Calls for Cousins? You’ve Got the Wrong Number

Even in today's win-now NFL, the wisdom of replacing Robert Griffin III in Washington so soon isn't very wise after all

Kirk Cousins (front) posted a QB rating of 101.6 in three appearances as a rookie in 2012.
Kirk Cousins (front) posted a QB rating of 101.6 in three appearances as a rookie in 2012. (Steve Helber/AP)

Upon further review, Mike Shanahan was right to laugh off the question. Even if Tony Dungy and other high-profile NFL talking heads threw the weight of their analysis behind the idea of benching Robert Griffin III in favor of backup quarterback Kirk Cousins in Washington, the logic behind such a move sounds sillier—and more short-sighted—by the minute.

Well done, Mike. The suggestion deserved to be scoffed at.

I have to admit, on Sunday night and well into Monday, I too was in the maybe-it’s-time-for-Cousins camp. With the defending NFC East champs sitting 0-2 and Griffin clearly not the same quarterback who dazzled us en route to the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year honor last season, the thought of switching to the pocket-passing Cousins for the short term seemed to make some sense. You would buy RG3 some time to further strengthen his surgically repaired knee, recover more mobility and confidence in his leg, and remove from his still-young shoulders the mounting pressure to save Washington’s rapidly unraveling season.

After all, as many of us reasoned, if you don’t have Griffin fully capable of threatening a defense with the possibility of his read-option running skills, you don’t have the RG3 effect any way. If you’re trying to win as a pocket passing offense, maybe Cousins is further along and gives you a better chance to win on that front. Right?

I thought so at first, but now I realize that would be exactly the wrong call by Shanahan.

Deservedly so, Washington’s veteran head coach took a ton of heat last January when he left the obviously injured Griffin out there too long in that home playoff loss to Seattle, with a blown-out right knee being the sad result. Shanahan left himself open to charges of trying to win now at all costs, and not taking the long-term view for the good of Griffin’s career.

Do you want to make Griffin wonder about Washington’s long-term commitment to him for even a second, when at 0-2, history says Shanahan’s team is already a long shot to make the playoffs this season?

But benching Griffin today, after just two weeks of the 2013 season, would make Shanahan guilty of roughly the same thing, trying to win now and save his team’s season rather than doing what’s best for Griffin’s long-term viability as Washington’s franchise quarterback. If Shanahan was wrong to play him then, he’d also be wrong to remove him now, and two wrongs still don’t make a right. We can’t have it both ways, and kill the coach coming and going.

Less than satisfying September results aside, what Griffin needs most right now is playing time, the one thing he’d be robbed of if Washington turned to Cousins in knee-jerk fashion (no pun intended). After seeing no preseason action, Griffin is dealing with a healthy layer of rust under the glare of the regular season spotlight, and it’s not entirely pretty. His throwing mechanics are off, his form noticeably out of sync, and he looks hesitant and unsure of himself at times. He doesn’t yet seem to have his feel for the game back entirely, and isn’t past the point where he can cut it loose and completely trust his knee.

But he’s not going to get there standing on the sideline, watching Cousins play. It doesn’t work that way. He’s not going to turn into the old RG3 with a clipboard in his hand.

I’m convinced keeping Griffin in the lineup and working toward a return to his 2012 form is actually Shanahan taking the big-picture view in this case. The panic move would be calling for Cousins, and making this about getting as many wins as possible, as soon as possible. But where would Washington and Griffin really be long term in that scenario? Shanahan has to be willing to sacrifice today, and even this season, if it means Griffin is getting the work that gets him closer to where he was as one of the league’s rookie sensations last year.

Mike Shanahan was accused of being too aggressive in playing an injured RG3 in last year's playoff game against Seattle.
Mike Shanahan was accused of being too aggressive in playing an injured RG3 in last year’s playoff game against Seattle. (Matt Slocum/AP)

It’s obvious now, but it really was our expectations that were out of whack to assume Griffin would be the same player right from the very start, based on how we saw him run, move and throw this offseason, as his rehabilitation unfolded with wall-to-wall coverage. Because Adrian Peterson ran for 2,000-plus yards last year with his surgically repaired knee, and Peyton Manning returned as good as ever despite his neck issues, we made the leap of logic that medical miracles were the norm for NFL comebacks these days, basing that on a pretty small sample size.

I know the NFL is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, but pulling the plug on Griffin after two or three games this season is counterproductive on every level. Time is his ally. That he looked undeniably better in the second half of Washington’s losses to Philadelphia and Green Bay should tell us something. The more he plays, the more comfortable he grows. He’s obviously not there yet, and doesn’t have the same level of confidence in his body or his game, but if he’s deemed healthy—and Washington says he is—he needs to play. It’s his only route to a return to form, even if it’s a hard one to watch as he struggles and the losses mount.

And what has Washington really accomplished even if Cousins starts and wins a few games, keeping its playoff hopes viable into midseason? That may satisfy the week-to-week crowd, who live and die with the team on every game day, but where does that leave the franchise standing at the quarterback position over the long haul?

After investing hugely in Griffin, from the minute the blockbuster trade with the Rams was made to acquire his draft rights, and making him the new, fresh face of the franchise, is Washington really supposed to make him stand to the side and watch Cousins play? Do you want to make Griffin wonder about Washington’s long-term commitment to him for even a second, when at 0-2, history says Shanahan’s team is already a long shot to make the playoffs this season?

After all, this isn’t Drew Bledsoe making way for Tom Brady in New England. Griffin and Cousins are two second-year quarterbacks. One of them flashed superstar potential last season, energizing and changing the fortunes of an entire franchise that had been grasping at the quarterback position for about a dozen years. And one of them proved to be a very valuable and efficient backup, keeping the chains moving and the team winning when given the opportunity. Cousins makes for a great No. 2 option, and some potentially lucrative trade bait in the future, but this is still Griffin’s team and Griffin’s time to play.

Losing some early-season games and even missing the playoffs shouldn’t change the dynamics of the quarterback situation in Washington for one second. There really is no decision here. You don’t cut and run from Griffin now, after two rough starts. You stand behind him as eagerly as you did last season, believing there are years and years left for him to play in Washington, with most of his story still to be told.

Griffin’s plight in 2013 calls for patience, not panic. For once, the win-now cries need to be ignored. He needs time. He needs to play. The long view is the only view for Washington to take.

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48 comments
kneadow
kneadow

IF the REDSKINS were to bench Griffin, they will lose the respect of Griffin, the locker room and fans alike. The season is still young, and thankfully, the division is still up for grabs. Benching Griffin would lose whatever confidence he has in himself and in his coach. Cousins may be solid option, and may when lots of games. But even a 90% healthy Griffin is better than a 100% Cousins. Griffin showed a lot of improvements in Sundays loss. And the Redskins D didn't get totally manhandled with Amerson showing improvements. We will just have to see how this plays out, hopefully with Griffin on the field and not on the bench.

Eric59
Eric59

Thank goodness Shanahan is a moron...

I am pretty sure Cousins would have torn the crappy Lions secondary a new one.

Y E A H ! Go Lions!

TeeHolmes
TeeHolmes

Best thing the Redskins can do is let this thing with RGIII play out. They don't need a QB controversy right now. I just hope the kid doesn't re-injure his knee because Cousins is the type of QB that can win for Washington.

OK
OK

Bench Obama Griffin.

Start Ted Cruz Cousins.

The Rick Reilly Redskins will show freedom and win!

pamperofirpo
pamperofirpo

RGIII should have never started these first two games. He flat out was not ready to play. But, RGIII lobbied to play, and Shanahan (and Snyder) acquiesced.

Bottom-line: RGIII is running this franchise; not Shanahan. When the season goes down the tubes (as it will), it will be Shanahan that gets fired. And, RGIII will have even more power...probably including veto power regarding the next coach.

The inmates are running the asylum. What a mess!

Bookend91
Bookend91

Am I crazy or RG3 absorbs too much of everything?  He has thrown  25% of the TD pases the did las year (2.5 tds/game) and has thrown over 320yds a game, the offense has score 20 or more. So, why is RG3's knee or play the problem?

I really think the defense is the problem and a BIG problem, 500+yards per game 30+ponints per game and all the "experts" talk about RG3 and Shanahan for starting him?  It does not matter if RG3 rund 150 yards and throw 275 yards a game and puts 33 points on the board if the other team scores 45, right?  Washingtons season is on the line next Sunday, and is not in RG3 shoulders (or knee) is on Hasslett & Morris game plan of the Stafford-Megatron match. It could be an "all you can eat" buffet for the couple form Detroit or a sour diet for them, but if the Redskins allow 30 points again, even if they win the game, they won't make the playoffs,

Travis R
Travis R

If Shanahan were really concerned with developing RG3 to have long-term success in the NFL, as is the case Mr. Banks is trying to make, then he wouldn't have run such a gimmicky collegiate scheme last year.  Instead, the Redskins would have done what the Colts did, to great success with a far inferior roster to any team they played last year I might add, and that's throw their rookie QB into the fire by daring him to run not just an NFL scheme but a complex NFL scheme similar to that run by all the great QBs in the league, the same QBs who are contending for and winning Super Bowls every year like Brady, Rodgers, Brees, the Mannings, etc.

Had that been the Redskins approach last year perhaps they don't have as successful a season from a W-L perspective but RG3 would have actually had a year of NFL development and not been a year behind while playing in nothing more than an extension of his college offense, he may not have even gotten hurt but if he did he'd be far more prepared to deal with the type of offense the Redskins are now either choosing or being forced to run due to his injury.  All-in-all, these gimmicky, collegiate zone-read based offenses are a disservice to these young QBs who are having their development set back and their bodies punished to the point that their superior athleticism, which is currently their greatest gift, will be taken from them far sooner in their careers than it otherwise would have been all while leaving them woefully unprepared for a successful career at the QB position in lieu of their otherworldly athleticism.

NicholasLitwinetz
NicholasLitwinetz

The real question is, Why is RG3 not playing like he did in 2012?

If the answer is that he is just rusty from missing the pre-season then he should absolutely remain the starter so he can clear off the rust. 

If the answer is that his knee isn't yet fully recovered (which I believe is the case) then he NEEDS to be benched until he is healthy. Even if an injured RG3 gives you a better chance to win than a healthy Cousins, RG3 needs to be benched for the sake of his career. It is just as irresponsible to play an injured RG3 this year as it was to play him last year.

publicpersonandy
publicpersonandy

I'm a big RGIII fan but the logic expressed in this article is lacking.  

- The author believes Redskins fans should suffer through losses in the hope RGIII can slowly improve - nonsense, I want to win this Sunday, that's all that matters and if Cousins is the best chance at that then start him.

- The author admits that not playing RGIII in the preseason may have contributed to his lackluster start - this clearly is another sign of incompetence on Shanahan's part - practice to win should be the motto and if RGIII isn't healthy enough then bench him.

- RGIII's success has been predicated on his ability to elude the rush and make plays - he can't do that currently and I doubt will be anytime soon.  RGIII will not succeed as a pocket-passer.

- The success RGIII has had in the 2nd half of both games is merely because of the blowouts by the half - defenses went to a 3-man rush which gave RGIII time in his new home - the pocket - to find the short passes.

If RGIII is still in rehab then start Cousins - go 4-4 - and check back with RGIII at that point.


otherworld
otherworld

I hope I'm wrong but RG3 is one hit away from retirement. Cousins will be playing soon enough, in my opinion. 

jacksonatl
jacksonatl

Disagree.  RGIII is being paid too much to be mediocre.  Fans have a right to demand more from their multi-million dollar players while paying for multi-hundred dollar ticket prices.  If these players are not performing up to their compensation level, bench them.  Period.

FredFlintsone
FredFlintsone

RG or Cousins skins aren't going anywhere with that defense, a Mike Shanahan tradition going back to his days in Denver

Hello1813
Hello1813

Finally an article from Don Banks that makes sense.   What I can never understand is RG3 was drafted to be the QB long term.  Whether it is this year or down the line in his career, he needs to learn how to be a conventional QB.  He has all the tools & intangibles.  He just needs experience.   I think having him learn and adjust to being a conventional QB will make him a much better & dangerous QB when he is fully healthy and can go back to having some designed running plays.   2 games isn't enough of a sample to know if he is rusty or bad.  The Redskins defense has been bad in that they can't get off the field and stop anyone until the game is out of hand.

OwG
OwG

RG3 is obviously not healed from his injuries and probably shouldn't be playing. But if he is active he is a better player than Cousins. 

MorphySmith
MorphySmith

this article is a joke. Coustins played the preseason and when he played last year showed he could compete. if the whole media wasn't still on the RG bandwagon. Cousins would have already played.

Marchoir
Marchoir

Premature? Hardly. Cousins is light years ahead of Griffin as a pocket passer. If only the racial aspect was reversed, the media would be screaming bloody murder for Cousins. However, it's all a moot point. There is no chance in hell that Cousins takes a single snap unless Griffin is pronounced dead on the field. No chance. The political and social pressure to play Griffin is beyond enormous. Also, Snyder and Washington will never admit that they made the most colossal blunder in NFL history by giving up the farm to sign a player who had never run anything close to an NFL pro set offense. Robert Griffin knows Cousin's capabilities, and it weighs heavily on his head. He feels the pressure and is literally terrified that Cousins will be given a chance.That was the whole premise behind 'all in for week one". He knows if Cousins would get the chance to play few games what the results would be. He doesn't need to worry. It ain't happening.

Eric59
Eric59

Yeah Cousins is much better at moving the chains but I think we should stick with Rg3.... Sincerely, A Lions fan

friendly--neighborhood--scrawler
friendly--neighborhood--scrawler

What i do not understand WHY DO PEOPLE ASSUME RGIII cannot pass from inside the pocket and Kirk cousin who has done nothing in the league (other than 1 drive against the ravens and a game against the Browns) would be any better. One thing I know Kirk had all his football life to prove he was a better quarterback than RGIII and has not done it at any point in his career. If these idiots calling for Cousins had half a brain they would know THE REDSKINS DEFENSE IS WHERE THE PROBLEM LIES 
 
Whom is that Skins defense stopping over the next 4 to 6 weeks? Please tell me? 
 
The only reason this is a story is because it's RGIII and not the talents of Cousins, if it was Cousins skills he would be starting week 3 or would have started from week 1 
 
I will ask Tony Dungy this?  Exact same scenario Payton Manning coming off his a rookie of the year and a major injury, Kirk Cousins your back up the team starts 0-2 Manning threw for 600 plus yards 5tds and 3ints in two games WOULD YOU SIT HIM FOR KIRK? 
 
Answer ... Dungy would rather cut off his right "NUT" than sit Manning i guarantee you that, and RGIII is coming off a better rookie year than Manning EVER had !!! 

SteveRowFla
SteveRowFla

Have the people spoken?Updated: September 18, 2013, 5:51 PM ETBy Rick Reilly | ESPN.com


I guess this is where I'm supposed to fall in line and do what every other American sports writer is doing. I'm supposed to swear I won't ever write the words "Washington Redskins" anymore because it's racist and offensive and a slap in the face to all Native Americans who ever lived. Maybe it is.

NICKNAME CONTROVERSY

The Washington Redskins are facing more pressure to change the team name, which many consider derogatory to Native Americans.

I just don't quite know how to tell my father-in-law, a Blackfeet Indian. He owns a steak restaurant on the reservation near Browning, Mont. He has a hard time seeing the slap-in-the-face part.

"The whole issue is so silly to me," says Bob Burns, my wife's father and a bundle holder in the Blackfeet tribe. "The name just doesn't bother me much."

And I definitely don't know how I'll tell the athletes at Wellpinit (Wash.) High School -- where the student body is 91.2 percent Native American -- that the "Redskins" name they wear proudly across their chests is insulting them. Because they have no idea.

"I've talked to our students, our parents and our community about this and nobody finds any offense at all in it," says Tim Ames, the superintendent of Wellpinit schools. "'Redskins' is not an insult to our kids. 'Wagon burners' is an insult. 'Prairie n-----s' is an insult. Those are very upsetting to our kids. But 'Redskins' is an honorable name we wear with pride. … In fact, I'd like to see somebody come up here and try to change it."

Boy, you try to help some people …

And it's not going to be easy telling the Kingston (Okla.) High School (57.7 percent Native American) Redskins that the name they've worn on their uniforms for 104 years has been a joke on them this whole time. Because they wear it with honor.

"We have two great tribes here," says Kingston assistant school superintendent Ron Whipkey, "the Chicasaw and the Choctaw. And not one member of those tribes has ever come to me or our school with a complaint. It is a prideful thing to them."

"It's a name that honors the people," says Kingston English teacher Brett Hayes, who is Choctaw. "The word 'Oklahoma' itself is Choctaw for 'red people.' The students here don't want it changed. To them, it seems like it's just people who have no connection with the Native American culture, people out there trying to draw attention to themselves.

"My kids are really afraid we're going to lose the Redskin name. They say to me, 'They're not going to take it from us, are they, Dad?'"

Too late. White America has spoken. You aren't offended, so we'll be offended for you.

Same story with the Red Mesa (Ariz.) High School Redskins. They wear the name with fierce pride. They absolutely don't see it as an insult. But what do they know? The student body is only 99.3 percent Native American.

And even though an Annenberg Public Policy Center poll found that 90 percent of Native Americans were not offended by the Redskins name, and even though linguists say the "redskins" word was first used by Native Americans themselves, and even though nobody on the Blackfeet side of my wife's family has ever had someone insult them with the word "redskin," it doesn't matter. There's no stopping a wave of PC-ness when it gets rolling.

I mean, when media stars like USA Today's Christine Brennan, a white woman from Ohio, and Peter King, a white man from Massachusetts, have jumped on a people's cause, there's no going back.

Besides, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said last week that if "even one person is offended" on this issue, we need to "listen."

One person?

Got it. Guess we need to listen to people who are offended by theKansas City Chiefs' name, too. That's one that offends my father-in-law. "You see some little guy wearing a headdress made of chicken feathers," he says, "painting his face up, making a mockery of us. I hate that. Those are things you earn."

One person? I know an atheist who is offended by religious names like theNew Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. There are people who who don't think Ole Miss should be the Rebels. People who lost family to Hurricanes. There are people who think Wizards promotes paganism. Shall we listen to all of them?

I guess so.

Edmundo Macedo, vice president of ESPN's Stats & Information group, told ESPN ombudsman Robert Lipsyte that the term Redskins is abhorrent. "We would not accept anything similar as a team nickname if it were associated with any other ethnicity or any other race," Macedo said.

Oh, yes, we would.

In fact, ESPN and many other media companies cover the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves without a single searing search of their social conscience.

Doesn't matter. The 81-year-old Washington Redskins name is falling, and everybody better get out of the way. For the majority of Native Americans who don't care, we'll care for them. For the Native Americans who haven't asked for help, we're glad to give it to them.

Trust us. We know what's best. We'll take this away for your own good, and put up barriers that protect you from ever being harmed again.

Kind of like a reservation.

skanee00
skanee00

This spread option offense is stupid.  You turn your best passer into a runner and then he gets hurt and then you're up a creek.

BillRobinson
BillRobinson

Right on! I never thought much of Tony Dungy. His success as a coach was due to the fact he had Payton Manning as his quarterback.

AnthonyPero
AnthonyPero

@westcoastbias Peter King specifically said it was only for his articles, and what he writes. Not for other writers, or the system generated stuff like tags.

Travis R
Travis R

@Bookend91 I won't go so far as to say you're crazy, I don't know you that well, but you're trying to simplify the issue too much.  All, not most but all, of RG3's "success" has come playing from well behind against what amount to prevent defenses.  I agree the defense is a problem but if RG3 actually plays as well as his overall stats say he's played for the entire game, the defense isn't on the field nearly as much in the first half of games to get behind as much as they have and maybe not being on the field as much allows them to play better.  The fact remains that in the first half of games RG3 can't keep the offense on the field, they've only had the ball 21 minutes and 1 second in the first half of games this year compared to 33 minutes and 51 seconds in the 2nd half of games!  That's a huge disparity that is in direct proportion to the defense giving up 50 points in the first half and just 21 in the second half and the offense scoring just 7 first half points compared to 40 second half points.

Bookend91
Bookend91

@otherworld  Really?  And that's why after Tom Brady loose a hole season with a very similar knee injury has thrown over 20k yards?  RG3 has shown he can stay in the pucket and throw 300+yards a game, that he is not just a scrambling athlete.

Mesure yourself my friend, there is more positive than negatives in this 2 games of the season for RG3, the Defense is the whole problem (an a big one).

morejunk
morejunk

@otherworld  

This is what will actually kill the option offense. Now that defenders can put a hit on the quarterback if he's working the option, QBs are gonna start dropping like flies.  Then it's back to arena league football style offense.

Bookend91
Bookend91

@jacksonatl   Are you gonna bench all the QB that thorw 2.5 tds a game or the ones that throw 320 yards per game or have a 60%+ comp aaverage?

Why not firing a D coordinator and DB coach that where burned badly all year long last year and this year have allow a mile already?

OwG
OwG

@FredFlintsone 

Im sure the skins will take some of Mike shanahans denver tradition if it brings them two super bowls. 

skanee00
skanee00

@Hello1813  

See why the spread option is stupid?  You train a guy with passing talent to be a runner, then he gets hurt, and then you're stuck with a rudderless option offense.  And then you can't run a pro set offense because your passer was trained to be a runner.

I don't think starting Cousins is funny.  Quarterbacking is all about passing, and if he is the better option for passing, then he should be the starter.

The Chicago Bears proved way back in the 1940's that the T formation offense, with the quarterback getting the snap directly under center, is the superior method.  It helps to protect your passer because the hand off is better.

MorphySmith
MorphySmith

@OwG  

LOL. great comedy. better than cousins at what . dirt diving?

OwG
OwG

@MorphySmith 

I think you probably meant to say the "liberal elite jew owned media" 

People need to stop with the conspiracy theroy that the media influences personnel decisons of professional sports teams... I had enough of that crap with Tebow. 

OwG
OwG

@Marchoir 

Dont know you're serious or trolling..... 

If serious, you really need to take a deep breath and re-evualute the utter nonsense you just spewed upon us. 

hinomura
hinomura

@skanee00 You should do some research before you criticize something. Every injury that RG3 sustained came off a broken pass play where he scrambled and fought for extra yards. 

RockerMaximus
RockerMaximus

@BillRobinson  I don't remember Manning playing in Tampa when Dungy coached the Bucs. But I do remember Dungy being a pretty good football coach.

Bookend91
Bookend91

@Travis R @Bookend91  Now, after de Lions game...Would you bench RG3 @Raiders next Sunday in favor of Cousins?  RG3 is not the problem or the cause of the 0-3 start.

Robert158
Robert158

@Bookend91 @otherworld When exactly did he show that? The first 3 losses of the season? His QBR rating in those 3 games was 15.7, 43, and 29. Even Matt Schaub has a higher average QBR for the season than Robert Griffin.

Robert158
Robert158

@Bookend91 @jacksonatl His completion percentage on the season is 59%, but completion percentage doesn't tell everything.. QBR gives a much better picture and RG3's is in the toilet. Lower than Matt Schaub's on the season, to be exact.

morejunk
morejunk

@OwG @MorphySmith 

Maybe Washington should pick up Tebow.  I hear he's available.  He even turns water into Gatorade.   :-)

anon76
anon76

@OwG

Dontcha know that Marchoir is a clairvoyant coach-in-waiting?  He just hasn't been discovered yet.  With his super-ability to see all things through a racial lens, and his incredible instinct to notice the dramatic oppression of the white race at the hands of the media elites, he could have had the 'skins in the playoffs decades ago!

If only Marchoir was Washington's coach, they never would have had to endure the "most colossal blunder in NFL history" last year when they went from a distant last place in the NFC East to winning the division for the first time in over a decade.

anon76
anon76

@RockerMaximus

I always thought Dungy was a very good coach, especially on the defensive side of the ball (where he had the talent in Tampa, much less so in Indy).  However, I always HATED his decision to sit starters at the end of the season, which not only led to the end of a couple of perfect seasons, but also led to a rusty Peyton experiencing several 'one and done' playoff years.  People always say Peyton is a bad playoff QB, but as a Bronco fan I vividly remember what he did to our team in the Wild Card games of 2003 and 2004.  Simply put, Peyton played well when he wasn't riding the pine for 2-3 weeks, as Dungy kept having him do (his Super Bowl MVP year came off of a Wild Card season).  Which is a long-winded way of saying I respect Dungy, but I wouldn't follow his advice on when to sit your franchise QB.

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