Washington Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden has "never been a fan" of rostering three active quarterbacks, and he echoed that sentiment during coaches' media availability at the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix on Tuesday. But with uncertainty surrounding the future of injured starter Alex Smith, Gruden acknowledged there's a good chance the franchise will move in that direction, hoping to add a third healthy signal-caller to compete with veteran Colt McCoy and newly-acquired Case Keenum.
This potential signing could come through free agency or happen in next month's NFL Draft, Gruden said, where top prospects such as Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins may be available for the Redskins to draft in the first round. Another option would be to draft a less-heralded quarterback in the later rounds.
There's much to be decided regarding the current Redskins' quarterback situation, and there will be more to figure out as training camp unfolds this summer. But in terms of choosing a starting quarterback, Gruden's mindset remains the same. Regardless of past performance, injury history or future potential, he'll go with the signal-caller that can best help the team "win now."
"There is no developmental process here. This is not Triple-A baseball where we’re trying to develop a pitcher here," Gruden told Redskins.com. "We’re trying to win a game right now. If we feel like we draft a quarterback in the first, second, third or seventh round and he’s going to start Day 1, we expect great things from him and the players will expect great things from him.”
“Ryan Kerrigan is not expecting us to come out and just build for the future; we've got to win now" Gruden continued. "Josh Norman, same way. Landon Collins didn’t come here to be good in 2034. They came here to be good and compete and win a Super Bowl this year. So whoever that player is, that position of quarterback, high expectations for us from us. That’s the way it’s going to be.”
The Redskins have invested ample time analyzing the 2019 quarterback class, evident by staff members attending the pro days of Haskins (Ohio State), Drew Lock (Missouri) and Will Grier (West Virginia) over the past week. It's an interesting group of players with varying levels of college experience, Gruden added. Murray and Haskins both started for the first time last season and dominated, with Murray winning the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma and Haskins finishing as a finalist for the honor. Lock made 46 starts in his four years at Missouri.
While Gruden prefers to see quarterbacks develop over the course of their college careers, Murray and Haskins each have unique skillsets that would allow them to excel in the NFL right away. Murray has elite speed and playmaking ability with his arm and his legs, which makes him an ideal fit for certain offenses, like those who rely heavily on the run-pass option. Haskins, meanwhile, possesses the size and arm strength of a desirable pocket passer. Gruden also tabbed Lock and Grier as quarterbacks who could compete for a NFL starting job right away.
In evaluating quarterback prospects, Gruden takes these physical traits into account but also likes to observe their overall football knowledge and their ability to dissect certain situations.
"We’re going to grind him on the tape," Gruden said about meeting with prospects. "What he knows about football, third-down situations, two minutes, all of the situations that are needed to be successful. How he handles pressure, how he handles the protections is really important, how he is going to protect himself, what he knows about overload blitzes and jam fronts and double-A blitzes and nickel blitzes."
Should the Redskins like any of these quarterbacks enough, Gruden is comfortable drafting another quarterback with the team's first-round pick. At that point they'll give their selection "every opportunity" to earn the starting job and reward him if he proves to be the best option. Otherwise they'll allow him to develop while McCoy or Keenum lead the first-team offense.
But there's also a scenario where the Redskins look elsewhere for their opening-round selection, Gruden said. Maybe there's a promising offensive lineman available or a relentless pass rusher. Maybe there's a talented young safety still on the board to pair with newly-signed All-Pro Landon Collins.
Perhaps it's someone else who can best help the team right now.
"You can’t reach for the quarterback of the future," Gruden said. "He has to be the right fit, and he has to fit what that quarterback is. If we don’t feel like as an organization that this guy fits that criteria, then we can’t reach and take him just because he’s a quarterback. Maybe we think it’s a second or third-rounder that we think can develop into that guy that’s not as risky as the first-rounder. Those first-round picks, you’ve got to hit on those first-rounders to be a successful franchise. You can’t just reach and hope to goodness that that’s the guy of your future. You have to be right on those guys, and sometimes it could be a second or third or fourth rounder, not so much a first.”