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Panic At The Rumor Mill

By Mark Solway | April 6th, 2007

If one were to heed the doom-laden chat that has accompanied much of the off-season thus far, the Redskins plan to or already have done the following: -Trade their sixth pick and future picks to draft Calvin Johnson -Ditto but for Jamarcus Russel -Ditto but for Brady Quinn -Traded their sixth pick and Rocky McIntosh for the Bears 31st pick (maybe) and Lance Briggs -Traded their sixth pick to the Broncos for XX and agreed to send additional picks just for fun -Given away all of their picks ever and lured Deion Sanders out of retirement to play all-time QB Here is what all of those scenarios have in common: none are true. Yet fans (many who should know better) react to those scenarios as if they were fact when, in reality, the team hasn’t moved an inch beyond speculation, save for the Briggs rumor, where they’ve moved about a foot past that line. The Redskins hold the sixth pick in the draft, that’s not news to anyone. However, what that means, in a way that is more subtle than it might seem, is that the Redskins do not hold a Top 5 pick. Again, that’s not a shocking revelation but it does have wide-ranging implications. The sixth pick, for one, is not very sexy. There is an inherent value tied to picks one through five, one that carries over from draft to draft regardless of the available talent. Teams with a Top 5 pick have lots of suitors and, thus, lots of options. Teams just south of that simply have a high first-round pick. In past years, the notion of the relative sexiness of the sixth pick was just that, relative. Depending on who drafts there and what needs that team has, the sixth pick might be just perfect. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with the Redskins … or at least that doesn’t seem to be the case. This is where the genius of Joe Gibbs can’t be underestimated. Gibbs, despite what many might have you believe, is not a stupid man. The coach has done his homework and surveyed the draft landscape and, it seems, come to the conclusion that the Redskins can not justifiably address their most pressing need at their current position. The lineman they’ve scouted seem to have enough question marks as to make snagging one of them that high a bit of a reach. So what to do? Well, Gibbs knows that virtually ANY rumor to which the Redskins attach themselves, even in the most abstract fashion, is bound to spread. So why not leverage that? Look, the team finds itself with very few picks in a draft where they must address a need, not an enviable position. When your potential trading partners know your dance card is wide open, they can dictate the terms. So, you have to fudge things a little and, in the world of professional sports, the idea of something is almost as powerful as the thing itself. What Gibbs has managed to do by playing the non-denial game is to make it seem as if the Redskins have boundless options. He has managed to create the idea that the sixth pick is highly coveted by any number of teams and, as such, he has created a perceived value for that pick. He’s moved the Redskins from the position of passenger to driver. The simple fact is that, as of today, no one knows what the Redskins will do with that pick. The draft choices of the past few years, for a variety of reasons, have not been terribly surprising. You could judge with a fair degree of accuracy exactly who the Redskins would take long before the draft. Any team that is locked into a plan is a team sans options. I am of the opinion the Redskins will spin this pick into gold by dropping down a few slots and getting both the player they want plus extra picks. But I can’t be certain about that, they might move up, they might stay put, heck, they might do nothing at all. But at the center of that whirlwind of speculation that surrounds the Redskins sits a crafty coach who is counting on being underestimated. There are any number of people who think Joe Gibbs has lost his luster, that the game has lapped him, to borrow a racing analogy. That’s fine, that’s precisely what he wants. I think he’s just getting warmed up and I, for one, am glad to be along for the…

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