SNIDER: Playoffs prove Washington needs passing

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The nice thing about the opening round of the NFL playoffs was flushing pretenders. No more mediocre teams like Dallas, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New England thinking their past provided legitimacy to the present.

The final fours of each conference have no Cinderella. Saturday's NFC semifinal of San Francisco at Green Bay probably sends the winner against defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay the following week. Same goes in the AFC when Sunday's Buffalo at Kansas City winner faces Cincinnati-Tennessee's victor.

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For all the flirting the Washington Football Team did in failing to make the Wild Card round, it would have been another one-and-done. Washington can't match the overall firepower of these teams and notice they all have legit quarterbacks. And, anybody pointing to San Francisco's Jimmy Garoppolo as an exception will surely say Washington should get him if he becomes available.

The final eight starts with Tampa Bay's Tom Brady, the greatest passer ever seeking his eighth title. Aaron Rodgers may fight with Green Bay, but he'll leave a legend. Kansas City has Patrick Mahomes, who can beat anyone. Cincinnati's Joe Burrow is perhaps the NFL's best young passer. Buffalo's Josh Allen is a legit top-six playmaker. Garoppolo is a franchise quarterback if healthy. Tennessee's Ryan Tannehill may be last on this list, but the 10-year veteran is a survivor.

The lessons for Washington – building a defense was great in 1985, but today's NFL demands a quarterback. Two years after concentrating on defense, Washington needs to pivot to offense and especially quarterback. Without a top passer, it will never truly contend.

Washington is scouting college passers heavily. Hopefully, all that research isn't wasted by an owner wanting to play fantasy ball. Coach Ron Rivera said in his season-ending presser that after drafting a first-round passer, everyone has to be patient. Too bad the defense isn't good enough to compensate for an average quarterback, which last season proved using Taylor Heinicke.

But first, Washington needs to decide whether it needs to sign a free agent or trade for a passer, in case its No. 11 draft pick can't find a quarterback in a decidedly mediocre year for throwers. The worst thing Washington can do is take a rookie that will just waste three years before forcing the team to look again.

Indeed, Rivera also needs to find another journeyman like Ryan Fitzpatrick to be ready in case the rookie isn't ready. That's an expensive and delicate move. The best passers won't come loose. Washington will have to trade for a Derek Carr or Garoppolo and sellers will want that 11th pick. That means Washington would risk waiting until the second round for a passer. Sure, history is filled with good non-first rounders, Brady being the ultimate benchmark.

Washington has plenty to ponder while watching the playoffs if it wants to join the postseason next year.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks.

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