It was an eventful start to the final week of February for D.C.'s sports franchises. Ryan Zimmerman got a long term deal done with the Nationals. The Redskins and the rest of the NFL were wowed by RGIII's workouts at the combine, and the Caps stayed the course. It was a good weekend for the Wizards too, since they did not lose. Well, they didn't play either, but I'm trying to keep a positive feeling in this space this week.
In this week's edition of Chain Reactions, we deal with the Redskins' position in the race for RGIII, the Caps standing pat at the trade deadline, and the Nationals locking up the face of the franchise while Davey Johnson puts himself on the firing line.
Early Favorites for RGIII?
Several weeks ago in this space, I proclaimed my love for RGIII as the Redskins' future signal caller and I'm happy to see so many others jumping on the bandwagon. The thing about Robert Griffin III is that there appear to be few holes. (I won't say no holes because Joe Gibbs used that phrase about Desmond Howard and we all know how that worked out.)
RGIII killed it at the NFL Combine much like he excelled on the field this season. The more exposure he gets, the more he seems to excel. He's smart, comfortable in his own skin, has no character issues unless you don't like a guy who say "yes sir", and he's a natural leader. OK, sure, there are some negatives: the Big 12 has weak defenses, it is a conference that can't count (10 teams in the league not 12), and he likes to wear weird socks.
I know the Redskins have swung and missed plenty in the past on quarterbacks in the draft, but those misses did not happen on Mike Shanahan's watch. They can't be gun shy because of past mistakes. Griffin has star written all over him. Sure there is risk, but there is risk in all draft picks.
The Redskins have 9 picks heading into the draft this season. They would swap 1's with the Rams this year and have to give up next year's #1as well as other picks to St. Louis. How high the price could get is pure speculation right now. All it takes is for one team to go Mike Ditka for Ricky Williams or Minnesota Vikings for Herschel Walker for this deal to get real pricey.
For a franchise that has not had a young franchise quarterback in forever, it seems like there is no price too high. However, there will be a price that makes Shanahan push away from the table and move onto plan B and Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The Cleveland Browns have more ammunition to play with if they are truly sold on RGIII. The only way the Redskins may be able to get the edge on the Browns would be to overpay for RGIII or to have Archie Manning help advise him. There will be plenty of rumors between now and the time a deal does get done, but the bottom line for the Skins is to get it done.
Caps Stay the Course
The Capitals and deadline day deals have become a tradition. So when they passed on Monday, some fans (including Nicklas Backstrom's brother) were really angry that the team seemed satisfied with their current situation. I have to admit I wanted to see McPhee get Andray Blatche out of here, but maybe I will give the guy on the phone the benefit of doubt when he says asking prices were too high.
Also, it's worth pointing out that only 16 deals were made league wide, which is low. Whether you agree or disagree with the Caps not getting into the deal-making, there should be no disagreement that the team has enough to at the very least be in the playoffs.
"Well, I certainly think we're capable of making the playoffs with this team right now," McPhee said. "If Nicky Backstrom came back, it certainly would improve our chances of being able to win a Cup. We can make the playoffs with this team. And if he comes back, we can beat anybody in this conference."
Also, all the past wheeling and dealing on deadline day has yet to get the Capitals out of the second round. If you remember back to the off-season, many NHL pundits thought GMGM had put together a Stanley Cup contender. Yet some players have not played up to their potential and yes, some serious injuries to key players like Mike Green (now healthy) and Backstrom have taken their toll.
Lately, thanks a three-game winning streak, the Caps suddenly look alive, albeit against some of the weaker teams in the East. You will be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of D.C. that thinks the Caps can make a Cup run this year. The Caps will not have to worry about wearing a target on their chests if they make it to the postseason. The Caps, despite all their talent, are suddenly considered underdogs, which may actually be a good thing. They clearly have not handled the front-runner's role too well in the past.
Nats Skipper Puts Himself on Firing Line
Maybe it was the news of Ryan Zimmerman's new deal that kept this from getting more attention, but Davey Johnson was not afraid to put himself on the firing line.
After Kelli Johnson asked "When you look at the season, when it's all said and done, will it be a disappointment -- a failure, in your mind, if this team does not make the playoffs?" Davey Johnson (no relation, as far as I know) came back with a bold statement.
"No question in my mind." Then, after about a five-second pause, Johnson doubled down.
"They can fire me."
Kelli: "Strong words."
Davey: "Yeah, we should be in the playoffs. There's no doubt in my mind."
I think this must be one of the great benefits of aging, besides the senior discount and early boardings on airplanes. You can pretty much say whatever you want. However, this is not just any senior citizen spending his last weeks of winter in Florida. This is Davey Johnson. The man never was known to pull punches and that is why his players love him. The Nats players beat the reporting deadline by three days! They are definitely feeling that this season could be special. Now let's see if they back up their skipper's big talk on the field.