The quarterback position is an interesting phenomena throughout the NFL. There are many teams that have been seemingly barren at the position for years – such as the Oakland Raiders – and then there are a few lucky teams with a surplus of young quarterback talent.
The Washington Redskins are one such team as they were able to acquire both Robert Griffin III and backup quarterback Kirk Cousins in the 2012 NFL Draft. Griffin was drafted No. 2 overall – just behind Andrew Luck – and proceeded to show fans the excitement and potential that was expected of him on his way to one of the greatest single-season performances of any rookie ever.
Unfortunately for Washington, Griffin suffered a serious knee injury Week 14 against the Baltimore Ravens. This would be the first significant playing time Redskins fans would see of their backup, the Redskins fourth-round draft pick. Cousins would replace Griffin and managed to pull off a come-from-behind victory against the Ravens by not only throwing a touchdown pass to pull his team within two points, but also running the ball in on the ensuing two-point conversion on what appeared to be a run-pass option play.
With excitement building around Cousins, he was again announced the starter the following week as Griffin continued to rehab his knee injury. Washington was playing the Cleveland Browns, and while he had a mediocre first half, he rallied the Redskins to 28 second-half points on their way to a 38-21 win. Cousins finished the game with 329 passing yards and two touchdowns.
While Cousins played well replacing Washington’s franchise quarterback, Griffin was again named the starter for the Redskins’ opening playoff game, despite needing the support of a knee brace. During that game against the visiting Seattle Seahawks, Griffin tore several tendons in the same knee he had injured previously, officially ending his season and placing then HC Mike Shanahan under serious fire for not going with the hot hand.
The following offseason was full of speculation as to the timetable for Griffin’s return. Nobody was exactly sure whether the young man would be capable of starting the opener, but eventually Washington’s starter would prove doubters wrong and started out the gate. Unfortunately, Griffin was forced to wear a knee brace, limiting his mobility and essentially taking away his most devastating offensive weapon. Griffin had a pedestrian year, eventually forcing Shanahan to shut him down for the remainder of the season.
Again, Cousins had an opportunity to shine. The difference this time being that the Redskins had already been plagued by injuries, not to mention being long out of the playoff race, giving players little incentive to rally. Cousins would appear in five games in 2013. His numbers were far less impressive than his rookie numbers, throwing for 854 yards with four touchdowns and seven interceptions.
However, the former Michigan State Spartan has shown at least some degree of potential as a passer during each and every outing. Therefore, it could be wise for the Redskins to move him despite Griffin’s history of injuries. The fact is, Cousins would have a great deal of value on the market. He’s shown enough in what little opportunity he’s had to impress several organizations around the league.
While earlier this offseason there were rumors surrounding Cousins’ possible departure, nothing significant has manifested yet. The most logical destination will probably not arise until next season, when Shanahan is hired by another NFL organization. His ties to Cousins might lead him to even overpay for the talented young man who was a hand-picked selection made by Shanahan himself.
The likelihood of the former HC staying off the sidelines for long is slim. Inevitably, there will be someone fired next season and Shanahan’s name will be on the short-list.That is where the Redskins must make their move. With this season seeming less likely that a trade will be made, the organization must be proactive if they hope to see a return on their fourth-round investment. Otherwise, Cousins can and will walk away from Washington via free agency at the end of the 2015 season, and at that point, there could be certain division rivals interested in the young man’s services, such as the Dallas Cowboys or New York Giants. Probably best to have some say in his destination, rather than to let it bite you in the butt.