Monday, April 30, 2012

Redskins' confidence in RGIII paved way for Cousins pick

I've gone back and forth on the Redskins' selection of quarterback Kirk Cousins in the fourth round (No. 102 overall) of the NFL Draft, and I'm still not sure which side I'm on. I can see both sides:
  • Mike Shanahan wanted Cousins because he thinks he's one of the best quarterbacks in the draft and believes he was too talented to let him pass in the fourth round. It was all about value.
  • The Redskins had (and still have) holes they needed to fill in the draft, and instead of picking Cousins, they should have taken another position of need.
Maybe the Redskins should have chosen a different position. They certainly could use more talent on the offensive line and in the secondary. But they made the bold move of gambling on Cousins instead. 

Does it make sense? It seems ridiculous to have to say this, but Robert Griffin III will be given every opportunity to shine and start from day one. Unlike what some analysts like Ron Jaworski have speculated, there will be no quarterback controversy unless Griffin is absolutely atrocious and Cousins is phenomenal -- which is not realistic. And if that ends up being the case, the real concern will be why Griffin is playing so poorly -- not who the backup quarterback is. Because if Griffin fails, the Shanahan coaching experiment fails.

Redskins fans have been thrilled about the prospect of taking Griffin ever since the team made the deal for the No. 2 overall selection with the Rams, and having Cousins on board will not eliminate that excitement. Even after the Redskins drafted Cousins, no one is hurriedly crafting or looking to order a Kirk Cousins Redskins jersey. Griffin has already won fans over. 

One thing that makes little sense to me, though, is how this all is somehow a slap in the face to Griffin. Honestly, this move suggests the exact opposite. The Redskins and Mike Shanahan must be so impressed with the talent level and maturity of Griffin that they'd even think about making this type of draft choice. If you've heard Griffin speak or read some of his quotes from various interviews, do you really think he's the type of person who's going to get rattled by a little competition (and I use that word loosely)? Griffin has handled everything beautifully and is clever enough to know to stay focused on the job at hand. In essence, he's been the starting quarterback of the Redskins for several weeks now: He's done everything in interviews but been introduced as the starter of this team only because that's not really how the process works. But just like the starting quarterback in Indianapolis is already Andrew Luck, Washington's quarterbacking job is Griffin's to lose. Still, on-field play is whatever matters, which Griffin is aware of.

And by the way, players get hurt, and there's no way to always adequately prepare for it. But having Cousins on the team will help. The Redskins already parted ways with John Beck, and Rex Grossman will really only be the backup because he's the only quarterback on the roster with NFL experience heading into this season. If the Shanahans learned anything from last season, it's that Grossman/Beck is not the answer. That's why they made the move to get Griffin. And getting Cousins may not have been on their to-do list, but the opportunity was too good to pass up. Maybe the Redskins hold on to Cousins and he backs up Griffin for several years. Maybe Griffin fails to live up to the hype and flames out in a couple seasons, with Cousins there to take the job. Or maybe the Redskins trade Cousins after a season or two, allowing them to restock some of the picks lost in the trade for Griffin. Or maybe something else happens entirely.

Here's the point: The Redskins believe taking Cousins was the right move. They think he's talented, and talent equals value. Regardless, I doubt the Redskins would have made a similar move with a quarterback who they weren't absolutely sure was the guy they wanted to play quarterback for the next decade. If anyone is going to be able to withstand the pressure of impatient fans calling for his job after a rough patch or know exactly the right things to say when asked difficult questions, it's Griffin. And the Redskins know that.