|Mike Shanahan, in all likelihood, is now tied to RG3, just as he was once tied to Jay Cutler. (US Presswire)|
Seldom has there been so much pressure on a rookie quarterback to excel, and I'm not talking about Stanford's Andrew Luck. I'm talking about Robert Griffin III.
With Friday night's blockbuster trade between St. Louis and Washington, Griffin becomes the starting quarterback for Mike Shanahan and the Redskins, and his job is as simple as it is arduous -- namely, save his head coach and the club.
Luck has no such hill to climb. He replaces Peyton Manning, and while that's no easy task he comes with no strings attached. He's the first pick of the draft, the Colts have that choice and they take him.
Simple as that. The rest is up to Luck, and the Colts will give him time.
But look at what's ahead for RG3. The Redskins just gave away the store for the guy, making him the foundation of a franchise that mortgaged its future. If he craters, he takes his head coach and club with him, setting Washington so far back it will take years to recover.
|More on Redskins-Rams trade|
But that's what happens when a club sacrifices three first-rounders and a second for one guy. Essentially, what it's telling you is that he's the team's savior, and we're willing to pay whatever it takes to make him ours.
I have no problem with that ... provided you're right.
If a club has a conviction about a guy, it acts on it, much as San Diego did when it traded up one spot in 1998 to acquire the second-best quarterback in the draft. The Chargers knew they would get Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf, and they were satisfied.
So they wound up with Leaf, and he sank the franchise, taking the head coach, general manager and precious years with him. It wasn't until 2004 that the Chargers won again.
Look, I understand where the Redskins are. They're a desperate team that's tired of losing, so they had to do ... well, something to solve a position that has been unsettled for years. So they made St. Louis an offer it couldn't refuse and wound up with a young quarterback so talented that coaches, GMs and personnel directors at this year's NFL scouting combine labeled him "the complete package."
For the Redskins' sake -- no, for RG3's sake -- I hope they're right.
There will be less patience with him than there will be in Indianapolis with Luck. The Colts just blew up their ballclub and are in a teardown mode, rebuilding from the ground up as they did in 1998 when they made Manning their first pick and were 3-13.
That was OK then as it will be OK now because the expectations were low.
But that's not the case in Washington. The Redskins haven't napalmed their roster and haven't jettisoned veterans. In fact, Shanahan earlier this week was quoted as saying he believed the club had "a playoff-caliber offense" last season when it finished last in the NFC East and 26th in scoring.
Shanahan attributed the team's shortcomings mostly to injuries, particularly on the offensive line, but he should know better. Injuries are part of the game, and you do what you can to overcome them -- and good teams do.
Ask Houston. Nobody was hit harder by injuries, with the Texans losing their first two quarterbacks and star defensive playmaker for the season, yet they not only won their division; they won a playoff game, too.
Anyway, Shanahan's comments mean he believes Washington is close, which is why he signed off on the deal with St. Louis. Obviously, he knew what you and I do -- that the Redskins go nowhere unless they upgrade at quarterback. But rookies typically take time to develop. Yeah, Cam Newton and Andy Dalton starred as rookies, but they're the exceptions.
Peyton Manning was more the rule.
It's a position that takes time -- sometimes a lot of time -- to develop. Heck, it wasn't until his fourth season that Drew Brees became an accomplished quarterback, and by then the Chargers had all but given up on the guy -- acquiring first-round draft pick Philip Rivers to replace him.
But time is something RG3 will not have, and I feel for him.
The last time Shanahan traded up in the first round to draft a quarterback he was with Denver and chose Jay Cutler in 2006, and he went from a coach who was in the 2005 AFC Championship Game to a coach who never reached the playoffs again to a coach who was fired.
That can happen when you gamble big on rookie quarterbacks, which is another way of saying one man can determine the future of a club, and that one man in Washington is not the head coach. It's the new quarterback.
Good luck, Robert Griffin III. You're going to need it.