Cue up the next issue we will be blowing up over the next few months. We have been into it pretty deeply already, but the Shanahan/Allen/Campbell/playoffs/HD screens extravaganza has softened the attention somewhat in recent days. On the heels of the article on Wednesday, I have spent some time thinking about why I feel so strongly about not taking a signal-caller in the first round. The more I think about this, the more I am hoping that we can convince some team below us we are going to grab Bradford and then trade the pick...oh wait, I can't be wasting reasons up here. Need to save them for:
Ten Yard Fight - 10 Chances To Make One Good Point
My goal: to think of ten reasons to convince you all out there that drafting a quarterback at #4 overall is a bad idea. Each reason will have a name (sometimes meaningful, sometimes not) and I encourage you all to help me flesh out each reason with more examples that fall neatly into the buckets. By April, I want us to have this thing nailed down.
1. The David Carr E.R. Memorial Reason- Who didn't like this guy out of college? He completed 63% of his passes at Fresno State, won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award his senior year, and put a "Mid-Major" program on his back/shoulder as they made it all the way to #8 in the polls. He had everything going for him and the Texans made him the face of their franchise. They lined him up right behind an offensive line that promptly got Carr sacked 76 times his rookie year. We thought Campbell had it bad this past season with 43 sacks--who's to say how many sacks his experience helped him avoid? I think it is safe to say a rookie quarterback behind our current line (even moderately improved) would be murdered. Carr was never the same after that. You could argue whether he was "#1 overall" quality to begin with, but 76 sacks later, he looked more like the lead in a Meredith Baxter Birney-style movie chronicling an abusive spouse than he did a future Hall of Fame or even All-Pro quarterback. You can throw Patrick Ramsay into this reason as well (we can all think of quarterbacks who were battered as rookies.) Though Ramsey was not a top-5 pick, Spurrier should have been tried for assault with intent to kill. His failure to appreciate pass protection at the NFL level was maddening. His failure to understand that every team in the league knew about his failure to appreciate pass protection was equally mind-boggling. My point: why shell out top dollar to a guy you want to build your future around when it is reasonable to theorize he will not survive long enough to be a part of that future?
2. The C. Montgomery Burns Reason - I imagine Dan Snyder watching an old black and white instructional video on the draft that begins, "So you are picking #4." With the 50's style, quirky music track playing in the background, Snyder is told that, "Since you are going to be paying handsomely for this player, he must be a true impact player. And since you are paying 'quarterback money', why not spend your pick and your money on a quarterback?" (Upon hearing this, Mr. Burns would undoubtedly tap his fingers together in front of his face and instruct Smithers to fetch him the "finest pigskin hurler the Ivy league has to offer...save for that joke of an institution they call Harvard." My frustration with this premise is very simple...this team has made a living throwing money away left and right at proven players who have come in and done nothing. We have dedicated "quarterback money" to a variety of positions. Why is it all of a sudden a good idea to let the starting salary of an unproven rookie dictate who you select at the top of the draft? If you are a cash-strapped team in need of a QB, then fine, this logic at least has some merit. But when you are one of the richest teams in all of sports, entering an UNCAPPED year, shouldn't you try and get the best player you can find at the position you need the most? My point: Any player can be a bust at the top of the draft. We have had no problem overpaying for anyone the last ten years...let's get a guy we NEED and pay him whatever he gets as the #4 pick. Do we honestly believe Dan Snyder is sweating giving #4 money to anyone besides a kicker?
3. The Jim Kelly Reason - So there is no player as integral to a team as the quarterback, eh? While I am not aiming to take that question on directly, I will say this: the role of the quarterback has been diminished somewhat in the modern NFL. This sounds like heresy I know, but hear me out. Consider what Jim Kelly did in Buffalo. He called all his plays, ran the offense...hell, he was the offensive coordinator. He was not alone. In the preceding era(s), many quarterbacks (the majority?) called their own games. How many guys do that today? If you believe what we are told, the answer is one: Peyton Manning. Of course, some guys are given more leeway and flexibility than others, but head coaches and offensive coordinators today essentially play a game of Madden on the field, controlling and scheming their guys around. That is about as far as I will venture today on this topic, because the truth is that a great quarterback, even handcuffed by a coordinator, can make all the difference. My point: We're not talking about bringing in a guy that Kyle and Mike Shanahan will say, "Good luck today...call a great game out there!" So let's not get hung up on the notion that the only quarterback available in this draft who can come in and be "controlled" by the Shanahans is available in the top four. Leads nicely into:
4. The Dan LeFevour Route- Can we have an honest discussion about this guy? I watched two Central Michigan games this season (so I am by no means Mel Kiper on this one--I downloaded a bunch of highlights and clips though, so maybe I am a poor man's Todd McShay here.) He throws darts all over the field. He is big, strong, and athletic. Oh yeah, and he has the most total touchdowns in NCAA history. LeFevour is the only player in NCAA history with over 12,000 passing yards and 2,500 rushing yards. After red-shirting, he started 14 games as a freshman, 14 as a sophomore, 11 as a junior, and 14 as a senior. His completion percentage went up each year, from 63.7% his first year to 69.7% his last year. He has the "it" leadership factor that Shanahan loves, and the conference he comes out of has produced some decent NFL QB's (some better than others to be sure): Daunte Culpepper, Ben Roethlisberger, Chad Pennington, Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch, Nate Davis, Charlie Frye, Josh Harris. There are a million places right now to get your pre-draft positional rankings, and they will change at least that many times. But at WalterFootball.com, I see him rated as a 5th-6th round pick, most recently updated on 1/15/2010 (where do you see him going?) My point: Isn't a guy like Dan LeFevour the kind of guy we should be targeting? He affords us the luxury of using our top picks on the line and can come in and develop under the Shanahans. Who has a better chance of impacting our team in the next two-three years: a 4th-5th round offensive lineman or a quarterback taken in the same spot? I think it is the QB. What do you think?
5. The Jason Campbell Reason - Ugh...Even I can't talk or write about this anymore. 3,618 yards, 20 TD's, 15 INT's, 64.5% completion percentage and 86.4 QB rating versus...Will Montgomery, D'Anthony Batiste, Chad Rinehart and Edwin Williams. I am definitely not busting on some of these guys because they might be decent backups at some point but...My point: we have Grand Canyon size holes at other positions.
6. The Chris Samuels Reason - Getting back to the issue addressed in Reasons #2 and #5, which is finding the best guy available at the position of greatest need, I am hoping we can agree at this point QB is not our greatest position of need? Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't we find a cornerstone Left Tackle at the top of the draft a decade ago and wasn't that a pretty good investment? A cornerstone of Vinny Cerrato's tenure was an ostensibly small appetite for the meat and potatoes players at the top of the draft. Granted, he ended up picking a few very sexy, very talented players in the 1st round, but the lack of a crop of young, stud offensive linemen left us in our current predicament. My point: I pray that there is a willingness to label an Offensive Lineman as "the Best Player Available", and I hope that this delineation is strengthened by our need for an Offensive Lineman.
7. Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan Brain Trust - "In Bruce and Mike We Trust". We asked for experienced men to relieve the previous regime of their duties and remake this team in the image they see fit, to the extent they see fit. As it pertains to the #4 slot and a quarterback, I beg our new leaders to wield their expertise at the top of this draft by finding guys that can solidify this roster immediately ahead of any long-term development projects. My point: The best way Shanahan and Allen can reward our faith in them is by firming up the foundation on the line of scrimmage with blue-chippers on Thursday and Friday night (we will get to the new format of the draft in upcoming columns) and plucking QB and RB gems in the middle rounds.
8. Heath Shuler - I wasn't sure whether I should make this a reason...but then I realized that this is my list and Heath Shuler hurt this franchise--and me--for a long, long time. Tell me if this sounds familiar: The Redskins, with an offensive genius roaming the sidelines, bring in a blue-chip quarterback from a major college program with the third overall selection in the draft. We passed on these Pro Bowlers who went in that first round in 1994: Willie McGinest, Bryant Young, Sam Adams, Aaron Glenn, Joe Johnson, Todd Steussie and Jamir Miller. Oh, and Trent Dilfer. What I LOVE about that draft is that we came back at the top of the 2nd round and brought in Tre Johnson, one of my all-time favorite Redskins. Teams with solid foundations can overcome a top-5 bust at QB. Some teams can look back over decades and not have a Heath Shuler-sized bust on their resume. My point: We have a Heath Shuler-sized bust in our recent past and on top of that, our team is not currently constructed to recover easily from missing on a quarterback at #4 overall .
9. Lockout Looming - I have not thought all the way through how this could be that horrible, but it occurs to me that the prospect of a work stoppage would be detrimental to the development and installation of a zillion dollar rookie quarterback. I suppose on one hand, you might have a guy who is conceivably ready to get his feet wet in the league after any potential strike. But my preference would be to lay the bricks down up front on that line and then after any kind of labor strife bring in a youngster to stand behind it. The impending chaos surrounding the talks between the union and ownership is going to take center stage soon enough. My point: We might have an interesting opportunity to take this year and install principles and philosophies into every nook and cranny of this franchise. Then when the maelstrom that can form in these labor negotiations subsides, we could then bring in a blue-chipper (or promote a Dan LeFevour-type from within.)
10. Trade Down Possibilities - We all love to talk about this one. I think it is safe to say just about everyone in today's NFL would like to trade down for more picks. The economics of drafting in the top 5 are beyond silly. Thing is, the economics of Dan Snyder are also silly, so money is less of a factor in just about any personnel decision made in Ashburn. Adding picks is the key, and we are not alone in our endeavor to do that. An integral part of any success in trading down is making at least one team think you are going to do something you don't intend to do. Vinny "Open Book" Cerrato was close to incapable of this kind of head fake. The other part of trading down involves "The Chart". This trade value chart has been around for a while and regardless of who you want to blame for its popularization, plenty of weak-minded front offices are scared to death to venture far from it, lest they seem weak and stupid to their owners. My point/recommendation: Go ahead and make the world think we want Sam Bradford. The fact that our doctor did his surgery, coupled with our intent to draft him will surely convince a quarterback-hungry team to consider trading with us for the right to draft Bradford. Then, when it comes to getting a deal, don't worry about getting the exact chart value. Get the best deal you can get and take it. It will automatically come with a decent 1st rounder and a solid 2nd or 3rd rounder. Everything else is gravy. Let's not lose the chance to trade down by quibbling over future 5th and 6th round type add-ons to the deal.