The Redskins are 2-2, coming off an absolute annihilation by the Saints, but still in sole possession of first place in the NFC East. On the one hand, some would argue this is no time to panic. On the other, some would argue we should have been panicking 8 months ago or more. Once it was clear that Kirk was gone for good at the end of last season, the team had several options:
- Start the season with Colt McCoy, basically writing off 2018 and ensuring a 4-12 (+/-2 win) season, setting the team up for a prime spot in the 2019 draft to take a future QB prospect.
- Sign a journeyman free agent QB (e.g., Keenum, Bridgewater, Fitzpatrick) to a 1-2 year deal as a bridge, likely ensuring a 6-10 (+/-2 win) season, and an early/mid first round opportunity for a future QB prospect in 2019.
- Trade for Alex Smith, giving up some young talent (and a third round pick), while locking him up to a long-term deal, likely ensuring 8-8 (+/-1 win) seasons for the foreseeable future, and an ability to defer drafting a QB for some time in the next 2-3 years.
The Redskins, of course, chose to take what was behind door number 3, locking Smith into a 5-year deal and trading away Kendall Fuller and a third round pick. It was a safe decision, and given the multi-year drama with Cousins, provided some relief to the fanbase in terms of locking in the QB, ostensibly saving us from having to worry about the position for a few years.
Well, we're 4 games into the 2018 season, and while it's entirely conceivable the team will finish 8-8 (or so), it looks like we have to worry about the position if we want to achieve anything more than mediocrity before 2021.
Over the past 4 games, several of us have seen what many Chiefs' fans and even some local sportwriters have been saying for some time: Alex Smith is a decent NFL QB, but he has a definite ceiling, and that ceiling is somewhere between "first/second round playoff loser" with an excellent defense and offensive weapons and "middle of the pack destroyer of fan enthusiasm" with the current roster of aging weapons and youthful defense that the Skins' currently possess.
The trade for Smith was a naked attempt by Bruce Allen - with the likely endorsement of at least Jay Gruden - to save both of their jobs. A sub-.500 season in Jay's fifth year, and Bruce's checkered history, would likely have resulted in a fan insurrection (which, it turns out, probably already happened, just much more quietly than expected), and boisterous calls for moving on from one or both. The gamble being that the fanbase could be sated and coaxed to stay in their seats with a .500 record and the tantalizing prospect of a wildcard spot just out of reach.
I'm a fan of the adage, "when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging." Well Skins' fans, we're in a hole, and it looks to me like we're on a course for a .500 season, which is fine. That's what I expected and predicted.
What I didn't necessarily expect was that Alex's upside was going to be as clearly constrained as it is. To begin the season, I was fine having Alex behind center for a few years, drafting a young QB in 2019 or 2020, and having him groomed by Alex. I now feel like the prospect of having Alex check down to running backs and tight ends, while passing up wide open receivers, unable to overcome any substantial lead, will suck the very last bit of fandom I have for this team out of my body. I can't endure 3 years of .500 ball while our aging talent burns off the end of their careers and while our young studs have their passion for the game sapped from them, led by an offense good enough to beat bad teams but nowhere close to compete against the best of the league.
My solution, to "stop digging," is to radically change course. To do what we probably should have done all along, which was rip the QB band-aid off this year (to hell with the consequences for Bruce and Jay), tank for the rest of the season in pursuit of a top 5 draft pick, and look to trade Alex elsewhere, to a QB needy team at the end of the season (or earlier, if there are any takers (the 49ers come to mind)). At this point, I would prefer an openly disastrous 2018, a naively hopeful 2019, and an optimistic 2020 to 3 years of assured mediocrity. How about you?