Column: Rivera, Washington are too reactive in bid to land a franchise QB

The Washington Football Team punted on making a deal at the trade deadline, but they were reportedly “exceptionally close” to one that would have added another name to the list of unfortunate souls tasked with ending the Burgundy and Gold’s yearslong search for a franchise quarterback.

Even though a deal for Mitchell Trubisky didn’t happen, it does highlight a reality about the current regime in Washington: At every turn, Ron Rivera is at least one or two steps late when it comes to securing a long-term option at QB.

This makes two straight years in which Rivera was reactive, rather than proactive, in bolstering the most important position in all of team sports. When he took over in 2020, Rivera could have had his old Panthers pupil Cam Newton for a fraction of what he was paid in Carolina or other veteran options like Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota (Tom Brady was also out there but let’s be real — Brady in Burgundy was never going to be a thing).

Rather than bringing in a veteran for a true competition, Rivera instead handed the keys to the team to Dwayne Haskins, who promptly wrapped the proverbial car around a tree.

This past offseason, Trubisky — who twice was the starter for a playoff team in Chicago, but signed a modest one-year, $2.5 million deal in Buffalo to serve as Josh Allen’s backup — could have competed for a starting spot in Washington for far less than the $10 million they paid for 38-year-old journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. Newton was again an option (and still is) that would cost significantly less, yet represent a higher-ceiling option than any of the three QBs on the roster currently plagued by injury and/or mediocrity.

Furthermore, signing Trubisky, 27, would have fallen closer in line with Rivera’s obvious youth movement than Fitzpatrick or even the less heralded (and less experienced) 28-year-old Taylor Heinicke. Instead, Rivera is spending the second straight year chasing a mulligan for a mistake he could have avoided altogether.

Not landing Trubisky at the trade deadline may have saved Rivera from another misstep; giving up draft picks (presumably) for a QB that likely won’t play in 2021 and has a path to free agency in 2022 is basically a waste (as was sending a fifth-round pick to Carolina for current third-string QB Kyle Allen — but I digress). For someone stubbornly avoiding giving up much for a QB, that’s potentially at least two picks dedicated to two passers who shouldn’t play.

In avoiding Newton or a trade for Deshaun Watson (which, before his legal issues, seemed like a good idea a few months ago) or one of the highly-touted first-round QBs in this year’s draft, Rivera has made painfully obvious his strategy for acquiring a franchise quarterback is to simply luck into one, a la Dak Prescott in Dallas. But, given the way Washington valued another fourth-round pick at QB (Kirk Cousins), even that scenario wouldn’t play out well.

Consider Washington’s QB conundrum the latest in a long line of contradictions surrounding a 2-6 team that has somehow regressed from last year’s 2-6 start. Rivera keeps preaching patience in the face of his effort to build a better culture in Washington. But if he’s going to be around for the three to five years he requires, this defensive coach will need to do a better job of going on the offensive in his bid to better his situation at QB.

Rob Woodfork

Rob Woodfork is a versatile broadcaster with a broad range of experience. He can be heard in in WTOP's traffic center and on the Sports Desk and his byline is on WTOP.com as a web writer/editor and sports columnist.

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