Saturday, March 10, 2012

Redskins Land RG3 - A Long Time Coming

To me, the battle for the NFL's new superman (Or is it Cam? Griffins' got the socks, but Cams' got the dance. This could be a Shaq-Dwight Howard-like feud. Or nothing will be made of it at all.) was a win-win for the NFL. The two teams that seemed most heavily in the mix for Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III were the Cleveland Browns and the Washington Redskins - two teams with tortured fan bases who both haven't had a good quarterback for over twenty years.

So, with the number two draft pick available, one of those starved teams was going to get that guy. That guy that brings electricity and excitement. That guy that you can pin your hat on as your leader and the face of your franchise. That guy whose jersey every little kid and too many big kids will get for Christmas this year. Well ho, ho, ho, Redskin nation.

It's time to forget, Skins fans. It's time to forget about Rex Grossman, John Beck, Donovan McNabb (extra Campbell's Chunky), Jason Campbell, Todd Collins, Mark Brunell, Patrick Ramsey, Tim Hasselbeck, Shane Matthews, Danny Wuerffel, Tony Banks, and Jeff George. It's time to forget about Albert Haynesworth, Champ Bailey, and Daniel Snyder's existence, and to brace yourselves for a bright, bright future.

(Note of consolation to Cleveland fans - At least you hit on Kyrie Irving. He might be one year away from being a top five point guard, and you're just bad enough this year that you should get a nice building block in the first half of the first round. It wouldn't have been fair if you got Irving and Griffin III, while Washington is stuck with John Wall, who has all the potential in the world but to me still looks like an Olympic athlete who is very confused as to what sport he's playing.)

The Redskins pulled off the massive trade yesterday, sending their first round pick (6th overall), second round pick, and first rounders for the following two years to the St. Louis Rams for the rights to the second overall draft choice.

Right move? Wrong move? Risky move? Sexy move? Good value? Bad value? Nice fit? Poor fit? What is a horseshoe? What does a horseshoe do? Are there any horse socks? Is anybody listening to me?

I'll answer all that and more with these eleven thoughts on Griffin to DC...

1. The Price Was Right - First of all, I'd just like to try to quell the notion that the Rams should have even thought of drafting Griffin themselves and trading Sam Bradford. I do love Griffin, but Bradford is just as much of a franchise guy and his value wouldn't get the right return after his disappointing year last year. Bradford is a Tom Brady-like pick you apart with accuracy and smarts kind of quarterback, yet last year was asked to run a Josh McDaniels system with terrible receivers and a porous offensive line. Bradford is going to be a star in this league, and you can book that. Here's to hoping the Rams land Justin Blackmon with that 6th pick. As for the Skins, some people are bashing the price they paid, which sets the Rams up beautifully down the road. But this is a quarterback driven league. Name me the all the teams in the league without an established franchise guy, and you'll also have named the teams that have no chance to win the Super Bowl next year. That's just the way it is (things will never be the saaaame). If you think that you've found a guy with the skill set and the intangibles to be your leader for the next fifteen years, than there is really NO PRICE that is too high for that person. Mike Shanahan and company think they've found that guy, and they did what they had to to get him, and I completely agree with the move.

2. Griffin immediately becomes the sexiest looking QB in the NFL - The Redskins sneakily have some of the best uniforms in the NFL, and I say sneakily because they've been bad for so long that the stink has sort of rubbed off on the uniforms too. But Griffin will end all of that, and become one of the coolest looking players in the NFL. It was a close one between Griffin and Cam Newton, but to me it comes down to the number. I've just never really liked players wearing number one, and so for me Cam can't jump Griffin until he gets his old number back (this is just another reason why I hate Jimmy Clausen). All-blue Tim Tebow and all-black Drew Brees are pretty great jersey schemes, but I don't like the rest of those teams alternate options as much. Michael Vick was also in the conversation, but again I like the Redskins variations more than the Eagles. Nothing will ever touch Atlanta Vick though. The all-black Atlanta Vick was the coolest looking athlete of all-time. Griffin could give him a run for his money, though.

3. The Redskins, dare I say it, might have the best long-term NFC East future - The NFC East is one of the most difficult and competitive divisions in football, and while I certainly won't be picking them to win the East crown this year, I like them most long-term. The reigning champion Giants won't be going anywhere anytime soon. They have the perfect mix of young stars and veterans, but in three years, we'll be looking at a 34 year old Eli Manning while Robert Griffin will be entering his prime. The Cowboys are another immensely talented team, but Tony Romo is also 31 and is perhaps two or maybe even one bad year away from being given up on. The Eagles are the epitome of a win now team, with another 31 year old quarterback in Michael Vick and Andy Reid on the hot seat. MORAL OF THE STORY - You've got three teams, all more talented than the Redskins, in win now mode over the next two (Eagles and Cowboys) or three (Giants) years. But after that, those three teams should be rebuilding while the new star of the division is hitting his stride.

4. The Browns can now go two ways - This is only indirectly related to the Redskins and RG3, but give me a break, it was hard to think of eleven angles for this story. As I see it, the Browns now have two options after losing out on the Heisman winner. First, they could trade back a few spots, gather some picks, and draft Ryan Tannehill. Lost amidst all the Luck and Griffin discussion is Tannehill, who I think is going to be another franchise quarterback from this draft. I would've bet on the Browns landing RG3 because I really saw Shanahan falling in love with Tannehill, who would've been just as good a fit for his scheme as Griffin and would've cost much less. The problem with Tannehill though is that he's going to take time to develop, a la Jake Locker. So the Browns could nab Tannehill and then sign a veteran or let Colt McCoy continue to start, or draft another building block and try to win the campaign for the number one pick next year, which I'm now dubbing "Try Hardly for Barkley."

5. The Skins can now sign a legit WR - More good news for Washington - they've just acquired one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the game right before free agency in a year with one of the best free agent wideout classes of all time. And this is a position they desperately need. Santana Moss is underrated but getting older, Jabar Gaffney is Jabar Gaffney, and Leonard Hankerson is an intriguing young player, but this group needs to improve before the season starts. Rookie quarterbacks tend to find "their guy" and lean on them as they continue to learn the game (Cam Newton/Steve Smith, Andy Dalton/AJ Green, Christian Ponder/Percy Harvin). Griffin especially needs that guy, because he played that way all through college with Kendall Wright. Luckily for the Skins, Vincent Jackson, Brandon Lloyd, Marques Colston, Mike Wallace, DeSean Jackson could all be had this offseason, and I'm sure they'd all love to play with Griffin.

6. The Redskins Running Game will be near the top of the league - In Mike Shanahan's system, the running game is always going to be effective until the other team just dares you to throw. They won't be able to do that anymore with Griffin under center. Also, Griffin's ability to take off himself on bootlegs and when the play breaks down will prevent defenses from committing to the run. Just look at what Michael Vick did for LeSean McCoy's production. I like Roy Helu's potential, but really regardless of who's in there the Skins running game will be dangerous next season.

7. Two Concerns to Quell the Hysteria - I do want to point out two minor problems I have with RG3 which are closely related. First off, has anyone noticed something weird about the way he runs? I can't quite put my finger on it, but something about his stride is a little bit off, a bit reminiscent of Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch. Secondly, when I see RG3 run, I mainly see him beating people with straight line speed, which is fine, and totally makes sense because he was a sprinter. But in the NFL, if you're going to be a running quarterback, you need to be able to make people miss, and I just haven't seen enough of that yet from Griffin to say he'll be a great runner. Cam Newton, Michael Vick, and even Aaron Rodgers can not only run out of the pocket but can avoid tacklers for those extra couple of yards or to get out of bounds. If Griffin only has straight line speed, injury could become a serious threat.

8. Chris Cooley should be more motivated than ever - One of the few bright spots for the Redskins last year other than Ryan Kerrigan was the improved play of Fred Davis, that is before he started smoking the devil's lettuce with Trent Williams. He played so well that many analysts began to call for a trade of the two-time Pro Bowler Cooley, which would free up some cap space and allow the Skins to move forward with Davis. But with the emerging importance of tight ends in the NFL, why not keep both, and give your young quarterback as many safety blankets as possible? A good running offense in a two tight end set with a healthy Chris Cooley and a clean Fred Davis with Robert Griffin III running the show? This team could be a sneaky play in Madden 13.

9. Dan Snyder can still never salvage his reputation - "But I just got RG3, the Heisman winner, I signed off on it. We're going places!!!" No Dan, it was Shanahan and his staff's decision. You have no say in anything anymore and everyone knows it. You single handedly ruined a franchise for ten years. You still suck.

10. The Redskins will finish last in the division, but it won't mean a thing moving forward - If I had to predict the NFC East right now, I'd go Giants, Eagles, Cowboys, and then Redskins in that order. But that says a lot more about the rest of the division than it does about RG3's potential rookie success. Despite the down year from the East this year (at least during the regular season), I could see the Skins going 7-9 and still finishing last. The Giants should be improved, which is just scary. The Cowboys will probably make some moves to patch up a porous secondary that still didn't stop them from making a run at the Giants. The Eagles obviously had a nightmare season last year, but the two biggest problems were chemistry, which time heals, and turnovers, which are most of the time a cyclical thing. Everyone's killing Vick for his turnovers from last year, but I can count seven interceptions just in my head that came off tipped balls. Remember that Eli lead the league in interceptions two years ago. I think the Eagles will be right there with the Cowboys and Giants, with the Redskins just a notch below because they'll have a rookie quarterback and a lack of elite firepower on offense. This isn't at all an indictment of RG3 , though, which leads me to my next and final point...

11. Rober Griffin III will be a Superstar for the Washington Redskins - I really could think of a better fit for city and player. Griffin falls into the perfect system under a great coach with a tremendous fan base desperate for a leader. What I like most about Griffin is his intangibles. Intangibles make good players great. The cannon arm, above average accuracy and 4.4. speed are nice, but its Griffin's leadership and intelligence that leave me convinced he'll flourish as a Redskin. Griffin is fairly raw, and has a long way to go in terms of reading coverages and learning the complicated Shanahan scheme, but he has the smarts to do it, the playmaking ability to get himself out of trouble, and the leadership and swagger it takes to step in and be the franchise guy from day one. Congratulations, Washington fans, you finally got that guy.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Indianapolis Colts and Payton Manning part ways

by Ian Palmer of

The Indianapolis Colts made it official on March 7 when the NFL club announced it was releasing quarterback Peyton Manning after 14 years with the team. Manning spent his time well in Indiana by becoming the league’s only four-time MVP.

As with most press conferences when players retire, are released, or traded, there are many tributes paid and this one was no different. Jim Irsay, the Colts owner, let everybody know how great Manning has been for the club, the city, and the state and said there will never be another player like him.

However, for all of his talent on the field and ticket-selling ability, Irsay didn’t feel it was worth paying Manning a $28 million bonus by March 8, which would have triggered the last four years of his $90 million, five-year deal which was signed last summer. The team suffered without Manning last season, going 2-14, and now has the number one overall pick in the draft and plans on using it to select quarterback Andrew Luck out of Stanford.

Manning is now a free agent and can sign with anybody he likes, The early favorites appear to be Cleveland, Arizona, Miami, Kansas City, the New York Jets, Seattle, Washington, and San Francisco. He sat out the entire season last year due to injuries and a series of neck surgeries. He’s been cleared for action by doctors, but it appears that Irsay just wasn’t sure the 36-year-old Manning could return to his usual form or could see out the remaining four years on his contract because of his medical situation.

The Colts managerial team changed dramatically when the team’s record plummeted without their all-star quarterback as coach Jim Caldwell and GM Bill Polian were both fired and replaced by Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson. Now it’s believed the playing roster will also be overhauled with the release of Manning and the expected release of Reggie Wayne. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon is also set to leave town since he turned down a contract offer from the club and will test the free-agency waters.

The Colts are still on the hook for $10.4 million on the salary cap next season because of Manning’s contract, even though he’ll be playing somewhere else. Manning was drafted originally by Indianapolis in 1998 with the number one pick overall from the University of Tennessee. With the Colts, he won seven AFC South crowns, a pair of AFC titles, a Super Bowl ring, and earned the MVP honors at Super Bowl XLI. He was also named to the Pro Bowl team 11 times and statistically is the franchises’ all-time leading passer.

He leaves the team with 399 touchdown passes and a total of 54,828 yards. He managed to start in 208 straight games with the Colts before suffering a neck injury and missing the 2011 campaign. He may be able to start a new streak if he can prove to interested teams that he’s healthy enough to play. However, he’ll have a bit of competition in the free agent market since Chad Henne, Kyle Orton, and Matt Flynn are also available and will cost a lot less than Manning.

With Manning though, a team will be getting a consistent performer. He owns the fifth-best winning percentage of all time for quarterbacks and led the Colts to 12 or more wins for seven straight seasons, which is an NFL record. His passing percentage has never dipped below 62 per cent other than his first season in the league and he took the team to the playoffs on 11 occasions. Whatever team ends up signing Manning will instantly become a legitimate contender.