Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins. Get details and order at http://GutCheckBook.com
You had better get used to the sight of Patrick Ramsey as the Redskins quarterback. Good, bad, or indifferent, the team just might well be stuck with him.
This isn’t a seven-game audition, folks, it’s the beginning of an era. For the foreseeable future, the Redskins’ fortunes at the quarterback position rest with number 11.
The reason is simple—economics or, more precisely, the allocation of scarce resources. A team has two main assets it can use to acquire players, draft picks and cap dollars. You get six of the former and about 70 million of the former a year. It’s a zero sum game; what you spend on one player you don’t have to spend on another one. In the past three years, the Redskins have allocated a lot of resources to the quarterback position. They gave up their first-round draft pick for one in 2002 and eight million cap dollars for another earlier this year. Quarterback is an expensive position to fill in the NFL and you can’t keep on flinging draft picks and money at it and expect to have resources left to retain quality players to protect whoever’s in there, give him someone to throw to, have someone to prevent the other team from scoring, and so on.
This team has needs on both sides of the line as well as some quality depth in other spots. Drafting a quarterback first or third (the second-rounder has been traded away) could be done, but at the expense of ignoring those needs. In addition, drafting a quarterback is always a crap shoot. I’m sure I don’t need to go any further than the names Heath Shuler and Ryan Leaf to make that point.
Barring some sort of miracle turnaround, Mark Brunell is a bust of Shuler proportions only more expensive. It will cost over $7 million in dead cap money to cut him before June 1. Waiting until afterwards puts about $2 million of dead money in ’05 and the remaining $5 million in 2006. That’s about what it cost to shed Deion Sanders after one season. Such a cap hit virtually precludes the team from going after a free agent quarterback.
There is one alternative, but, like anything else, it would involve some risk. Perhaps the Redskins could trade for a young backup who is stuck behind a young star. Matt Schaub of the Falcons comes to mind here. He’s a rookie who played well in the preseason and has almost no chance of ever holding the regular starting job as he’s stuck behind Mike Vick. Perhaps he could be pried away for a third-rounder. It’s a move that carries somewhat less risk than just taking a third-round quarterback because he has shown something on the NFL level.
This is the route that the Packers took to acquire Bret Favre from the Falcons and that the Jaguars used to get the Brunell that started two AFC title games from Green Bay.
Still, the best option remains the guy who’s on your roster already, the one whose cap hits are less than $2 million per season through 2006, the one who has won some NFL games, the one who has shown guts and toughness under pressure, the one who is smart and willing and eager to learn. There are teams who are in playoff contention this year that are quarterbacked by Craig Krenzel, Kyle Boller, Josh McCown, and other assorted nonentities. It’s hard to believe that Joe Gibbs couldn’t mold Patrick Ramsey into a quarterback who was capable of doing the same.