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Veteran or Rookie? Assessing Ron Rivera’s preferred route at the QB position.

Ron Rivera and Martin Mayhew's responses on the quarterback questions highlight their thought process in identifying the future at the position, but do we know which route they prefer?

NFL: Washington Football Team at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Ron Rivera and General Manager Martin Mayhew spoke on Tuesday to outline their plan for the 2022 off-season for Washington. Rivera said plenty surrounding many topics, but one important issue that Rivera and Mayhew needed to communicate to the media was the quarterback position. Free agency begins on March 16th, so the discussions about quarterback over the next couple of months will present several options for Rivera and the front office.

Rivera mentioned four avenues that the team will evaluate; the current roster, trade options, free agency, and the draft. However, what is most beneficial for Washington, a veteran or a rookie? We can eliminate one avenue before discussing the question at hand, the current quarterbacks on the roster will not work for 2022, or any season afterward, as a starter. Alternatively, did we get clarity on what route Rivera preferred during his presser?

Let’s take a look at what he and Mayhew said.

One of the more indisputable things about the quarterback position was that the right one makes the entire roster better. “Yeah. I think if we’re fortunate enough to find that guy, identify that guy, and have that guy on our football team, then yes.” Rivera said on the matter. “I’ll point to the fact that our first season here when we moved some people around and [former Washington QB] Alex Smith came in, and we really saw that development and growth. That to me, is what a good quarterback can do for you is he elevates the play of the people around him. He manages the games, he distributes the ball and, when needed, makes plays. That’s what you look for. That’s what you gotta have. To your question, that’s exactly what he does.”

Although Smith could not finish the the way he would have liked last season, Rivera made an excellent point about how a professional, experienced quarterback would look in offensive coordinator Scott Turners’ offense. Mayhew agrees with Rivera, too. “I mean as we talked about, quarterback is the most important position on the field,” Mayhew said following Rivera’s response. “He is gonna elevate the other players around him, and having a good quarterback helps your defense as well. So, that’s gonna be a key decision. It’s something we’ve been talking about for months now and we will get it done.”

It is safe to say that they identified what they wanted from the position, an excellent game manager. Of course, anything above being a game manager, such as a transcendent talent who can take over games, is a bonus. But a game manager is the starting criteria.

Are you more likely to find a game manager in the draft, free agency, or through a trade? Technically any answer is correct, but you’d have to ask yourself which route is Rivera’s staff most comfortable with exploring?

Mayhew isn’t scared to draft a quarterback 11th overall if Washington finds themselves looking for their future quarterback in April.

“Well, I would tell you this, uh, you know, having the number one pick is obviously helpful in that situation, but you still have to pick the right guy. You know, the year that we picked Stafford, Mark Sanchez was out there. [Josh] Freeman was out there, there were other options. Options in free agency. We talked through a lot of different options in how to move forward before we decided to use that pick on Matthew and we had the opportunity to trade back. So we had the opportunity to trade back and maybe take one of those other guys and maybe Matthew would’ve still been there. Where you’re picking isn’t that important as you see every year, guys go 10, 11, elsewhere, other than the first overall pick being pretty good quarterbacks.”

Looking at recent years, Mac Jones was drafted 15th overall, Justin Herbert sixth overall, Lamar Jackson 32nd overall, Patrick Mahomes 10th overall, Deshaun Watson 12th overall, and Dak Prescott 135th overall. So, Mayhew is comfortable with this route, but what about Rivera?

Rivera was asked about heading into his third year in Carolina compared to Washington. “Well, the big difference being in Carolina, when I got there, the attitude was, if we’re going to take a quarterback early, we had to make sure the offensive line could protect him, and we had enough playmakers around him, and we were very fortunate with the playmakers, to begin with,” Rivera said about the initial difference between Carolina and Washington.

“I feel we have a pretty good nucleus right here that if we did do that with a rookie, I wouldn’t be afraid to play him because you’re bringing them here for one reason, that’s to play. If you draft him, are you guys going to be patient enough to give me two seasons? Are you guys going to be patient enough if I don’t play him? So, if we do that, we’re doing that to play him. I’m not doing it to have him wait, because again, it is about, like I said, to me, the third season is when you take another step and hopefully, we’ve done the things with the other positions that would warrant us, finding the guy to put in and get ready to roll whether it comes from one of those four avenues or not. That’s the important thing that we have to decide on.”

Ron, like Mayhew, seems comfortable with a rookie as well. A bridge option does not seem likely, as Ron believes that the current pieces surrounding the roster are good for a quarterback to be successful. Whoever Washington decides to bring in, whether it is ultimately a veteran or a rookie, will be their day one starter in 2022.

In the end, the answer on the team preference at quarterback remains unclear. Still, Rivera and Mayhew’s responses indicate that their pursuit for a solution will be the utmost priority and that their process began months ago. Time will soon tell if the team hit on plans A, B, C, or D.