By Rich Tandler
There are many who are taking Mike Shanahan to task for going into the season with John Beck and Rex Grossman at quarterback. Neither has proven to be even an average NFL starting quarterback and the position remains a sore spot for the Redskins two years into Shanahan’s tenure.
But what were the alternatives after the team punted on Donovan McNabb? Who could they have brought in? With the benefit of a half a season of hindsight, let’s take a look at the quarterbacks who could be wearing burgundy and gold and how they might have affected the 2011 season and beyond.
Last week, we looked at the veterans who were available. Here, we’ll see who the Redskins could have drafted.
Before we look at who the Redskins might have drafted, let’s look at what they actually did last April. Draft picks are a zero sum game; if you pick one player, you forego the opportunity to draft another.
The Redskins came into the draft with their own picks in rounds one (10th overall) and two (41). They had traded away their third-rounder for Jammal Brown and their fourth for Donovan McNabb.
By the time the Redskins’ pick came up two quarterbacks were off the board. Carolina had picked up Cam Newton with the first overall pick and the Titans had taken Jake Locker eighth. Mike Shanahan decided to trade back. The Jaguars moved up, taking Washington’s tenth pick in exchange for their first-round pick, the 16th overall, and their second-rounder, No. 49.
Jacksonville took Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert at 10. With the 12th pick, the Vikings drafted QB Christian Ponder out of Florida State. When the Redskins’ turn came up at 16, they tabbed defensive end Ryan Kerrigan with the notion of converting him to a linebacker.
In round two, the Redskins took defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins with their own pick. With the Jaguars pick they traded back multiple times and recouped picks in the third (WR Leonard Hankerson) and fourth (RB Roy Helu).
What this boils down to is that if the Redskins had decided to use the tenth pick for a quarterback, they would not have been able to draft Kerrigan, Hankerson, or Helu. Any evaluation of a possible quarterback pick needs to take that into consideration.
The Redskins did not have what it would have taken to move up to the top spot to take Newton, even if the Panthers had been willing to deal away the pick. Newton has been starting all season and he looks like a future star.
Washington possibly could have moved ahead of Tennessee to take Locker but it probably would have taken their 2012 second-rounder to move up. So far, Locker’s season has been spent back a backup. He has appeared in two games and has attempted two passes.
The two that the Redskins obviously bypassed were Gabbert and Ponder. The Jaguars have gone 2-5 in Gabbert’s seven starts. He has completed 47.9 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and five interceptions.
Ponder has appeared in fewer games and has looked a bit more polished than Gabbert. He has completed 50.5 of his passes with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Of course, rookie quarterbacks have to be evaluated over the course of a few years, not a handful of games. While the 2011 Redskins may or may no not have been better off with Locker, Gabbert, or Ponder we won’t really know if Shanahan will end up regretting bypassing them this year until 2013 at the earliest.
By then we’ll see how they have matured as quarterbacks. We also will see what kind of players Kerrigan, Hankerson, and Helu are at that point and we will be able to make an evaluation of what the Redskins could have had compared to what they got for those picks.
One other quarterback we should take a look at is Andy Dalton of Cincinnati. The Redskins perhaps could have traded up in the second round, giving up the rights to Jenkins and possibly the pick that ended up netting Hankerson and Helu. Dalton is playing better than any rookie quarterback, completing 60.3 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.