The Griffin Deal I: The biggest deal for a pick -- we think -- ever.
|Comparing Three Big NFL Trades|
|*Projected picks in 2013 and 2014 NFL drafts.|
It's hard, obviously, to project where the Washington first-round picks will be in the 2013 and 2014 drafts. But because we don't know, let's project them to be in the middle of the round, at 16, each year. (That is actually how the Rams calculated it, by the way, with each of the two mystery picks in the middle of the first rounds of 2013 and 2014.) And let's compare this trade to two other very big ones of recent years: the Saints' trade of eight draft choices to Washington so they could draft Ricky Williams in 1999, and the Giants' move with San Diego to pick Eli Manning in the 2004 draft. I'll also tell you how much each trade returned in value, according to the well-worn draft-trade value chart -- even though that chart has to change now because very high picks are paid much less since the approval of the 2011 CBA, including a rookie wage scale.
The reason I think this Washington deal is better than either of the others is it gives the Rams one top-10 pick and, overall, four picks in the top 40. Each of the other trades gave the trading team the lower pick two picks in the top 40.
Amazing thing about this deal is rookie GM Les Snead, according to one Rams operative, "never looked at the trade value chart. As Les said, 'There is no value for a franchise quarterback.' '' Look at Eli Manning. When the Giants made the trade with San Diego in 2004, the common wisdom was GM Ernie Accorsi overpaid. Now, with Eli Manning having won two Super Bowls and played such clutch football in both championship game victories, it's apparent that the Giants, if anything, underpaid for him.
As for how it all happened, Rams COO Kevin Demoff said two weeks ago the deal could be made in any of three windows -- now, or around the time of Griffin's March 21 Pro Day workout, or right before the draft. It happened now because Washington was moving aggressively, knowing that Peyton Manning would not come and play in his brother's division and knowing what a jewel Griffin was, and because there was clear competition for the pick.
Snead was honest with the two teams most involved, Washington and Cleveland, and the third (Miami) on the periphery. He told them they were going to make a deal by the close of business Thursday, and they needed to make their best offer. According to one of the teams involved, Washington made an offer beyond what St. Louis ever thought it'd get -- three first-round picks and a second-rounder. Cleveland offered something less, thought to be three ones. (It's unknown what Miami's best offer was, though the Dolphins wanted Manning, and so never got to the level of the Redskins.)
The Rams might have gotten more by telling the Browns what Washington's offer was, but Snead had promised each side he wouldn't play one bid against another but rather simply ask for each team's best offer. Once Washington's offer was better than Cleveland's, the deal was done.
"What happened,'' said one team executive involved in the talks, "was everyone wanted to get the deal done before free agency, to make sure they filled a chair with a quarterback they really wanted during musical chairs. That really helped the Rams.''
The Griffin Deal II: How War Room helped.
Demoff read the 2011 book about Belichick and his two former personnel aides, Scott Pioli and Thomas Dimitroff, who struck out on their own in Kansas City and Atlanta, respectively. He gave the book to owner Stan Kroenke, who found many lessons in it for the construction of the Rams. The biggest one: stockpile draft choices so you can control drafts. And the 2012 Rams were in perfect position when they earned the second pick in the April draft and they already had a quarterback of the future -- they think -- on the roster in Sam Bradford.
There were other lessons in the book. Be bold, as Dimitroff was when he dealt multiple picks to move up in the first round last April to draft Julio Jones. Have the long term in mind, always. So when the Rams went about the job of interviewing candidates for head coach and GM, Kroenke wanted two things. He wanted a coach who would be experienced and stable and would be comfortable making decisions that would impact 2015 as much as 2012. Jeff Fisher was his George Karl, a veteran coach with perspective.
He wanted a GM, preferably, who had roots in the Patriot way. Les Snead worked under Dimitroff in Atlanta for four seasons, and when he was interviewed, told the Rams he'd be comfortable making big moves with long-term implications.
In some ways, the deal was the kind of franchise-resuscitator that Kroenke's son, Denver Nuggets executive Josh Kroenke, helped broker a year earlier when he dealt Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks in a package for four players and three draft picks. The Nuggets were better for dumping Anthony. We'll see if the Rams will be better with Bradford and four primo picks than they'd have been with Griffin. They should be.
The Rams now have seen both ends of the spectrum with the rookie wage scale. Bradford was the last top pick to get a monster deal before the new CBA. Bradford signed for an average of $13 million a year. Griffin will sign for about $5.5 million a year, and be eligible for his second contract after four seasons, not six, as Bradford will be. Washington may have still dealt for Griffin without a rookie wage scale, but there's no question it helped the Rams get more value for the pick.
The Griffin Deal III: If Washington couldn't get Manning, they could get The Man.
Think of the quarterbacks Mike Shanahan has coached over the last 20 years. He was Steve Young's offensive coordinator 17 years ago when Young threw a Super Bowl-record six touchdown passes. Young was mobile and accurate. He liked short pass-drops with as many formations as Shanahan could conjure up. Then came his third stint coaching John Elway, who also was mobile, but liked the seven-step deep drop and less variety in his formations. Then came Brian Griese, who had poor mobility; Shanahan played a classic pocket game with Griese, and it was good enough to win one passing title (with a 102.9 rating in 2000). Then came Jake Plummer, who had a great pocket presence and very good mobility, but there was something lacking. Great accuracy for one thing; he was a 59-percent passer in four seasons, and his downfield arm was just average. And some around Denver thought Plummer lacked dedication to the craft of quarterbacking. Then Jay Cutler came in, and he could run passably, he could drop back and throw downfield with the best in the game, and he had great confidence. Had Shanahan stayed, he was sure he could win a championship with Cutler, but who knows? Owner Pat Bowlen fired Shanahan after the 2008 season, and Cutler was gone in a trade to Chicago four months later.
Shanahan has had one dropback guy (Griese) and a second who preferred that stay-in-the-pocket style (Cutler). He had a rocket-armed guy who could throw well downfield and who could escape (Elway). He had an ultra-accurate guy with great running ability (Young). He had a colt who'd often play by instinct (Plummer) and won that way. He's always worked with what a quarterback does best. He feels his offense can contract and expand depending on the talents of the man under center. Or in the shotgun.
So now Shanahan will have Griffin to work with. It might be the last quarterback he ever handles, for better or for worse. And he just might be a little bit of all of them. He's the fastest quarterback, to be sure, that Shanahan has ever coached. Young's more accurate (not many quarterbacks ever have been more accurate), but Griffin's deep arm, and the accuracy of it, are certainly better than Young's, and may rival Elway's. We'll see.
When the Redskins watched Griffin on tape, they saw a quarterback who really didn't want to run, but when he had to, he shredded a defense. That's how Shanahan and son Kyle, the offensive coordinator, will teach Griffin -- assuming, of course, Indianapolis takes Andrew Luck and Griffin is there for Washington at two. (Washington would certainly take Luck if the Colts, picking first, undergo a change of heart and pick Griffin over Luck.)
Now about the volume Washington traded for Griffin. And the volume that Cleveland didn't. You get the feeling Shanahan and GM Bruce Allen looked at their quarterback situation, wretched, and did what they had to do to get one of the best quarterbacks to come out of the draft in a while. Cleveland looked at Colt McCoy and liked him without really loving him, and made a very strong offer to get Griffin. Just not strong enough. It's hard to kill GM Tom Heckert, but the only thing that matters is whether you get the trade done or you don't. Cleveland didn't. The Browns might be proven right in the long run, but for now, their fans feel like they'll never get a franchise quarterback ... and may not even get a Brian Sipe.
As for The Sanchize ...
Maybe it was just a throwaway quote, but the three-year contract extension Sanchez signed Friday night was, if anything, the kind of thing players in locker rooms look at and say, What did this guy do to deserve an extension? As I explained earlier, the Jets gave up some guaranteed money in exchange for three extra years on the contract -- three years Sanchez may never play unless he turns his play around this year. Asked about it Friday, Sanchez said: "The best part about it is they chose to stick with me. I'm going to be the starting quarterback for the next few years here. That's exciting. It gives the team just a reminder that I'm the leader of this team.''
Playing well, and winning, and being a go-to guy for teammates in the locker room, and lifting your team ... those are the things that reinforce leadership. Not a contract. I just hope for Sanchez's sake he doesn't really feel the size of his paychecks means a thing when it comes to big moments in late-season games. Because they don't.