A well-oiled carousel that has continued on its axis for nearly three decades, an ignorance shown toward the sport’s most important position has continuously bitten Washington where it hurts most since the days of Mark Rypien. While the days of Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins remain the mind of burgundy and gold faithful near and far, as the newly named Commanders make their way into the 2022 season and the third year under Ron Rivera, the path to acquiring QB1 has once again holstered headlines in the nation’s capital. From Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett to Liberty’s Malik Willis and Ole Miss’ Matt Corral, Washington has become the easy spot to place a quarterback as mock draft season switches into fourth gear. Whether the player fits or not, it’s been a steady stream of quarterbacks for Washington since Week 18 concluded. However, in a draft lacking top-tier, potential franchise-altering talents under center, if you’re Rivera and company, the path to success, at least for this fall, doesn’t lie in the hands of one of the signal-callers set to make their way into an NFL facility. Why reach? Why force a top-11 pick on a guy that doesn’t move the needle? A look into Washington’s facility presents two guys capable of leading an NFL offense. Would an ideal scenario place Taylor Heinicke or Kyle Allen under center for another 17 games? Heck no. But envisioning Rivera undertaking a first-year QB who won’t offer anything substantially more than the 25-year-old Allen or 28-year-old Heinicke simply doesn’t look to be in the cards from the information we’ve received out of Ashburn. While Willis’ tape and performance at the Senior Bowl has seen his name rise on league-wide draft boards, he’s a project and a half and could follow in the footsteps of San Francisco 49ers gun-slinger Trey Lance, sitting a season before being ultimately thrust into the fire. However, Washington doesn’t have that luxury. If they draft a player, a QUARTERBACK for that matter, at No. 11, you won’t have him sit behind Heinicke for Week 1 let alone for a full season. Does Willis have tools? You betcha. High ceiling? As lofty as any. But for Rivera, with contract extensions pending for a bevy of his young arsenal of playmakers over the next few seasons, his window for success is now and that route lies via the veteran QB market. Let me take you back to the days of Alex Smith. Acquired in 2018, while it seems like 10 years ago due to the constant musical-chairs act of names tasked with leading Washington’s offense, Smith’s veteran prowess was noticeable from the moment he aligned under center. Often labeled a “game manager” and “check-down Charlie” due to his knack for flooding the shallow areas of the offense with targets, Washington found itself at 5-2 before Halloween. A wily talent whose years of NFL experience allowed him to orchestrate the offense to a pristine level of execution, his immediate impact is something Rivera desires in a quarterback. With names like Derek Carr, Russell Wilson, and Deshaun Watson all reportedly open for business—although each player will require a hefty amount of assets (and players) to acquire—prior trades around the league further highlight why the veteran market is the sole route for the Commanders to extend their window for success. Tom Brady’s addition in Tampa Bay to the acquisition of Matthew Stafford from Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead last offseason both led to immediate championship success. While those are two outlying scenarios and surely the rookie QB path has also worked, there are no Patrick Mahomes’ or Joe Burrows in the class. With a head coach on the heels of two sub .500 campaigns and an organization continuing to fight through the mud of their off-field turmoil—along with a new name, fresh uniforms, and a city in dire hunger for success—a veteran leader to captain the Commanders looks to represent the safest path to victory for one of the NFL’s most historic franchises.
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