Saturday, January 28, 2017

Washington’s 2015 Starting Quarterback Is…

Appeared on in March 2015

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Weeks before the NFL Draft, a single free agent was signed or the San Francisco 49ers launched the on-going nuclear attack on its roster, Robert Griffin III was anointed the Skins of Washington’s starting quarterback in 2015. It was a move less about acknowledging the obvious and more about avoiding controversy and stroking a fragile ego (before it sought therapy via social media).

There is, of course, a reasonable, football-based argument to pencil in Griffin atop the quarterback depth chart. He’s still young. Things could click in year two with Jay Gruden - if the injury bug stays away. And given his cost, you have to definitively determine if he can or can’t play. That’s why you start him. That’s why you continue with the Robert Griffin III experiment.

The logic is sound, but the decision is wrong.

If Griffin isn’t either running like a wild man - something he is now less willing to do – or in Baylor’s spread offense – concepts that don’t translate to the NFL – the dynamic, Adidas wearing, Subway eating and Gatorade drinking RGIII vanishes and the pedestrian Robert is left holding…and holding…and holding the ball. I’ll be even more blunt: not only would Washington be better off with someone else behind center, it would be wise to divorce the ever dramatic and polarizing Griffin immediately.

In the game of love, hastily dumping a psychotic significant other and being left stark single and without a hint of a new prospect is usually advisable. Temporary loneliness is always better than overexposure to psychological instability. In football, releasing your starting quarterback without a Plan B is ill advised; someone needs to play the most important position on the field, eh? So calling for Griffin’s head can’t be done without a replacement in mind. What’s a better option for the ‘Skins? Kirk Cousins. 

Truth and Mystery


It’s an admittedly curious choice. In five starts for Washington in 2014, Cousins’ play was, shall we say, uneven. Maddening decisions and dashes of frustrating incompetence offset - at the very least - his flashes of brilliance (such as throwing for over 400 yards on the road against Philadelphia). At this moment, here’s the ground truth: Cousin has talent, but he is afflicted with a fragile psyche – he struggles to overcome adversity and often compounds mistakes – and has a chronic case of the turnover flu. Has that mercurial space between his ears calloused over or does it remain as fragile as a spot on a professional roster controlled by Chip Kelly? Hmmm…I’m not sure. Is his turnover bug of Rex Grossman severity (i.e. ultimately fatal) or can he reign in his careless ways? Well…I dunno.

So Cousins can play a little bit. Sometimes big moments get the better of him. He’s a little too loose with the football. Okay…sounds like most young quarterbacks with limited NFL reps. Yet Cousins, after getting benched in favor of Colt McCoy in week seven against Tennessee, never saw the field again. Heck, he was barely seen in public again. The dude was put on ice. Left for dead. Exiled to the darkest reaches of the organization to pay some apparently unjust penance for common errors and routine flaws. Bizarre. Mysterious. Only in Washington.

Gruden’s Man-Crush

The hunch is Cousins’ exile won’t last. Why? Gruden’s man-crush. Jay’s isn’t totally confirmed, but Jon loves him some Kirk Daniel Cousins. For Chucky, it’s KDC over RGIII every time. Jon is the awkward, slightly overweight and four-eyed kid in the stands who is frozen with infatuation. He’s sweaty and unable to speak in full sentences. Cousins is the jaw-dropping cheerleader. Beaming smile. Bright eyes. Long, flowing hair. Completely irresistible…straight from the pages of dad’s old confiscated porn magazine. Jay and Jon are brothers, of course. They both are coaches at heart and sorta like this football thing. And they talk, like brothers do. So if Jon digs Kirk then Jay…

Cousins indulged big brother Jon’s crush – and raised an eyebrow or two - this offseason by spending a little free time under the tutelage of the older Gruden. Cousins exiled in Washington, a team coached by Jay Gruden? The smart money is on “Not for long.”  

The Myth

Griffin has a better arm. Check.

He possesses greater athleticism and is more dynamic overall. Check and Check.

He has more upside than Cousins. Errr…

We once held that so-called truth to be self-evident. Not it’s an exposed myth.

On the five occasions when Cousins played the predominance of games last season, he threw 10 touchdown passes, 8 interceptions and averaged 314 yards passing. Conversely, in the seven games when Griffin handled the majority of the quarterback duties, the logo managed just four touchdown passes to go along with six interceptions and averaged a paltry 232 yards passing per game.

More numbers. Griffin completed 68.7% of his passes and averaged 11.5 yards per completion in 2014. And Cousins? Completion percentage: 61.8. Yards per completion? 13.6.

It’s Checkdown Robert vs. Downfield Kirk.

Despite throwing just 10 fewer passes in 2014 (204 to 214), Cousins threw two more picks than Griffin. But he notched a half dozen more touchdowns and his yard per completion indicates it was Cousins, not Griffin, who was pushing the ball downfield and attacking defenses through the air. You know, the stuff the really good quarterbacks do. The stuff teams need their quarterback to do.

The Answer?

Cousins probably isn’t the long-term solution for Washington, but he is a decent option and deserves a legitimate chance to play without the Griffin elephant lurking in the room. Cousins, unlike Griffin, has been the consummate teammate and has handled himself with a level of professionalism that Griffin has yet to reach. He is humble and unassuming; Robert is narcissistic and complicated. And there’s not definitive evidence that Griffin, post a second ACL injury, is any better – so why continue to pander to Griffin while a far less dramatic and comparatively effective option already resides on the roster? Jersey sales? Season tickets? Only Daniel Snyder would assume the fan base so shallow and simplistic.

Here’s another angle: what if Jay doesn’t love Cousins as much as Jon and suppose new General Manager Scot McCloughan isn’t sold on Captain Kirk? Well, Cousins has certainly demonstrated the ability to handle the team seeking or acquiring his planned replacement. And Griffin? Yikes.

For example, what if Washington wanted to select Marcus Mariota with the fifth overall pick or another quarterback in the second round? Could they do that and still retain Cousins as a possible early-season starter? Absolutely. A roster with Mariota and Griffin (or Griffin and any other quarterback with endorsement of the current regime) would be an absolute circus. Robert might break Twitter with new workout videos, relentless appeals for validation and a series of new hashtags. Washington would spend as much time on TMZ as it did on ESPN.

I’ll pass…thanks.

With several available quarterbacks already having found new homes, Washington should just tap Cousins to start the 2015 season. The Skins need to generate wins, not headlines and Cousins is every bit as good as Griffin. He might not be the starter Washington assumed it would have three years after the fabled 2012 NFL Draft, but he’s the one they need.   

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