As Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan heads into the offseason, he will have some crucial decisions to make when it comes to remedying the inadequacies of his current roster. A quick fix is always desirable in D.C., but after applying that method for much of the past decade, the team is in need a steady approach which will focus on acquiring the right players rather than biggest names. It may be hard for some to fathom, but the Redskins won't be able to address all their needs in one fell swoop. Instead of slapping a band-aid on the sports hernia, they need to begin surgery.
The choices made by the front office in the next few months will shape the future of the franchise, and the quarterback position will unquestionably receive center stage as the general topic of conversation. Will the Redskins re-sign Rex Grossman? Will they draft a quarterback? What will happen with Donovan McNabb?
While subtly bashing McNabb and ultimately running him out of town (is anyone going to put money on him staying?), Shanahan constantly exonerated Grossman from his turnover-prone ways. From all appearances, it seems safe to predict he'll be re-signed to compete for a job as the starter next year. No one will ever be able to comprehend what it is Shanahan sees in the enigmatic Grossman, but he continued to support him all the way through his uneven three-week evaluation process.
It may be unfair, but Shanahan picks his favorites, and for some reason Grossman was at the top of the list. He threw McNabb under the bus on numerous occasions, but not his visibly-inferior backup for the same boneheaded mistakes. Certainly an outrage, but our indignation is completely unimportant when it comes to influencing Shanahan's decisions.
However, Grossman's body of work should be enough to convince anyone he isn't an NFL starter. His footwork and arm strength are average while his decision-making runs far below the mean. He turned the ball over eight times in three games (plus his brief cameo in Detroit) and went 1-2 in those games, hardly a strong case from a quarterback with little in terms of a successful track record. Grossman completed a paltry 55.6 percent of his passes, and that's an improvement upon his career mark of 54.2 percent. He has little pocket presence and his mental clock is non-existent, leading to issues regarding ball security (four fumbles lost in 2010).
In terms of positives, Grossman was able to get the ball into the hands of his playmakers during his three starts. Santana Moss and Chris Cooley combined for 37 receptions with the former Gator at QB the final three games. The Redskins finished the season with a red zone scoring efficiency of 51.16 percent, but with Grossman they scored in the red zone 63.64 percent of the time. Washington averaged 2.3 red zone scores per game under Grossman, but averaged just 1.4 on the year.
So it's not all bad when taking into account his numbers. But let's be real: Grossman is at best a short-term option for a team still light years away from winning anything. He has yet to distinguish himself after eight seasons in the NFL and with Washington this season, he did nothing to alter the perception that he is woefully inconsistent. The turnovers, the pocket presence, the completion percentage - all of it adds up to one mediocre quarterback.
I could name a few low profile free agents I would rather have to bridge the gap between next year and the future, but in all likelihood Sexy Rexy will be the guy come week one of the regular season. And in reality, it doesn't really matter if it's Grossman or Marc Bulger under center, because the Redskins are likely over a year away from being serious contenders anyways.
Nevertheless, the NFL draft is rapidly approaching and it's inevitable that the focus will come down to which quarterback may or may not become Shanahan's next chosen one in the long line of post-Elway disappointments. The Redskins lack a franchise signalcaller, and it's only a matter of time before he loses interest in Grossman for a shinier toy. Will this be the year when he makes the move to acquire his long-term starter, or will he determine quarterback is a luxury he can't yet afford given the team's needs elsewhere? Undoubtedly he will argue the benefits of Cam Newton's athleticism, Ryan Mallett's cannon-like arm and Jake Locker's pro-ready presence, but will any of them strike his fancy?
You never want to pass up a potential franchise quarterback, but presently the Redskins are in a position where they can't force the issue and simply take one just because. There are countless other needs on this team, and if the war room isn't convinced by any of the top flight QB prospects on the board, then they have zero business taking a flier on one of them. Instead, they should look to refortify the offensive or defensive line and save the QB selection for another year.
However, you have to strongly assume Shanahan will make a serious push for a quarterback regardless of the circumstances. He has obsessively chased greatness under center for much of the past decade, and what's to think that will stop now, especially in light of this intriguing quarterback class? Mallett lacks the mobility Shanahan would want, but his arm strength is tempting. Newton's stock will be greatly affected by Monday's BCS Championship Game outcome, but it's certain he will be coveted by teams due to his size and raw playmaking abilities. Locker and Blaine Gabbert are among the other sought after candidates, making it one of the deeper classes in some time.
But amidst all of the hullabaloo, the organization must ensure their other shortcomings aren't overlooked at the expense of a quarterback who didn't excite them, but was taken anyway to create a buzz. That would be the exact route taken by previous Redskins front offices, and would set them back a few more seasons. Let's hope it's not a mistake Shanahan makes.