When the Redskins were asked to make sense, they instead chose the George Costanza approach. Doing the opposite leads to the glory of a dynasty, or something.
On Day 1 of the draft, Washington’s decision was easy, and it was made the moment they shipped every draft pick they own over the next six years to St. Louis. Robert Griffin III would be their guy at No. 2 overall, and barring a dramatic flop he’ll also be their quarterback for at least the next decade.
Logically, the rest of their draft should have been focused on inserting the best building blocks around RG3 to ensure his future success. That could have been either offensive weapons, or defensive bulk to keep scores manageable, and secure ideal field position. The run defense was in particular need of fortification early, as that’s an area which helps to control the clock for Griffin and his new offense, and Washington gave 117.8 yards per game on the ground last year (18th), and 15 touchdowns.
That was one option for the Redskins when they were on the clock with their fourth-round pick, the 102nd overall pick in this year’s draft. More depth and support for an offensive line that gave up 41 sacks last year would have been acceptable as well, even after they traded up in the third-round to get guard Josh LeRibeus. Or maybe a running back, since Tim Hightower is gone, and there’s only so much longer Mike Shanahan can keep turning beer vendors into 1,000-yard rushers.
Instead they took Kirk Cousins, who plays the same position as Griffin.
John Beck was promptly and predictably released, and it’s remarkable to think that just eight months ago he was going interception-for-interception with Rex Grossman in the most depressing training camp battle in league history. It gets worse: five years ago, Beck was considered to be in the top 40 of the 255 prospects selected in the 2007 draft, and went to the Dolphins with their 40th overall pick in round two.
But Beck’s release was a formality, and not a justification. There’s room for Cousins on Washington’s roster now, but there’s still no explanation for why he’s on the roster, or at least not a good one. Let’s explore this decision using deductive reasoning, because the Redskins surely didn’t.
Washington’s front office will make one of two claims, and likely both. Firstly, they’ll say that in today’s NFL with the growth of the passing game, the backup quarterback is one of the most important depth positions. That’s the same argument that NFL Network’s Mike Mayock has been making all afternoon, but there’s a fatal flaw. Actually there are several flaws, but the most important one is Cousins’ obvious inexperience. Rookies aren’t ideal backups for rookies, because while there’s a far higher grade on Griffin and infinitely greater expectations for his long-term success, he still has the same amount of pro experience as Cousins. Zero.
The backup QB is vitally important. But generally, if an elite starter goes down for a long period (and Griffin is certainly expected to be an elite starter) his offense is absolutely screwed. There are only rare exceptions when a team in that situation has stayed afloat, and usually those instances are tied to the team around the backup. Houston saw both Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart go down this past season, and while T.J. Yates was impressive at times, the Texans continued to win through defense, and the running game. Yates was a game manager.
So even with that knowledge and simple old fashioned NFL common sense, the Redskins still spent a mid round pick on another quarterback. And they did it even though their best-case scenario is that throughout the entire life of his rookie contract Cousins never plays a meaningful snap because RG3 becomes everything they expected, and he stays healthy.
The second claim Washington will make is that Cousins can be used as a valuable trade asset in the future. Indeed they’re already towing that company line, calling Cousins a “value pick.” Essentially, they’d like to make Cousins into Matt Flynn, and three or four years from now hope that his profile will rise far enough to create a market that commands a top pick for one of the league’s best backups.
That’s a fine strategy for a team that can afford the luxury of using a valuable draft pick on a player who will do little more than wear a baseball cap for several years. The Packers are that team, but the Redskins aren’t, and they won’t be for quite some time. The Cousins pick also comes just over a month after Washington re-signed Rex Grossman to a one-year contract.
We understand the need for healthy competition, and that’s vital at every position. But while he can say all the right things, no one is fooling Griffin. He knows he’s the starter, and he knows the price Washington paid to bring him in. So at best Cousins functions as a human lie, and while he may indeed be a capable backup, will a fourth-round QB really be that much better than Grossman? Sure, laugh at Sexy Rexy if you must. Go ahead, and get it out of your system. But he has one of the main attributes you’re looking for in a backup: experience, and lots of it.
It’s all baffling, but that’s just Redskins football. High on flash and entertainment, and low on logic.
With that rant done, here are a few other quick thoughts from Saturday and my five hours watching a ticker. We’ll continue dissecting the draft throughout next week, running through a full list of our overall winners and losers, and our favorite/least favorite picks.
Buddy Nix absolutely loves his defensive backs
And SEC players. After taking Stephon Gilmore with the Bills’ 10th overall pick, Nix then followed that up by selecting Ron Brooks in the fourth round. It’s the second year in a row that Buffalo has taken two DBs in the first four rounds, moves motivated by both the rise of the passing game, and the pounding sustained by the Bills’ secondary. Buffalo gave up 232.1 yards per game through the air, and 11 receptions of 40 yards or more.
The picks in the defensive backfield over the past two years also potentially set up a full fledged youth movement at the position after 2012, as both George Wilson and Terrence McGee are entering the final years of their contracts.
The Bengals are absolutely killing it
A franchise that’s already showing great promise just added a lot more. It started with Dre Kirkpatrick and Kevin Zeitler on Day 1, and then continued with Devon Still in round two last night, a freakish athlete to upgrade the Bengals’ pass rush.
But the most impressive pick came today in the fourth round: Orson Charles. During a run on the position in the middle of the round that saw three tight ends taken over seven picks, the Bengals plunged into the TE revolution. Jermaine Gresham was a first-round pick two years ago, and similar to Rob Gronkowski he’s shown impressive downfield ability for a big man. The ideal complementary player who will allow the Bengals to get even more out of Gresh is a tight end who excels while running more immediate, short routes. That’s how Gronk and Aaron Hernandez have thrived, and Charles can easily play that role.
It’s a little crowded in Miami’s backfield
Reggie Bush is the starter, and Daniel Thomas was poised to take that starting spot after he was a second-round pick last year, but he struggled with injuries. The Dolphins drafted Lamar Miller today, and the value early in the fourth round was great, as Miller was widely projected to go much higher and it was difficult to allow his fall to continue.
Miller will make a minimal contribution in 2012, as he’ll be firmly buried. But beyond that, Bush is a free agent next March, and since he’ll be 28 there’s little rush for the Dolphins to make a long-term commitment. That means a year from now Bush could very likely be gone, Thomas will receive the bulk of the carries, and Miller will have a greater impact with more touches.
So Miller’s selection likely leads to Bush’s departure. Football is a cruel game, Reggie.