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Fan Mailbag: QB or O-Line In the Draft?


Wondering about a player's status? Trying to recall a past game? Want some insight on the Redskins?'s Gary Fitzgerald opens up the mailbag on Tuesday and answers fan questions.

Got a question? Email ***.*

Question: Is it more important to decide on a quarterback or to improve the offensive line?

-- Nicole W.

Gary: Well, that's the question of the Redskins' offseason, isn't it? It's the "Which comes first" argument in a way. This offseason, the Redskins appear to be faced with the difficult choice of drafting either a potential franchise quarterback or a potential franchise left tackle in the first round.

Following a 4-12 campaign in 2009, the Redskins have a chance to build a team that is at least in contention every year. How to start? Look to the past.

In 1979, the San Francisco 49ers were 2-14. That club had a rookie backup named Joe Montana who would get his chance a year later--and the 49ers were on their way to becoming the "Team of the 80s." Bubba Paris, the left tackle who would protect Montana's blind side most of the decade, arrived in 1982, a year after the 49ers' first Super Bowl title.

In 1989, the Dallas Cowboys were 1-15. That team started rookie quarterback Troy Aikman, who would eventually lead the Cowboys to becoming the "Team of the 90s." Aikman's left tackle that decade was four-time Pro Bowler Erik Williams, who joined the Cowboys in 1991.

In 2000, the New England Patriots were 5-11. They had a little-known quarterback named Tom Brady serving as a backup that year. Brady emerged in 2001, and the Patriots would go on to become the "Team of the 2000s." Matt Light, a two-time Pro Bowl left tackle, was drafted by the Patriots in 2001.

So, in recent decades, the trend for a so-called "Team of the Decade" is to identify the franchise quarterback first and draft the franchise offensive tackle second.

Sure, there are many ways to build a team to win one or more Super Bowls. There is no exact blueprint.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, the "Team of the 70s," went the other way. They drafted left tackle Jon Kolb in 1969, went 1-13, and then drafted Terry Bradshaw in 1970.

The Redskins had Joe Theismann as their starting quarterback well before establishing the foundation of "The Hogs" with Mark May, Russ Grimm and Joe Jacoby in 1981. That foundation helped Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien lead the Redskins to three Super Bowl titles.

This year's Super Bowl champion, the New Orleans Saints, drafted left tackle Jammal Brown in 2005 and acquired Drew Brees in 2006. In their Super Bowl run last season, Brown was on injured reserve and third-year lineman Jermon Bushrod stepped in as the starting left tackle.

For long-term success, it's evident that once a team identifies its franchise quarterback, the team is set at its most critical position for the next 8-10 years.

And the rest--including offensive tackle--usually falls into place.

Question: Do you think Joe Theismann will ever be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

-- Dewan C.

Gary:Theismann has been a preliminary nominee for the Hall of Fame in recent years, but he has not advanced to the list of semi-finalists. If the Redskins had beaten the Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII instead of losing 38-9, I think Theismann would be a Hall of Famer as a two-time champion. His career stats do not rank him among the NFL's all-time greats, but his numbers are comparable to Sammy Baugh and Sonny Jurgensen, both Hall of Famers. As it stands now, Theismann's best shot may be as a senior nominee. It helps that he has maintained great visibility through the years as a broadcaster, including most recently on the NFL Network.

Question: New coaches tend to favor bringing in players from their former teams, meaning the Redskins could look at guard Chris Kuper (Denver), cornerback Dunta Robinson and wide receiver Kevin Walters (Houston), among others. Such activity could free up the No. 4 pick for a quarterback or an offensive tackle. What seems to be the chatter in the hallways regarding the approach to free agency?

-- Bob S.

Gary: First I will say this: It is smart thinking to peruse the list of free agents for players coached by Mike Shanahan, Kyle Shanahan and other new Redskins coaches. You're absolutely right that new coaches tend to favor bringing in players from their previous teams. As for chatter in the hallways...Well, with Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen in charge, this is a new era at Redskins Park. Trust me when I say that coaches and scouts are not roaming the hallways revealing their free agency or draft targets. Expect this administration to be more secretive--and perhaps even more cunning--with their information.

Question: Hey Gary, love the Fan Mailbag! What are your thoughts on drafting Cal's Jahvid Best to eventually replace Clinton Portis?

-- Will P.

Gary: Best could be available early in the second round should the Redskins decide they want to target him. At Cal, he compiled 2,664 rushing yards on just 364 carries, a lofty 7.3 yards-per-carry average, and 29 touchdowns in three seasons. Best has dealt with several injuries, including a concussion and sore back that cost him the last four games of the 2009 season, so his medical evaluation is sure to be scrutinized.

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