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Redskins' choices: Manning, Griffin or new coaching staff in 2013

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist
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Mike Shanahan's future with Washington depends on which QB the 'Skins pursue. (Getty Images)  
Mike Shanahan's future with Washington depends on which QB the 'Skins pursue. (Getty Images)  

If there's someone I would want to be today it's the St. Louis Rams. If there's someone I wouldn't, it's the Washington Redskins. They absolutely, positively, must have one of two quarterbacks, and there's no guarantee they get either.

But they must ... or else.

Essentially, the Redskins' options come down to this: 1) They sign Peyton Manning if/when he is released by Indianapolis; 2) They acquire the Rams' first draft pick -- second overall -- by snowing St. Louis with an offer it can't refuse and drafting Robert Griffin III; or 3) Their coaching staff gets fired after the season if the team fails at 1 or 2.

Yep, it's as simple as 1-2-3.

The Redskins can't win with Rex Grossman, and they can't win with John Beck. They discovered that the hard way last season. So they better find a quarterback, and soon because Mike Shanahan's past two seasons -- a combined 11-21 -- are the worst back-to-back finishes of any coach in the Daniel Snyder era.

That means the heat is on Shanahan to win and win now, and he won't ... he can't ... without a serious upgrade at quarterback.

The Redskins thought they solved the position two years ago when they acquired Donovan McNabb, but they were wrong. They can't afford to be wrong again. Shanahan's choices are clear: Manning, Griffin or a realtor.

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General manager Bruce Allen said last week that the club has "a game plan" for its next move, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that it must include Manning and RG3. In fact, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett allegedly said as much in a chance encounter with a fan, who blogged the information for public consumption.

I don't know if Haslett did or didn't say it, but I do know Washington has one decision, and it's a Sophie's Choice: Do you take the risk and gamble on the four-time MVP in Manning when he becomes a free agent? Or do you mortgage the future for Griffin -- overpaying for the next-best quarterback to Andrew Luck?

Me? I think the decision is easy. There's no guarantee Manning can play again, and there's no guarantee he doesn't get hurt again. I understand he has a glittering résumé, is one of the best at his position and, at 36 (his birthday is later this month), could have two or three more quality years left in him.

But that's provided he's the Peyton Manning of 2010, and after four surgeries -- with another possible -- I don't know what he is anymore. Plus, as I said, he's about to turn 36, and is someone who has spent most of his career acting as his own offensive coordinator -- lining up receivers and running backs in practices and calling his own plays in games.

That's fine, only I don't know how it would go over with Shanahan's son, Kyle, who happens to be Washington's offensive coordinator. All I know is that the last time there was a decorated veteran at the position he and McNabb clashed, with McNabb cashiered at the end of the season.

What matters most, of course, is what Manning has left, and I don't know anyone with that answer. There are conflicting reports about his last workouts with the Colts. Then there's his future, and, frankly, I'm not sure there is one. He might be a descending player at or near the end of his career.

But remember this: When Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young was at the end of his career in San Francisco, the 49ers gave him permission in the spring of 2000 to seek a deal with any team that was interested. And somebody was. It was Mike Shanahan in Denver.

Shanahan wanted to make him his starter, even though Young had a history of concussions, and Young seemed intrigued. In the end, however, he decided against the idea and retired.

Fan Poll

Who should be the Redskins' starting QB in 2012?

Peyton Manning
18%
Robert Griffin III
66%
Rex Grossman
10%
John Beck
6%

Total Votes: 4,167

Griffin is not Steve Young, and he is not Peyton Manning. But he might be. He just turned 22 and is the second-best player in the draft. As many scouts declared during last week's scouting combine, he's "the complete package" -- a quarterback who can run, is accurate with his passes, is a leader, is smart and wins.

In short, he's just what Washington is looking for.

Of course, it will take a king's ransom to acquire him, but the Redskins are where San Diego was in 1998 when there were two must-have quarterbacks on the board. Like San Diego, the Redskins aren't in a position to negotiate on a price. They must ... absolutely must ... do what's necessary to acquire St. Louis' first-round pick.

The Chargers paid two first-rounders, a second and a three-time Pro Bowl player to move one spot, from third to second, to take Ryan Leaf, and that's what you do when you have a conviction about someone. They believed they had to have Leaf or Manning, so then-general manager Bobby Beathard did what was necessary to acquire one of them.

So the Chargers overpaid. But that happens when you're desperate, and color Washington desperate. The Redskins haven't had a top-10 quarterback since Mark Brunell in 2006, and look where it has gotten them.

There was talk in Washington this week that the Redskins are poised to make a run at a high-profile wide receiver in free agency, and that's understandable. The club needs playmakers. But you don't spend big bucks on a veteran wide receiver unless you have someone to throw him the ball.

The Redskins do not -- not now they don't -- but that can and must change. They don't have a choice.

Then, again, they do. Manning or Griffin.

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