WASHINGTON (AP) - The Washington Redskins have spent 27 years trying to find a replacement for Joe Theismann.
Not since Theismann's career ended with a broken leg in 1985 have the Redskins had a quarterback they could reliably count on as a reliable winner for the better part of a decade. He started 113 games from 1978-85, taking Washington to two Super Bowls. He remains the franchise career leader in completions, attempts and yards passing.
"It amazes me when I look at it and I think all about these years," Theismann said. "We have been looking for somebody the franchise can say `OK, going forward, he's going to be our guy and let's put people around him."'
Mark Rypien did hold down the fort for a while, making double-digit starts in five straight seasons, but since then it's been a nonstop carousel. Twenty-one players have started at quarterback for the Redskins in the last 19 seasons, everyone from lofty draft picks (Heath Shuler, No. 3 overall in 1994) to players signed off the street in midseason (Tim Hasselbeck in 2003).
Robert Griffin III is the latest can't-miss hope. Then again, so was Shuler. And Jason Campbell. And Donovan McNabb.
But there does seem to be something truly special about the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor. He's got charisma. He's got an arm. He's got mobility. He's got smarts. He seems well-grounded with parents who both served in the military, but he also has a sense of fun. He wore Superman socks to the Heisman ceremony in December, and there's no telling what footwear scheme he'll choose for his return this week to New York, where he's expected to be selected No. 2 overall by Washington.
"It'll be interesting to see what he wears," said his mother, Jacqueline.
"We've told all our kids that whatever you choose to do in life, make sure that it's something that you love doing," she said. "Because you will enjoy getting up and going to work every day. If you do something that you don't like and it's not fun, then it's time for you to make a change."
It can be said that the Redskins are taking that advice in their own way. Football has not been very fun in Washington, so it's time for some change.
The team has finished in last place in the NFC East for four years running, and owner Dan Snyder is downsizing the capacity of his stadium for the second straight year. Those two Super Bowl wins by coach Mike Shanahan came with a different team in a previous millennium. He's now gone five consecutive seasons - three with the Denver Broncos, two with the Redskins - without making a playoff appearance.
Shanahan's first three quarterbacks of choice in Washington were flops - McNabb, Rex Grossman and John Beck. If he doesn't get it right with Griffin, he'll have no case to keep his job.
"What this pick will do for him is it gives him an opportunity, I feel, to be more than just a three- or four-year coach in Washington," Theismann said. "It's got to be rejuvenating for Mike to have someone with this kind of talent. When you think about it, Mike could be the first (Redskins) coach in a decade that actually gets a renewed contract."
It's worth noting that the Redskins won a pair of Super Bowls after Theismann retired, one with Doug Williams and another with Rypien. But that was another era, back when the rules made it easier to keep together the great offensive line known as the "Hogs," and back when teams really did have a run-first mantra.
Today's NFL has become pass-first. Offenses are more complex, and the quarterback is more valuable than ever. It's hard to imagine a perennial Super Bowl contender with a signal-caller that simply manages the game. He needs to be a franchise player. The Redskins need one badly.
"You need to look no further than the Indianapolis Colts for that example," Theismann said. "Without Peyton (Manning), they were 2-14."
The Redskins paid a heavy price to move into position to take Griffin, trading three first-round picks and a second-rounder to the St. Louis Rams to move up to the second spot. The Colts are expected to take Andrew Luck at No. 1.
But the Redskins didn't leave the draft cupboard bare for this year. They still have six picks in Rounds 3-7, selections they'll need to improve the roster surrounding their new quarterback. Right tackle is expected to be a priority, but a team that went 5-11 last year can name any number of positions that need a boost.
First, though, there's the celebration of landing Griffin. Even though the outcome is a given, the suspense can be a bit much. The Griffins -mother, father, both sisters and a niece will all be in New York - are ready for the next phase in the life of RGIII.
"It's always exciting waiting to find out," Jacqueline Griffin said. "But we're glad we're to the point where we'll know on Thursday."
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP