PHOENIX -- The Washington Redskins need to find their quarterback of the future. Coach Jay Gruden most likely needs to win now. Those two sentences could lead to conflicting desires when it comes to the NFL draft next month. That is, if the Redskins view the situation the same way.
With Alex Smith's future still uncertain and with no healthy quarterback signed beyond this season, the Redskins need to find a young quarterback. With the 15th pick in the draft, they're likely in position to land one of the top four in the draft. The problem: If they feel the quarterback must sit for a year to develop, that pick won't help them now.
After three straight non-playoff seasons, the Redskins' coaching staff likely can't afford a fourth.
"I never, ever prepare myself like I'm going to get fired after a year," Gruden said. "I'll prepare myself like I'm going to be here for the long haul and whatever makes this team better right now and in the future. There's a fine line with that first pick. You want that first pick to be a guy that can come in and have an impact on your team Year 1."
The Redskins do have Colt McCoy and Case Keenum. If they wanted to groom a rookie quarterback, they could do so without needing him to play immediately. But with so many other needs -- pass-rusher, receiver, interior offensive line, safety -- the Redskins know if they take one in the first round, they need quick production.
"It would be hard," Gruden said of having a first-round quarterback sit.
The Redskins could also explore a trade for Josh Rosen if he becomes available. Gruden watched his college film last year and liked him coming out of the draft, as did others in the organization. But more work would remain for them to understand his rookie season in Arizona.
For now, the best option remains the draft, and that means a group that includes two players who only started for one year (Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins) and two others who showed flashes but weren't overwhelming (Drew Lock and Daniel Jones). Gruden also mentioned Will Grier. The Redskins like aspects of all these quarterbacks -- and have questions on each as well.
"You would like a guy to play more than a year to see how he's developed," Gruden said. "Haskins has a unique skill set. He's big, strong and can really throw it. Is he going to be ready for the first year? Ideally a couple of these guys you'd like to have them sit a year maybe to get them in your system, learn to get to know your guys and play -- especially those guys who only played one year. But Kyler has such a unique skill set with his 4.3 [speed], his ability to get outside the pocket. If he's a scheme fit for whoever takes him, he can play Year 1 if they utilize the skills he has."
Gruden helped develop Andy Dalton, a second-round pick in 2011, in Cincinnati. But Dalton had the luxury of entering as the starting quarterback.
"We knew he was the No. 1 guy," Gruden said. "So we gave him every rep from the day he got in the building ... If you have a No. 1 guy and you draft a guy and he's in competition with one or two other guys, then it becomes harder for him to develop and see where he's at. I never like to have two-man competitions and I really don't want to have a three-man competition. That's really hard, just because the reps are so few and far between for these guys. But if it's something we have to do, then we have to do it."
The Redskins hope they're in strong position to develop a quarterback if necessary, considering the experience they have at that position. They have five key members of the organization who played the position and four who did so in the NFL. Gruden played it at the University of Louisville and in the Arena Football League. The other four, who played in the NFL: senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams (nine seasons); offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell (parts of four); quarterbacks coach Tim Rattay (eight); and senior offensive assistant Matt Cavanaugh (13).
Plus, they'd hope that Smith eventually would be around to help tutor. Redskins team president Bruce Allen liked how Kansas City handled Patrick Mahomes' rookie season. He sat and learned from Smith.
"He got to watch a veteran do it and he got very good coaching and practice time and that helped him perform the way he did last year," said Allen, the primary decision-maker.
Of course, the difference here: the Chiefs were 12-4 the season before drafting Mahomes. The Redskins are coming off a second consecutive 7-9 season and don't have a healthy Smith.
"You can't reach for the quarterback of the future. He has to be the right fit and has to fit what you think that quarterback is," Gruden said. "If I don't feel like, or if we don't feel like as an organization, this guy fits that criteria, then we can't reach and take him just because he's a quarterback."
It could be that future quarterback gets drafted after the first round.
"That's not as risky," Gruden said. "You've got to hit on those first-rounders to be a successful franchise. You can't just reach and hope to goodness that's your guy of the future. You have to be right on those guys."