Quarterback is the most important position in all of American team sports. The Washington Redskins, in all reality, do not have a viable one.
But that does not mean selecting a passer with their first round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft is the proper call. Certainly not while they still have no sense of direction as to where this organization is headed.
Of course everyone wants their team to have a "franchise" quarterback. It's certainly the warm and fuzzy move, what with the promise that these youthful gunslingers bring to the table and the belief that their laser-like throws can magically cure all ills. The problem for the Redskins in this case is that their current roster misfortunes stretch so far and wide (insert your Albert Haynesworth joke here) that they are far removed from one, even multiple players working as a cure.
With their first round pick, the 10th overall selection in the April 28 draft, the Redskins may be in a position to take one of the two passers considered worthy at that spot, Auburn's Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton or Missouri's Blaine Gabbert.
(To be clear, I'm of the camp that says unless the new collective bargaining agreement forces their hands, the Redskins end the Donovan McNabb era after one season. As for Rex Grossman, even the most optimistic of the non-Shanahan class know that he is nothing more than a stopgap. Though if the Redskins decide to go down the rebuilding path for a season, then that works.)
Both signal callers have those that praise their talents and others that question their transition to the professional level. At best, there is no consensus that either player will be a star. There is always risk with any pick, but it looms with these two, large by some estimations, particularly for the flashy Newton, following a championship-winning, but tabloid-filled collegiate career.
The organization has previously rolled the dice and lost: on Patrick Ramsey and Jason Campbell in the first round, not to mention trading for McNabb a season ago. The Redskins have had a host of other high-profile acquisitional misfires, tabbing either of these quarterbacks with a valuable resource is simply not the prudent maneuver.
Then add in the unrealistic expectations —largely set by management—about what this team can accomplish in the near term. Even if the plan is to have the newbie start by carrying a clipboard, the Redskins world at-large will be calling for his assertion into the lineup faster than you can type the phrase "two-game losing streak."
A young quarterback can be buried under the "face of the franchise" pressure, not to mention an onslaught of pass rushing defenders who frequently rip past the Redskins leaky offensive line, making even the most assured promising ballers gun shy.
However there is more to this than simply protecting an unripe investment. If there were pieces in place to allow a newbie QB the opportunity to learn, to perhaps even play (though for me, no rookie QB would set foot on the field in year one other than to shake hands after the game) without having to be the primary offensive weapon and while not constantly running for his life, then we could talk.
Considering the Redskins starting lineup and depth has more gaping holes than Wisconsin Avenue after weeks of watery weather, I'll simply assume you're fine if we chat at a later date. The Redskins are in the basement, at least of the NFC East, and yet not rebuilding. They have stacks of veteran players yet there is a not a defining, hang-your-hat-on aspect of the team, at least not a positive one. Maybe if the decision makers understood that it's OK to purposely take a step back for future gains, a different conversation here could be had.
They need a running back, at least one that can stay healthy and is not pushing 75 in NFL years. Their top wide receiver is no lock to return and more size and help was needed at that position regardless. The notion that this offensive line can pass protect is less credible than Charlie Sheen talking self-control. And that's just one side of the ball.
The defense, which ranked 31st out of 32 teams last year, and was the worst burgundy and gold edition in generations, needs a run-stuffing nose tackle and young assertive legs at defensive end. Free safety has remained a sore spot for some time. Additional bodies at linebacker and corner would not hurt.
And again, they have limited quality opportunities to fix the issues.
Besides their first round pick, the Redskins have a second round selection, but nothing in the third and fourth due to trades for now 34-year McNabb and tackle Jamaal Brown, neither of whom are definitively back for 2011. (They also currently have picks in rounds five, six and seven plus two conditional picks acquired in trades believed to be in the later rounds.)
Looking generally at the projected draft board, the Redskins could target a tackle, wide receiver or defensive end with that top pick and address any of their remaining needs in the second round. But the areas they need to build up the most, both sides of the line, could be handled with selections later in round one. That is why trading down for additional picks, adding as much youthful talent that will be the core of the franchise for years to come is a logical path. That is, if you believe teams like the Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots know what they are doing.
In an ideal world, one that simply has not existed out in Ashburn since the early '90s, this team would start over and build from the bottom up. Establish an identity, formulate a long term plan. In that scenario, a young passer could be both coddled and pushed as safety nets would be in place to minimize the downside, while keeping the brashness needed to play the position high. As is, anything but the cream of the crop passer is destined to fail. To fall. Hard. Right into one of the team's many, many holes.