Elfin: The Redskins could use a guy like Matt Flynn PHOTO Credit Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE
WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- Washington's longstanding troubles at quarterback began when brash, young owner Dan Snyder decided to play fantasy football in 2000.
Although newcomer Brad Johnson had just quarterbacked the Redskins to their first NFC East title in eight years and their first playoff berth in seven, Snyder and righthand man Vinny Cerrato signed Jeff George, he of the million dollar arm and the 10 cent head, to a lucrative contract. By mid-season, Snyder had prompted coach Norv Turner to bench Johnson for George. As the Redskins collapsed from a 6-2 start to an 8-8 finish, Turner was fired and Johnson soon left for Tampa Bay whom he would lead to victory in the 2002 Super Bowl.
Ever since then, the NFL's most critical position has been a revolving door in Washington. The Redskins have tried lower first-round draft picks Patrick Ramsey and Jason Campbell, aging veterans Mark Brunell and Donovan McNabb, stopgaps Tony Banks and Rex Grossman and Steve Spurrier alumni Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel without once having the team's main quarterback finish with a passer rating above 86.5.
For comparison purposes, a dozen NFL quarterbacks had higher ratings this season. Not coincidentally, nine of the 12 teams led by those men made the playoffs. Not coincidentally, the Redskins have failed to make the playoffs in 10 of the 12 seasons since Snyder turned on Johnson after the latter's wildly successful 1999 debut.
Going with Grossman or the unproven 30-year-old John Beck this season while NFC East rivals Dallas, Philadelphia and the New York Giants started Pro Bowl perennial Tony Romo, dynamic run/pass threat Michael Vick and Super Bowl winner Eli Manning, respectively, was like surrendering before the games even began.
So whom should Shanahan pursue? To me, there are two serious options: Robert Griffin III and Matt Flynn.
Griffin, who won the Heisman Trophy for Baylor last month, is in the mold of Vick and Carolina's Cam Newton, the almost-certain Rookie of the Year, a quarterback who can beat defenses with his arm and his legs as anyone who watched Baylor outlast Washington 67-56 (no it wasn't basketball) in the Alamo Bowl could plainly see.
And unlike dog-killer Vick or Newton, whose father wanted to get paid by his son's college, Griffin has no character issues himself or in his family. He has already earned his political science degree, is working on a master's in communications, his parents are retired military sergeants and he's engaged.
I'm sure that Shanahan would love to try to rebuild the Redskins around Griffin. Trouble is that Cleveland, due to choose fourth to Washington's sixth in April's draft and has another first-round pick to trade, might be able to offer more to St. Louis, which holds the keys to Griffin with the No. 2 overall selection.
What's more, the free agent market opens more than a month before the draft so the Redskins can't wait on Flynn to see whether or not they land Griffin.
Although Flynn has been in the NFL for four years, he has mostly sat and watched while Aaron Rodgers has starred for Green Bay. But when Flynn has played, he has been brilliant.
Last Sunday in cold and windy Lambeau Field against a Detroit team trying to avoid a first-round playoff visit to New Orleans, Flynn set franchise records with 480 yards and six touchdowns in a 45-41 survival of the Lions.
In his only previous start last year against powerful New England, Flynn passed for 251 yards and three scores. His career passer rating is 92.8 (In comparison, Grossman's was 72.4 this year and 71.4 for his career).
Flynn, a seventh-rounder out of LSU in 2008, is even a hotter commodity because Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck and Rodgers (all of whom were backups to Hall of Fame lock Brett Favre) each rose from obscurity in Green Bay to championship games and Pro Bowls (Super Bowls in the case of the latter pair).
And don't forget that gambling on a backup to a star worked out well for Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in Houston. He was the Texans' quarterbacks coach in 2007 when they moved down two spots in the first round and gave Atlanta a pair of second-rounders for Matt Schaub, who had started just two games in three years for the Falcons (the second of which, coincidentally, was a narrow loss to the Patriots in which the ex-Virginia standout threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns) while sitting behind Vick.
In his third year as the Texans' starter, Schaub led them to their first winning record in their eight seasons while topping the league in passing yards and being named the Pro Bowl MVP.
Who knows if this Matt will work out as well as that Matt? But after a dozen years of frustration capped by 2011 with turnover machine Grossman, it's way beyond time for Snyder to allow coach Mike Shanahan to finally go get the young, potential franchise quarterback that Washington has lacked for so long.
WUSA-9's Redskins Insider, David Elfin, has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of five books on the Redskins including the new "Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History."