- The Washington Times
Thursday, March 12, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

One of the inspirational phrases that is part of the National Football League language is “Next Man Up” — someone goes down, another man steps up.


The Washington Redskins may have their own twist on that tune — “Next Savior Up.”

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota, come on down! I think the previous savior may have a pair of socks you can borrow on draft night.

The Redskins draft got a lot more interesting this week when ESPN’s NFL reporter John Clayton dropped this bomb on ESPN Radio:

“Honestly, [people say Mariota] may fall to the Jets; he’s not going to fall to the Jets at six, I’ll tell you this right now,” Clayton said. “The Redskins will take him at five. Dan Snyder may not think there’s quarterback issues; Jay Gruden and everybody else in the front office thinks there’s quarterback issues. And if Marcus Mariota falls to five — now it’s not a position where they’re desperate enough to trade up to get him — but if he falls to five, I’m telling you this right now, they’ll take him.”

I don’t think this is what Robert Griffin III had in mind when he talked to ESPN 980 radio in January about Super Bowl quarterbacks Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and “organizational support.”

“I think it just comes with the organizational support they both have as well to be the players that they are, to understand that, ‘This is our guy no matter what.’” Griffin said. “And I think the last game with the Packers shows that more than anything. When a guy goes out and throws four interceptions and then leads you to victory, I think that guy knows in the back of his head that his entire team has his back, that the entire organization has his back.”

How many times do we have to hear someone declare that nobody in the Redskins organization still believes Griffin is the savior except Snyder? How many times do we have to hear “Jay Gruden and everybody else in the front office thinks there’s quarterback issues” before everyone stops pretending that Griffin is still a viable savior — especially Gruden himself, who told reporters at the NFL combine last month that “Robert ended the season as the starter and we anticipate that moving forward”?

“We’ll go into the season with Robert as the No. 1 guy obviously, and it’s up to Robert to continue to grow and mature as a quarterback and a person and moving forward, we just want to see some improvement,” Gruden said. “That’s up to us as a staff to get more out of him.”

That seemed more like a hostage reading a statement than an NFL head coach declaring his support for his quarterback.

Clayton, who said he knows new Washington general manager Scot McCloughan well, didn’t back down on the Redskins taking Mariota in an appearance on my radio show, “The Sports Fix” on ESPN 980.

“It’s not a matter, are they in the market for Marcus Mariota?” Clayton said. “No. But, if Marcus Mariota falls to five, how do you pass on him? It’s a no-brainer. He’s a good quarterback. The quarterback situation is in flux. This is the last year of RGIII and Kirk Cousins’ contracts. They don’t know exactly where it’s going to be.

“If a gift comes to you and they ring your doorbell and the postman hands it to you, are you going to say, ‘Oh, no, I’m sorry, take that one back, that wasn’t scheduled for me’? That’s what it really is. It’s a quarterback-driven league. You saw that when they made the trade to get RGIII, giving away three firsts and a second. Now, it’s a matter, if a quarterback falls to you, sure, you bring him in. That’s a simple thing. That’s exactly where I can see it going and it would be a smart move to do it.”

Clayton is underestimating the aura of self destruction that surrounds the Redskins franchise. This is not a “no brainer.” It’s not a “simple thing.”

It’s dropping a bomb into an already-ravaged war zone.

You don’t draft Mariota with the fifth pick in the NFL draft to carry a clipboard all season and watch Griffin continue his on-the-job training as a starting NFL quarterback. He’s your starting quarterback.

The problem with this so-called “gift,” as Clayton put it, is that this franchise needs many “gifts.” This roster is a continuing year-to-year disaster. They need pretty much everything, and if the coaches and McCloughan believe they might have a quarterback already on the roster who can be their guy — Kirk Cousins — then drafting another quarterback with such a valuable pick seems like a luxury they can’t afford.

Unless the reason for picking Mariota — if he is there — is far more complicated than Clayton has spelled out.

The Redskins coaches and front office may not be able to sell Snyder on Cousins over Griffin. But they might be able to do it with Mariota — the shiny new toy, undamaged by Redskins dysfunction.

What if the only way to loosen the owner’s grip on Griffin is to draft a replacement savior?

Of course, this could all be a smoke screen to turn up the pressure on other teams that might want that Redskins fifth pick in the draft, giving McCloughan leverage to get a trading partner and more picks.

No, there is nothing “simple” when it comes to Redskins Park. I’m sure McCloughan has figured that out already.

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.


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