McNabb To The Skins, Why It Doesn’t Make Sense
Tell me where you have heard this before — a new Redskins offensive minded head coach trades a premium pick for a former All-Pro, mobile, 33 year-old quarterback? I guess some teams never learn, because the Redskins repeated their past mistakes, by trading a 2nd and a 3rd/4th rounder (2011) for Donovan McNabb. It didn’t work the first time with Mark Brunell (who was only had for a 3rd round pick), and it worries me again that the Redskins motives are unrealistic and shortsighted. Now before I get into the reasons why this move doesn’t make sense or why Campbell is a better bet than McNabb, I want to focus on what the Redskins gave up.
People seem genuinely happy with ‘only’ giving up a 2nd round pick this year and a 3rd or a 4th round pick next year. I on the other hand am pretty much appalled. That is two very high picks, in two extremely strong draft classes, for a 33 year-old quarterback. The Redskins biggest weakness this decade hasn’t been their free agent flops (though they obviously haven’t helped), but rather their inability to value their draft picks properly and consistently trade them away. While it has plagued them all decade, the most fateful decision came when gave up their 3rd round pick for Brunell. Now I realize most people will say, so what it was only a third round pick, but by doing so they are ignoring the bigger picture. Because in that 2004 draft class the Redskins identified a player they liked in the 3rd round, but did not have the pick to acquire him. So instead they traded their 2005 2nd round pick for him. The player they liked was Chris Cooley (had they gone a different route with QB Matt Schaub we wouldn’t even be having this debate), and if it stopped right there it would have been worth giving up the future draft pick.
Unfortunately for the Skins, the exodus of picks was just beginning. After one season it became pretty clear the Redskins weren’t the Championship caliber team we thought they would be, and Mark Brunell wasn’t the long term answer at quarterback (Gee who could have predicted that), so the Redskins decided to invest in the future. The Redskins didn’t trade up into the end of the first round solely for Jason Campbell, but he was at the top of their short list and the rumor was if he was still available the Skins would nab him. Well instead of trading back from 9 and stock piling picks, the Redskins traded up to get Campbell. But instead of packaging their early 2nd round pick (since it was long gone) to move up to the 25th spot in the first round, the Redskins had to get ‘creative’ (i.e. overpay). They traded their 3rd round pick in 2005 as well as their 1st and 4th round picks in 2006, to trade up and get Campbell. The fun didn’t stop there, as in the 2006 draft the Redskins wanted to move up to draft one of the top young linebackers, and had to trade their late 2nd round pick, their 6th round pick and their 2007 2nd round pick to jump up and draft Rocky McIntosh. That single 3rd round pick affected their draft strategy for four straight years, and none of those drafts were as deep and talented as these next two (or as high of a pick).
And those are just the direct correlations from not valuing and keeping your draft picks. I think you could even argue it further, that by overpaying for the draft picks they wanted, the Redskins are still haunted by these decisions today. The fact that the Redskins were missing out on so many premium picks over a 4-year period meant they couldn’t take developmental talents, which meant the cupboard was bare at the wide receiver position in 2008, leading to the three 2nd round pass catchers being drafted. And today the Redskins biggest need (and why I question the McNabb deal) is along the offensive line, where Washington needs 2-3 top notch starters (as well as some additional youth), but is completely without any prospects.
It would have been one thing if the Redskins were 12-4 last year, and just needed a boost over the hump to challenge for a Super Bowl, but this team (which hasn’t made any major additions) was 4-12 last season, and could use all the young talent possible over the next two seasons. This team has a very suspect running game even with (especially) the veteran additions of Larry Johnson and Willie Parker. Their passing attack should be better with some development of Davis, Thomas and Kelly (and Cooley’s return), but they still rely too much on their two tight ends, and their young receivers haven’t exactly lit the world on fire. (For comparison for as much as people talk about the busted early picks the Eagles had at wideout, both Todd Pinkston and Reggie Brown had much better numbers in their first two years than Thomas or Kelly.)
As for the offensive line, if possible, it is in worse shape then it was last season. Even if they do use their top pick on an offensive tackle, that only fills one spot along the line, which isn’t nearly enough to proclaim the problem solved. Remember in 2008 Samuels was still pretty much at a Pro Bowl level and the Redskins offense still struggled (not all of that can be blamed on Zorn). McNabb is a win now option, and while I think the new coaches will make the Redskins better, I’m not sure that they wouldn’t have been better served with Campbell at the helm.
You can say all you want about Jason Campbell, but he has had back-to-back productive seasons, including a pretty good year last year. For all the things that went wrong last year, the passing attack wasn’t even in the top 10. And he has become successful with an overrated defense, little running game, few passing weapons and practically no offensive line. Look I love Donovan McNabb, but I don’t think he’s the answer in D.C. For his career I’d take him in a heartbeat, but what matters most is who is the better option for next year, the next three years or even the next 6. Last season with no offensive weapons around him Campbell put up pretty similar numbers to McNabb, and is a safer bet going forward. He doesn’t have the extensive injury history McNabb does, is 5 years younger and more mobile than McNabb. This isn’t vintage McNabb, that can create his own plays by running around, and yet we are putting him behind quite possibly the worst offensive line in football. I just don’t understand how this makes sense, since the Redskins should look to rebuild instead of just trying to bring in stopgap options to be somewhat competitive for the next couple of years. And if they were going to try to contend this season, why not bring in more veterans?
While I didn’t like them at the time for the Skins, because I thought their signing would mean the drafting of Claussen/Bradford, why didn’t the Skins sign some of the offensive tackles they brought in for visits? If they inked either Clifton or Pashos and drafted a bookend tackle early, their line would be in vastly better shape. And if they wanted to make a run for it this year by emphasizing offense, why didn’t they add weapons like Antonio Bryant or Thomas Jones? Either would have been an immediate upgrade and instantly make their offense more dangerous. And if they were going all-in, why not sign an inside linebacker like Larry Foote or Karlos Dansby, freeing up McIntosh to be traded for draft picks. Those would have been the moves you make (as well as a few others) if the goal all along was to set yourself up for the next few years. Now none of their short term or long term needs have really been filled, yet the Redskins are trading away future assets for a marginal upgrade at quarterback (which could be a stretch, if Campbell keeps developing like he has these past two years).
Now I don’t think all hope is lost, but the Redskins will need to do something special to salvage this year, and make this deal make sense. First they need to protect McNabb big time. McNabb is a big play quarterback, but he won’t have the time to throw the ball down field if he is behind their current o-line. I think the Redskins should explore a trade for the Ravens Jared Gaither LT. Gaither just 24-years old, is already developing into a premier offensive tackle. Gaither is a restricted free agent, who is rumored to be on block for as little as an early 2nd round pick. If that is the case the Redskins need to jump on it. Now they did just give up their early 2nd round pick, for McNabb, but with a little luck they might be able to acquire another one by trading Campbell to one of the many teams in need of a quarterback. If the Skins were able to get Gaither, then they could feel pretty confident about trading back a couple times, adding some 2nd, 3rd and 4th round picks. That way Washington could draft still a very good tackle in the middle of the first round, but still have their elite tackle on the blind side. The Redskins can then use their extra picks (as well as any they might get for trading someone like Fred Davis, McIntosh, Carlos Rodgers or even Andre Carter) to get younger and bring in some weapons on offense (particularly at running back and some depth at guard), and some good coverage guys on defense.
The Redskins can’t win as they are currently constructed, but hope is not lost (yet). If they are aggressive and prudent with their decisions regarding the draft, then they could rebuild quickly and take advantage of McNabb’s experience. But if they hope that this year’s 1st round pick and next year’s 1st and 2nd round pick will be enough to jump start their team, then they are just making the same mistakes all over again.