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Cake or Death?

The Quick Turnaround Theory

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I hear a lot of Redskins fans asking why Mike Shanahan can't simply turn things around quickly, ala` the Bengals this year, or the Falcons from a few years back? The answer lies in something this franchise has ignored for a VERY long time: draft picks.

Let's take a look at the NFC South, which had unprecedented movement a few years ago. Teams went from first to worst with regularity, seemingly every year. Why?

Let's look at the New Orleans Saints first. In 2006, they had their break through year, finishing 10-6. This was after the 2005 season at 3-13, the 2004 season at 8-8 and the 2003 season at 8-8. There were the epitome of the mediocre team, unable to be truly bad enough to make a huge difference, but good enough to challenge for the Super Bowl. So what happened? Well, Drew Brees, certainly. That part is easy. Having the same GM (Mickey Loomis - not Dr. Loomis, though this is written on Halloween) helped as well, as did the hiring of Sean Payton. But it was mostly Brees, right?

Well, probably. However, I noticed a trend with the other NFC South teams: they keep their draft picks. In this four year average, the Saints picked an average of 8 draftees each year. Every single year in this four year stretch they picked their 1st, 2nd and 3rd round choices. [U]Every year[/U]. And they hit on some late players, taking Colston with a Supplemental 7th Round Pick in 2006, for instance.

Now let's switch over to the Bucs. In 2007, they broke out (sort of), finishing 9-7 good for first in the NFCS. The year before they were 4-12, which followed 11-5 in 2005 and 5-11 in 2004. Over this four year time span, they averaged an astonishing [I]10 picks each year[/I]. They picked their 1st, 2nd and 3rd round picks 3 out of 4 years, and had multiple selections in either the 1st, 2nd or 3rd round twice.

Moving to the Falcons, they started winning again (after the Vick fiasco) in 2008, going 11-5, winning the division. Yes, they drafted Matt Ryan, their franchise QB, but their drafting before his arrival certainly helped to set the table. In 2007, they went 4-12, in 2006 7-9 and they were 8-8 in 2005. Over that four year stretch of medicority, they averaged 8.75 picks each year. They had their 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounders together 3 out of 4 years, and had multiple selections in either the 1st, 2nd or 3rd round two years.

Lastly, we have the Panthers, who went 12-4 in 2008, following 7-9 in '07, 8-8 in '06 and 11-5 in 2005. They also averaged 8.75 picks in that timeframe. Here's the kicker though. They had their 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounders together 3 out of 4 years, and had multiple selections in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd rounds [I]all four years[/I].

Now, let's look at our Redskins, before Shan-Allen took over. In 2009, we went 4-12, 08 saw 8-8, 2007 was 9-7 and 06 was 5-11. Definingly mediocre. Over that four year timeframe, we chose a total of 27 picks, an embarassment when compared to similar time periods with the other teams mentioned, good for only 6.75 picks/year. Not once did we have our 1st, 2nd and 3rd picks together. In fact, in '06 and '07, we had only one of those three picks available. One time out of those four years were we able to garner multiple picks in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds (that was 2008: Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly and Fred Davis. Ouch).

So what conclusions can we draw? Allen can't turn this around over night. You can either go the route of finding and depending on your franchise QB, and expect them to pull the rest of the team up out of the mess; or you can take multiple seasons to put good foundational pieces in place that will support a good QB. Out of those four NFCS teams (remembering that Josh Freeman wasn't a part of the timeframe I described for that team), Atlanta and New Orleans went the route of the franchise QB; but because they both had so many draft picks to choose from leading up to when they got their QB, they have been able to sustain that success.

For the Redskins, I think the cries for a franchise QB are warranted, and need to be heeded. The franchise needs to take a QB in the draft next year. But if the opportunity to trade down and gather more picks is there (particularly in the 1-3 rounds), we need to do that as well. Overridding all else is the fact that those three teams treasured those first three rounds of the draft, three rounds Vinny mostly ignored. In Allen's two drafts? He had the full complement of picks last year, hopefully that trend will continue.