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A Trend Or An Anomaly?

January 17, 2018
Case Keenum, Nick Foles and Blake Bortles are about to lead their teams into battle for a trip to Super Bowl 52 this Sunday.

Then, there’s Tom Brady. Many would call him the only legitimate quarterback talent amongst the four.

They would be wrong, of course, but he’s the best of all-time, so I’m not going to argue much.

There’s a growing sentiment in the NFL community that any team can make it deep into the playoffs with a veteran journeyman at quarterback, if that team is built the right way.

That’s counter to the long-held belief that you must have a franchise stud (in most cases) to lead you to the promise land.

So, is it a new trend that you can have a good team in all other areas and a “9-to-5, ham-and-egger” (a non-stud)? Or is it an anomaly?

The truthful answer is that it is probably an exception to the rule, but I do believe it validates my long-standing belief that there’s more than one way to win in the NFL.

Before this year, there was a universal belief that you had to sacrifice everything in pursuit of a star quarterback. That was never true, in my eyes, and it’s what got the Redskins and many other teams in trouble.

Think Robert Griffin III and that ultimate disaster of a trade. Sure, it worked out short-term, but it was almost never going to work out long-term. Why? That’s an unrealistic expectation, especially if “working out” is defined as winning a Super Bowl and because the Redskins put all their eggs in the basket of a raw, already previously injured athlete who was empowered by everyone in his circle.

Yet for as much of a disaster as it was for the Redskins, the Eagles and Rams did essentially the same thing in 2016 moving up to # 1 and # 2 overall from the middle area of the first round, and it’s worked out great. So far. Jared Goff and Carson Wentz appear on their way to having very good NFL careers. The same can be said, so far, for Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City and Deshaun Watson with Houston.

Most NFL teams will not be deterred from the pursuit of a franchise changing or stabilizing quarterback. Not now. Not ever.

That leads us to the Redskins. Clearly, they do not feel that Kirk Cousins is a franchise changing or defining quarterback. They never have, and they never will. They’re probably not wrong, but because of their own arrogance – they are faced with losing Cousins for virtually nothing or paying him an exorbitant and quite honestly, egregious rate.

Can they go cheap with Colt McCoy and a first or second round rookie? Can they build a strong enough roster around that scenario?

This is the $28 - $35 million-dollar question or $125-ish million-dollar debate. However, if the Redskins think that’s the only question or issue they must solve, that’s a huge problem.

Here’s the bottom-line: Teams with franchise quarterbacks CAN win with less. They’re certainly not guaranteed but think about the Patriots every year and the Green Bay Packers overcoming some huge odds last year, rolling to the NFC Championship game in Atlanta.

Teams without a franchise quarterback must get a lot of other areas right to have a good chance to win. They also must have a stable, manage the game type of quarterback to get it done when the pressure cranks up the most.

Can the Redskins really be sure that this is the best way to go? Nobody that I know fully trusts the front office to get it right and get it correct, quickly.

If 2018 is a make-or-break year, Washington and head coach Jay Gruden could be in a lot of trouble if they adopt this approach. Why? Because you must get 8-10 decisions right and stay relatively healthy to have a good chance.

Think about this: If the Redskins choose to let Kirk Cousins go this off-season, they have to get Colt McCoy “right” but that’s only one small part of the equation. In order to be what the Eagles, Jaguars and/or Vikings are, they also must get a very productive compliment to Chris Thompson at running back, because Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine should only be considered part of the mix, not dynamic difference makers. The Redskins need somebody to be special.

They also need at least one veteran receiver to help and bolster the vertical passing attack, along with easing pressure from Josh Doctson. Ideally, it’s somebody with size and deep speed, because the Redskins absolutely missed the threat and fear that DeSean Jackson provided.

Washington also needs to add one quality starter on the offensive line because it is likely/possible they will lose two starters from last year via free agency in Spencer Long and almost certainly Shawn Lauvao.

That’s just the offensive side of the equation. With the Redskins very likely parting ways with Bashaud Breeland, Washington is going to bank on the combination of Quinton Dunbar and Fabian Moreau at the starting corner spot opposite of Josh Norman, who had a somewhat disappointing season in 2017.

The Redskins ideally need a safety to compliment D.J. Swearinger that they can count on and somebody who can make a dynamic difference right away, along with needing at least one more blue-chip defensive end or nose tackle. Can anybody say Washington’s massive monster, Vita Vea?

Oh and then the Redskins need an edge pass rusher because both Junior Galette and Trent Murphy are free agents. That’s not to mention the fact that the Redskins top three inside linebackers (Zach Brown, Mason Foster and Will Compton) are all unrestricted free agents.

See, this is the thing: The Redskins can save themselves a lot of money under the cap by going the Colt McCoy/rookie quarterback in the draft route and that sounds great. But unlike the three teams in the conference championship games that reached this level with a “JAG” (Just Another Guy) at quarterback, the Redskins do not have what those teams have built and manicured on the defensive side of the ball over the course of the last two to three years. Nor do they have what some of the teams that were eliminated have.

The Redskins are at least one draft and/or several good free agents away from being a good defense, never mind one that can carry a large amount of the responsibility for success.

They don’t have that time because there is an incredible sense of urgency to win at almost all costs yesterday, never mind two or three years from now.

Yet, the strong sense that I have (and you should as well) is that the Redskins will end the Kirk Cousins era,  not go the route that we suggested, choose the cheap path with McCoy, re-sign two or three defensive free agents, add a few players to the mix via free agency and the draft and think they are the Vikings, Eagles or Jaguars.

No. No, you’re not. Perhaps in 2019? Maybe. Not in 2018. 

Chris Russell has covered the Washington Redskins for eight seasons for multiple media outlets and was a part of the Redskins Radio Network broadcast team for five years. He covers the Redskins, Washington Valor and Baltimore Brigade for Monumental Sports Network (  Listen to Chris on Washington D.C.'s # 1 sports radio station, 106.7 The FAN