Washington Redskins  

 

Redskins sitting pretty knowing franchise QB awaits them

  • By Jeff Darlington NFL.com
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In the months leading up to the 2006 NFL Draft, Mike Shanahan knew which quarterback he wanted. He did all the homework, watched all the throws. And his team was prepared to trade up in the draft, which it eventually did, to get his man.

But one aspect of his approach back then -- when the Denver Broncos moved from No. 15 to 11 to select Jay Cutler -- differed greatly from this year's strategy as Shanahan's Washington Redskins position themselves to bag a franchise quarterback.

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Shanahan never attended Cutler's pre-draft workouts, never talked to him at all, something he unabashedly has done with Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck. If you wanted to get a photo of Shanahan and Cutler together one month before the draft, it would've required Photoshop. The secrecy was deliberate, too.

"With Cutler, I felt like I'd show my hand," Shanahan said. "This time, I know I'm getting Andrew or Robert. We're not fooling anybody, and we know we're getting one of them."

That might be true. After all, the Redskins are clearly comfortable landing either Griffin or Luck. But that doesn't mean the coming weeks won't be full of delicious intrigue as we wait to see which quarterback the Indianapolis Colts draft first. It also doesn't mean the Redskins don't have a preference between the two.

One team source said he believes there's a "95 percent" chance the Redskins wind up with Griffin. The same source said that's also the preference of plenty of people in the building -- and they aren't convinced Colts owner Jim Irsay will steer away from Luck even if it seems clear the Redskins would prefer Griffin.

That's the beauty of the Redskins' situation: No matter how they play this, people will interpret it as they choose. And no matter what happens, they get Griffin or Luck.

"I've watched every play that both of these quarterbacks have made since they were freshmen," Shanahan said. "I've watched every game, every scenario. I've told everybody I feel like you've got two franchise guys.

"When you make a move to the second pick, you have to feel comfortable with both guys. You've got to be able to say, 'Hey, I feel great.' And, yeah, I've heard a lot of different things. But whatever happens, you've got to be happy with both."

It's a comfortable situation to be in. It's particularly comfortable since the team was able to lessen the burden of its lost draft picks by adding two proven wide receivers in free agency (Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan). That, however, doesn't mean the games are over.

As Irsay continues to be clear with his intentions that he'll thoroughly evaluate both -- noting in a recent tweet that the team remains "open-minded" even if things have "always pointed toward (Luck)" -- this could become increasingly interesting if there's a growing sense Irsay will draft Griffin.

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Team sources currently believe, although not specifically told by Griffin, that he does very much want to play for the Redskins. One team source believes he'd prefer it. Hey, maybe he was just being nice, but two weeks ago, Griffin was even signing Redskins helmets at a Washington-area event.

If that's the case, if signs point toward a real possibility the Colts are interested in Griffin, could the Redskins eventually begin to recruit Griffin? Perhaps even to the point where they push for him to make a power play if Irsay decides to favor him? That's where this could get interesting.

Some within the Redskins organization actually have Griffin graded out higher than Luck. In fact, one person said he thought Griffin was "hands down" better than Luck -- and it wasn't until members of the organization watched Luck in person that they realized the margin between the two was closer than originally believed.

Now, they'd be "happy with either," the Redskins source said. But still, the 'Skins seem very confident -- with no qualms about admitting it -- that Griffin will fit their system (regardless of what Donovan McNabb says). From his success with quarterback keepers to play action, and even his comfort with zone reads, the team believes Griffin fits the Redskins' strategy on the ground and in the air.

There is some wonder organizationally about how quickly Griffin can succeed as a drop-back passer, since he didn't do much of it in college. Luck, meanwhile, is clearly polished in that regard. But team sources say they view Griffin's potential as similar to Cam Newton's situation: Just because he never did it before doesn't mean he can't.

All of the signs from college, a source said, suggest he'll be very coachable in that regard. This, however, is no big secret. If the Redskins weren't comfortable with both Luck and Griffin, they wouldn't have moved into the No. 2 spot.

"When you do make a trade, you're excited knowing you're going to get one of the two guys," Shanahan said.

The Redskins are indeed working on building their offensive playbook -- but not to the extent that it is overly specific to Griffin or Luck. They are comfortable waiting a few more weeks to find out -- with perfect certainty -- who they'll be getting before getting overly engaged in such tactics.

To that extent, Shanahan made a good point about the Redskins' plan as they await their QB fate.

"We're getting ready for the draft. You're wondering who will be there in the third, fourth or fifth round," Shanahan said. "You're looking for a Shannon Sharpe or a Terrell Davis, guys that are Hall of Fame players in the seventh round [Davis actually went in the sixth round of the 1995 draft], that's what you're looking for right now."

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Indeed, the Redskins still have plenty of other work to help them bide their time between now and then. We'll probably have to wait a couple more weeks to see if this becomes a more strategic situation at the top of the draft.

It is still a very comfortable situation in Washington. The anxiety has been lifted from much of the organization, particularly since it doesn't even have to wait until the day of the draft to find out whether or not it will be getting a franchise quarterback. Whether it's Griffin or Luck, the Redskins will get a guy they believe in.

So while Shanahan's strategy this time around might not be nearly the same as it was in 2006 with Cutler, it doesn't mean he hasn't abandoned strategy altogether. And it's only a matter of time before we find out exactly what that is.

"You hear speculation and rumors about all of the possibilities," Shanahan said. "But I've been in this business long enough that you don't know until draft day."

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @jeffdarlington

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