbuster trade to move up to 2 to get him.” He goes on to make some good points: Michael Vick will turn 32 before the season starts, his contract isn’t really for the full six years, and the cost of paying a first round quarterback isn’t prohibitive any more. Despite those reasons, there are still major barriers to bringing Griffin to the Eagles.

Let’s start with the fact that the Eagles are completely outgunned in trade negotiations. All indications are that the Rams are looking to sell out of the second overall selection. Do you know what it would take for the Eagles to even get into the conversation for that pick? According to the draft value chart, giving up the Eagles 2012 1st, two 2nd, 3rd, and 2013 1st round picks still leaves the team coming up slightly short.

For comparison, let’s take two of the teams cited most often in trade rumors: the Browns and the Redskins. Cleveland has the 4th and 22nd overall picks. Just those two selections are already worth more than the massive Eagles bounty described above. Former Eagles GM Tom Heckert definitely has the inside track on Griffin. Washington, meanwhile, could match Philly’s offer with just their 1st and 2nd round picks this year and 1st rounder next year.

You can draw comparisons with Vick today and Donovan McNabb in 2007, the year the Eagles drafted Kevin Kolb, but the cost is so much more prohibitive for Griffin. Using an early second round pick when you already have a starting quarterback is questionable, forfeiting almost your entire draft is prohibitive.

And that brings up the second major reason to shoot down any Griffin ideas: the opportunity cost is far too high. Giving up that many high picks would mean ignoring needs at a bunch of positions, including linebacker, defensive line, cornerback, and wide receiver. Given the general lack of young talent, especially on defense, the Eagles cannot afford to waste the opportunity to finally get a good, full draft.

Drafting Griffin, despite these concerns, would be writing the next year or two off. The Eagles front office would be admitting to the fans and — more importantly — a veteran group of players that they can’t win in 2012. They would be telling Michael Vick, who everyone hopes will work to improve himself this offseason, that he’s not really their franchise player. That could be a disaster.

What it comes down to is that the timing is off. Tommy Lawlor called the situation “awkward,” but it’s more than that. 2012 is shaping up to be a make-or-break year for more than just Andy Reid. Vick needs to get back to his 2010 form. DeSean Jackson, if he even accepts the franchise tag, could be gone after 2012. Veterans like Cullen Jenkins, Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, and Trent Cole may only have a year or two of high-level play left, and poor drafting has left the cupboard bare behind them.

Next year should answer a lot of questions about this team and the way it’s constructed. The Eagles could rebound and make a playoff run, in which case you will want a strong crop of young players in place to fill in the holes and keep up the momentum. Alternatively, if the Eagles flop there will be a NovaCare house cleaning like we haven’t seen since 1999. In that case, the team will be in a natural position to draft a new franchise quarterback and rebuild around him going forward.

Watching RG3 highlights is intoxicating, and I would love it if he ended up with the Eagles. But it’s not going to happen. Let’s just make that clear.

Photo from Getty.