The 2011 NFL offseason has gone pretty perfectly for the Washington Redskins.
OK, maybe not perfectly. Perfectly would have included DeSean Jackson deciding to end his holdout by retiring instead of returning to the Philadelphia Eagles, or the Arizona Cardinals accidentally trading Larry Fitzgerald to us instead of Tim Hightower, or the Dallas Cowboys inexplicably cutting half their roster (oh wait, that did actually happen).
Other than that though, Mike Shanahan’s plan for the 2011 season is coming along just swimmingly. The Redskins have gotten significantly younger while also adding depth at almost every position on the field and eliminating a good deal of dead weight from the roster. The offensive line has been completely turned over in the last two years. The special teams unit could be vastly improved with the additions of Sav Rocca and Shayne Graham. The team may even have among the best group of safeties in the league.
There’s only one position that hasn’t really been addressed. It just happens to be inarguably the most important position on the team.
Yet even though the Redskins don’t have an elite starting quarterback, or even a mediocre starting quarterback by many estimates, their plan is still working to perfection. This is exactly what Shanahan had envisioned.
He hopes, of course, that either John Beck or Rex Grossman will emerge from the preseason as a competent NFL starter who can solidify the quarterback position for the Redskins for years to come. But it isn’t likely, and Shanahan has got to know that, and he’s OK with it. Because with the inevitable collapse of Washington’s 2011 season will come renewed hope for the future. A future that will have the Redskins picking within the first 10 picks of the 2012 NFL Draft with no more than a few teams picking ahead of them in need of a quarterback.
The 2011 offseason has gone perfectly for Washington because just about every lousy team who might need a new quarterback soon decided to draft one this year. The Panthers, Titans, Jaguars, Vikings, Bengals, and 49ers all selected a quarterback in one of the first two rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft. That might not necessarily mean that none of these teams will pick Andrew Luck in 2012, if he remains the sure-thing prodigious franchise quarterback that he’s currently thought to be. But at the very least, these teams, along with about 15-20 other teams with stability at the quarterback position, won’t necessarily be ranking quarterback as their top priorities in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
The Redskins sure will.
The quarterback class of 2012 doesn’t stop with Luck. Landry Jones of Oklahoma enters the season as another elite prospect, and Matt Barkley of USC has more potential than any other quarterback from that school since, well, Matt Leinart. The Redskins aren’t going to throw this season with the hope of landing Luck, but they do seem to be in line to draft one of the top three quarterbacks next year. And it’s no secret that the top draft-eligible three quarterbacks next year are rated much higher at the moment than the top three draft-eligible quarterbacks this year.
The Redskins’ plan for the 2011 offseason might not be obvious, or even conventional, but its been successful. The team is now built for the future. When their shiny new quarterback arrives in training camp in 2012, they’ll be ready. Their next quarterback will be entering a team that’s already been through a grueling test of a season, and has hopefully developed some chemistry, camaraderie, and a good understanding of the system put in place by the Shanahans and Jim Haslett. And if Grossman or Beck performs well enough in 2011, he may even get another year as the starter for the Redskins until Luck, Jones, or Barkley is ready.
Redskins fans don’t need to be optimistic about the team’s chances of winning the division or making the playoffs this year. Every Grossman fumble or Beck underthrown pass is just one step closer to competing in the future. Just like Shanahan planned it.