Sunday, May 15, 2011

Finding a Redskins starting quarterback for 2011

We will never know whether the Redskins went into the draft intending to skip the quarterback position, or if they had a guy they wanted but missed out on him. I rather suspect the latter, but it's a non-issue now. Either way, that ommission has given us all to talk about during an indeterminately long offseason that lack even free agent news to this point. The fact is, none of us know anything about how the Redskins will handle the quarterback situation once the lockout lifts. And the nature of the internet is that the Redskins will end up being mentioned in rumors regarding absolutely everyone that could be available. For a very thorough accounting of potentially available quarterbacks I recommend this Rotoworld post; but let's start with a much less exhaustive list and discuss a few of the names that have come up as possible 2011 Redskins quarterbacks: Vince Young, Rex Grossman, John Beck, Matt Hasselbeck, and Kyle Orton. Then I will tack Bruce Gradkowski on to the end even though he hasn't been talked about much.


Vince Young provoked a rather intense little twitter/blog war over the past couple of weeks, featuring Burgundy Blog on the pro-Vince side and pretty much everyone else on the other. I have remained neutral, because I have mixed feelings on the Vince Young debate. Obviously he has physical talent, and he has the mobility to move the pocket like Mike and Shanahan love to do. And at times in Tennesse he appeared to be improving as a quarterback. This is not like a JaMarcus Russell situation, Vince Young just might still have upside.

I’m inclined to say that if the Shanahans do their due diligence on Young and determine that his alleged personality issues have been to some degree overblown, and if they do sufficient film study to be confident he can run the offense, and if Young is required to compete for the starting job with either Rex or Beck (whichever is retained), then I could see signing the guy. If he loses the competition then he doesn’t play anyway, and the investment would probably be low enough that if we have to cut him we haven’t wasted much in the way of resources. It will be bad publicity, but I don’t think Mike Shanahan cares.

The only problem is that based on the Donovan McNabb fiasco I’m not really confident that this regime will fulfill all those “ifs.” I will excerpt from an old post:

- If the whispers about [McNabb’s] work ethic are true, then the coaches are guilty of not doing their homework.

- If his skills are simply not a good fit for the Shanahans’ system then they are guilty of a failure of film study.

- If he does have the skills and work ethic to succeed, then the coaches failed to coach him up properly and design game plans around his abilities.

So I am not quite willing to trust Mike Shanahan’s judgment on such a high-upside gamble like Vince Young. And while Albert Haynesworth’s extreme petulance made a bad situation worse, I have long been critical of Shanahan’s handling of him. I am not equating Young and Haynesworth – they’re two different men at all. But based on what we’ve seen we can’t be sure that Shanahan will know how to handle a player who might (I stress might – none of us actually know the guy) need a bit of stroking to keep his head on straight.

I am not one of those who thinks signing Vince Young would be a catastrophically bad decision. It wouldn’t quite be crazy, but I would be far from sold. The odds of Young succeeding are small, but not much smaller than the cost that would be incurred if he didn’t work out.


There is a widespread assumption that John Beck is terrible. That is possible, or even likely, but we just don’t know it to be the case. Beck has played a grand total of five NFL games. He played them four years ago. As a rookie. On a bad team. It is certainly not fair to make final judgments about him based on that sample. Now of course the fact that he hasn’t found his way onto the field since then probably means something, and assuming he can step in and play effectively would be foolish. And of he will be 30 by the time the season opens.

But by all accounts Mike Shanahan has been smitten with him for some time now (not just at the gushing post-draft interview; that was the conventional wisdom when Beck was first acquired last August). If he is given the chance to compete for a starting job, I hope fans and media at least wait to see him play a little before arriving at a verdict


NFL Networks’ draft team reacted to the Redskins lack of a quarterback selection by talking as if John Beck was now the assumed starter. Did they remember that Rex Grossman exists? Rex is a free agent, of course, which I think was the basis of their assumption. But if you’re Rex Grossman, where do you figure you would have the best chance to win a starting job? It’s certainly plausible that the Redskins could choose Beck over Grossman, but if Rex departs I’m pretty sure it will be because Shanahan doesn’t want him.


The classic declining veteran stopgap measure. If he can keep himself healthy for a bit he should be able to keep the offense moving, especially given his career’s worth of experience in west coast offenses. And Hasselbeck would obviously have a much lower floor than someone like Young who is trying to salvage a career gone astray. In this scenario either Beck or Grossman would need to be retained, as the second stringer is likely to have to start several games.


Orton’s name has also popped up in rumors, but I don’t buy it. I actually like him as a quarterback. He is going to be solidly average, if not better, for some team somewhere. But the guy can’t move at all, and my impression is that Mike Shanahan has little use for immobile quarterbacks.


This guy is one of my favorite under the radar possibilities. Gradkowski, frankly, is a limited quarterback. There is zero possibility he will develop into a viable long term starter. But he will work his butt off, play his butt off, and will move the offense to the extent possible given his modest skill set. He will be consistent enough that your team might actually win a few games with him under center. He strikes me as a nice, cheap insurance policy should the Redskins decide to gamble on Rex or Beck as a starter while letting the other depart. He’s a good backup, which is nice to have given there would be no certainty that the starter can cut it. And if Bruce ends up as a starter for a significant part of the season, he’s the type of guy who might at least be able to keep the ship afloat long enough for you to find his replacement.

1 comment:

  1. You mentioned everyone by Donovan McNabb. I'm just saying....

    Here's my definition of irony: The Redskins pick up Gradkowski, still a Raider by the way, who was replaced by Jason Campbell. I'll make hey of that on my blog for a few days if it happens.