May 6, 2012; Ashburn, VA, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) throws the ball as Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan watches during rookie minicamp at Redskins Park. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE
The Washington Redskins finally have a franchise quarterback. How quickly can Robert Griffin III lead his team back to the playoffs?
The Washington Redskins have had more coaches in the last ten years than winning seasons. Actually, the dry spell in DC goes back even further, another decade, punctuated by three playoff appearances and just four winning seasons. Long stretches of futility have become regular features for some NFL teams, and their fan bases have responded by leaving the stadium half empty on game days. Not Washington. Redskins' games boast some of the league's highest attendance rates, making the team's fecklessness that much more glaring.
What is to blame for all those seasons of frustration? I'm sure Washington fans can point to any number of things. Fantasy football general manager and team owner Dan Snyder certainly bears some responsibility. Snyder dusted off Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs for a productive four-year stretch, and turned to another larger than life sideline presence when he hired Mike Shanahan in 2010.
A more nuts and bolts analysis of the problems in Washington, the more recent problems, would be remiss to overlook the team's offensive struggles. The Redskins' best offensive output over the last four years was an average of 18.8 points per game in 2010. Scoring more than 20 points per game is a basic requirement for winning in today's NFL. Not coincidentally, the Redskins have tried more quarterbacks than they have coaches during that stretch, from the home-grown Jason Campbell to pricey free agent washout Donovan McNabb.
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That finally changes this year. Instead of throwing oodles of cash at the problem, Snyder and his cabal handed a treasure chest of draft picks to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for the second pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and the chance to make Robert Griffin III the cornerstone of the franchise for at least the next decade.
A quarterback "controversy" involving John Beck and Rex Grossman says it all about Washington's 2011 season. They bottomed out with six straight losses in the middle of the season, and limped across the finish line with losses the Vikings and the Eagles for a 5-11 record.
The Redskins scored only 19 passing touchdowns last season, which puts them in the bottom third of the league. Their quarterback issues aside, Washington lacked receivers capable of stretching the field or even winning battles in the end zone. Jabar Gaffney ended Santana Moss' reign as the team's leading receiver. Age slowed Moss, and Gaffney has never been more than a possession receiver. Rookie Leonard Hankerson injured his hip just as it looked like he could breakout. Tight end Fred Davis, the team's best playmaker, was suspended the last four game of the season because of a banned substance violation.
Washington's defense did a fine job of getting to opposing quarterbacks. Rookie outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan had seven and a half sacks, and he had Brian Orakpo give that unit a pair of fearsome cornerstones. That helped mask the secondary's struggles.
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Knowing that they were going to draft Robert Griffin III, allowed Washington to concentrate its resources on adding a pair of wide receivers, Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. Both players have shown flashes of promise in their career. With a healthy Leonard Hankerson in the mix, Washington could finally have a solid group of wideouts.
The Redskins also managed to keep a few key players from leaving in free agency. They used the franchise tag on Davis, and re-signed defensive end Adam Carriker and linebacker London Fletcher. The defections of safeties O.J. Atogwe and LaRon Landry could hurt an already weak secondary.
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The story here is Griffin. Without so much as a single preseason game under his belt, RG3 has already become the most popular public figure in DC. Fans have good cause to pin their hopes on Griffin because he is an extraordinarily talented player. With all due respect to the other players selected, this draft is all about RG3 who should have a significant impact as a rookie.
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Besides Griffin, they added a trio of offensive linemen, which will hopefully add quality depth to a unit that was plagued with injuries and Trent Williams' four-game suspension for marijuana last season.
The Redskins may yet get the last laugh with their 4th-round selection of Iowa quarterback Kirk Cousins. He lacks the arm and "it" factor of a blue chip starting quarterback. He does have more than enough to develop into a competent backup with starting ability the team could one day trade.
From SB Nation's Hogs Haven:
I'm pretty sure there's no fan base in the NFL that is better at getting their hopes up every year than that of the Washington Redskins. All of the high-priced free agent failures sing a nice tune when they first arrive, but it's good to see that era is over. Despite the Redskins lowly 6-10 record last year, they played the Patriots extremely close and beat the Super Bowl Giants twice. Go figure. Oh, and the Redskins beat the Super Bowl Packers in 2010 the year they won it. So, the Redskins can hang!...just not consistently.
The lack of depth and quality QB play has crippled this team in the Shanahan era, but no team has had more draft picks the last two years than the Redskins. All 12 picks saw action on the roster last year and with Robert Griffin III taking over at QB, smart QB play should move a few of those close losses over to the win column...and that has Redskins fans, myself included, sniffing the Wild Card glue.
They Make The Playoffs If ...
Making the playoffs is a tall order for Washington considering just how strong the NFC East looks to be this season. Washington's success this season depends on how quickly Griffin adjusts to life in the NFL. With his incredible arm and accuracy along with an ability to move outside the pocket, RG3 could pose a challenge for the division's pass rushers.
Even the most talented rookie quarterbacks will have their ups and downs. If Griffin can lift Washington's offense into the middle of the pack in 2012, it will take some weight off the defense's shoulders. That combination might be enough for Washington to sneak into the playoffs this year.