Without a long-term answer at quarterback on its roster, one of the biggest questions entering the 2021 NFL Draft was if the Washington Football Team would trade up to select its signal-caller of the future. They didn't.
Why? Besides having to give up lots of draft capital, part of the reason is that head coach Ron Rivera doesn't think having a typical 'franchise quarterback' is completely necessary in order to compete for a Super Bowl.
"Other than Tom Brady, who's won multiple [Super Bowls]?" Rivera said on the Cris Collinsworth podcast. "Well, you could say Peyton [Manning]. You could say Eli [Manning]. But who else? You look at the other guys that won them, they're a lot of one-timers."
Then, the 59-year-old coach went into detail about what specific traits he believes all Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks have.
"What do those one-timers have in common? Well, they were guys that were very efficient, they managed the game, they didn't turn it over a lot and made plays when they had to," Rivera said.
To be clear: Rivera didn't say that having a franchise quarterback wouldn't be an advantage. Obviously, when a team employs one of the best players at the sport's most important position, the chances of them making a deep playoff run are higher than a club that has had a revolving door at signal-caller.
But, the point that Rivera was trying to make is that Washington doesn't need to necessarily have a quarterback who fits the typical 'franchise QB' label in order for them to compete.
"If you're fortunate enough to find [a franchise QB], you ride them," Rivera said. "But if you don't, and you find these guys, what says you can't win with them?"
Ultimately, Rivera and his revamped front office decided that the price was too steep to move up in the first round to put itself in a position to draft its quarterback of the future. For context, the Bears traded two first-round picks, a fourth-rounder and a fifth-rounder to the Giants to move up nine spots to select Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields 11th overall.
"We did. We really did," Rivera said when asked if they considered moving up. "The thing that also stuck out in our mind is the amount of draft capital, the price that we were going to have to pay to get the right one, the one we liked the most."
After winning the NFC East in 2020, Washington entered the draft slotted to pick 19th overall. Rivera's club stayed put at that spot and drafted Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis, filling its biggest need on the defensive side of the football. Then in the second round, Washington addressed its biggest hole on offense by selecting Texas' left tackle Samuel Cosmi, a player some experts thought could come off the board in the first round.
"We're looking at our team saying 'We need a linebacker. We need a left tackle for the future,'" Rivera said. "We need so many other things that just getting the one guy might not have put us in that position. Now, with what we've done, we've secured some of our positions. We feel good about some of our positions and the rest of the team."
After not selecting a quarterback throughout the entire three-day event, Washington will go into the season with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick as its starter. Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke will battle for the backup job.
In Fitzpatrick, who Washington inked to a one-year deal in March, Rivera believes he's getting the best of both worlds: a competitor, but also a veteran who will help groom and teach the other two younger quarterbacks on its roster.
"He teaches, he helps, he shows guys how things need to be done," Rivera said. "And then on top of that, he competes. That's what I think we're getting. We're getting a guy that's going to help us continue to develop as a football team."
In his year-plus as Washington's head coach, Rivera has made tremendous strides building a roster that'll be able to compete on an annual basis. While Fitzpatrick likely isn't the team's long-term answer at quarterback, Rivera feels he'll play an integral part in helping build the sustainable winning culture in Ashburn that the head coach covets.
"We are nowhere by means where we want to be. We also have a pretty good core," Rivera said. "We started with a good base. To me, now it's about putting the rest of it together. A guy like [Fitzpatrick] can help us."