One thing Hog Heaven consistently said about the 2011 Washington Redskins is that there would be a lot to like about this team even if they finished with the same record as 2010.
The 'Skins finished with five wins, two games worse than we expected. Like everyone else, we are not happy with quarterback play. Two years and three players later, Washington is worse off than if Mike Shanahan stuck with Jason Campbell for two seasons until he could get the quarterback of his dreams.
Shanahan's second offseason in Washington was much more successful than his first. He found a budding star in LB Ryan Kerrigan and a high potential defensive lineman in Jarvis Jenkins. Leonard Hankerson's one good game before injury is a tease for improvement in the passing game. Though Roy Helu and Evan Royster have yet to show playmaker potential, Washington does have a solid running game with them.
Free agent additions Christ Chester, Stephen Bowen, Barry Cofield and Jabar Gaffney filled holes in the roster. Free agent role players who fit your system, what a concept change for a team that signed Albert Haynesworth to lead the flock to the Promised Land.
Yes indeed, the Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen's astute moves in 2011 gave us lots to like about the Redskins. It set the bar for them to pull off more magic this offseason. We will spend a lot of ink, or pixels, on that over the next few months, especially between the start of free agency on March 13 and the 2012 NFL Draft on April 26.
Looking back at 2010
Why didn't Shanallenhan make those astute moves in when they arrived in 2010? They could not. Their hands were tied. Two things brought that home to me.
The first is that Shanahan acknowledged what longtime Redskins fans already knew. "We didn't have a lot of depth when I first came in," Shanahan acknowledged in an NFL.com Video ahead of the Senior Bowl. Shanahan also alluded to the restrictive free agency rules in place in the uncapped last year of the CBA.
That revealing bit of candor is a complete reversal of what Shanahan told fans in 2010. Back then he said that he was trying to win now with players like McNabb and Haynesworth, as if the 'Skins were one or two players away from contention.
Lack of depth was truthful, but saying so then would have undercut the team's effort to sell tickets.
The second item was Shanahan's comments about Tim Tebow after a campus to visit to Florida before the 2010 NFL Draft.
"I like everything about him," Shanahan said. "If you can't root for a guy like Tebow, man, you don't like your [own] kids."Here's a guy to me that brings everything to the table. He'll interview with 30 people, work out for everybody [and] when you're with him, he's just an off-the-chart guy," Shanahan said. "Those guys don't come around all the time. Especially with the success that he's had." (Rick Maese, The Insider, March 24, 2010)
After reading that story, 'Skins fans wondered if Shanahan would use Washington's second round Draft pick on the Tebow. Tebow was considered a reach for Washington's fourth overall pick. the pre-Draft debate was whether he would be on the board in the second round.
No depth, no free agent talent, minimal Draft picks; Shanahan jumped, or was pushed, to one big gambit for McNabb. Thus, leaving the Redskins to select these players in 2010:
|RD1, 4th overall||Trent Williams, OT|
|RD2, 37th overall||Traded to Philadelphia for Donovan McNabb|
|Rd 3||None, used in the 2009 Supplemental Draft, Vinny Cerrato selected Kevin Barnes, CB|
|RD 4, 103 overall||Perry Riley, LB|
|RD 5, 135 overall||Traded to St. Louis along with the 7th Round, 211 overall, for DE Adam Carriker and a fifth-round pick the Rams acquired from the Eagles. Washington traded this pick for a 6th Round pick, 174th overall, and a 7th Round pick, 219, overall)|
|RD 6, 174th overall||Dennis Morris, TE|
|RD 7th, 219 overall||Terrence Austin, WR|
Key Undrafted Free Agents
Brandon Banks, Return specialist
Keiland Williams, RB
Logan Paulsen, TE
The Broncos selected Tebow with the 25th pick of the first round. That was controversial, but Tebow delivered his value to Denver with his inelegant playoff run.
How might Washington's Draft look if Shanahan selected Tebow with the fourth overall pick? They might have kept Jason Campbell rather than trade for McNabb and backfilled the tackle position with someone like Charles Brown who was selected by the Saints late in the second round. Brown showed some talent before he was placed on Injured Reserve, but he is no Trent Williams.
Jammal Brown might have moved to left tackle and Stephon Heyer on the right.
Thus, the Redskins would have been left with a starting quarterback the owner did not believe in, a high potential back up with high development needs and a still challenged O-line in need of talent. But Campbell-Tebow would have been a better QB combination than Grossman-Beck.
That's a hypothetical. The reality is that Shanallenhan passed on a high profile quarterback (as he did in 2011), invested the first round on a grunt that blocks, traded for a role-playing contributor (Carriker), picked an eventual starter in Perry Riley, a potential contributor in Terrence Austin and found rookie free agent nuggets in Banks and Paulsen. Washington and every other team missed on wide receiver Antonio Brown for fives rounds.
We didn't see it at the time, thanks to the glare of the McNabb trade, but Shanahan's Draft moves presaged his 2011 Draft. Both Drafts years found players who started within a year.
It's all but certain that Shanahan will attempt to move up to draft a top-tier quarterback who, this year, can only be the third version of Robert Griffin. That is still the "one great player" mentality that has plagued Washington in the Snyder era. Shanahan has to keep faith with fans by going for RG3. He will have to out bid the Browns and the Dolphins to get him. If that fails, as is likely, there are still lots to like in Shanahan's approach to the Draft.
How soon before Draft Day?