Let’s just go through all the excuses that have been made for Kirk Cousins this week and explain why none of them make any sense whatsoever.
1.) Kirk Cousins is the best option on this team.
Okay, why? Kirk Cousins is 21 games into his NFL career, and now the entire country is starting to wonder how Cousins is the best option on the team.
He doesn’t have RG3’s arm or his mobility. He doesn’t have Colt’s experience or his knowledge of the WCO. His pocket presense is bad, his footwork is poor.
His passer rating is 31st in the NFL. He’s the only quarterback in the NFL with more than 8 INTs and 230 or fewer passes this year; he was the only person with that many INTs on 230 or fewer passes last year.
Cousins has now thrown 27 career interceptions, and he’s done it in 196 less attempts than Colt McCoy. Blaine Gabbert and JaMarcus Russell have both thrown less interceptions in more pass attempts.
How, exactly, does that make “Cousins” the best option for anything?
2.) Robert Griffin III couldn’t function in the offense.
At this point, the ship on RGIII has sailed. Bringing up RGIII in defense of Kirk Cousins doesn’t highlight anything other than a fundamental lack of an argument on the part of the person bringing it up.
But let’s play along for a second here. Everyone brings up the Tampa Bay and San Francisco games as proof positive that RGIII can’t functionally play quarterback, as though those were the only games he played.
Yes, those games were profoundly terrible, and RGIII looked completely out of his wits in both.
But only bringing up those two games conveniently ignores that he play okay football in the rest of his appearance; following his injury, he played a solid game versus Minnesota, a game where the defense choked away a late lead to lose. Griffin got benched, but came in relief of Colt McCoy versus the Giants and again showed well — not outstanding, mind you, but well enough. He then managed the game effectively versus the Eagles to knock them out of the playoffs, before finishing with a not great game versus the Cowboys.
For all the talk about how Cousins deserves time, 2014 was Griffin’s first year in a rigid WCO offense. Cousins now has more starts in Jay Gruden’s offense than Griffin did, and he’s gotten progressively worse, while Griffin, while not necessarily showing huge leaps, at least flashed some of the talent that he had. In training camp in 2015, he was regularly praised for his practices, and he showed well in the first preseason game, before the Lions game imploded and Jay Gruden saw an easy way to backdoor Cousins into the starting job that didn’t involve them actually competing.
The chances Griffin ever starts for the burgundy and gold again are pretty much slim and none, but the idea that he was so terrible that he Cousins was the obvious better choice is very,very flawed.
3.) Kirk Cousins needs time to grow and develop so the Redskins know what they have in him.
35 games into Griffin’s career, it might very well be over for him unless he catches on with a team that caters him. Colt McCoy made it to 33 appearances before people deemed him unworthy of starting; Cousins would have to play in 13 more games to reach that mark, despite playing demonstrably worse.
Follow Sunday’s game, Cousins will have officially started 16 games, an entire’s seasons worthy of film. Cousins hasn’t shown any sort of marked improvement over the course of these starts; in fact, in consecutive seasons, his plays has worsened over the course of his starts. How many more games is it going to take to know exactly what Cousins is?
Cousins also isn’t a spring chicken. He’s 27; he’s only 2 years younger than Colt McCoy. And over the course of all his appearances and starts, the same issues continue to manifest over and over, without fail; in fact, many of those issues have gotten worse, not just over the course of games, but seasons.
It’s difficult to say that Cousins deserves every opportunity in the world to improve on what appear to be unfixable issues, but RGIII and McCoy have already been figured out and shouldn’t touch the field.
4.) Kirk Cousins is the best fit for Jay Gruden’s offense.
Whatever Jay Gruden is running right now, it’s not “his offense”. What they’re running now is the most bog standard, beginner’s course level “West Coast Offense” in pro football, an offense completely with it’s own set of training wheels to ensure that Cousins doesn’t goof up. (Note: He still does goof up.)
It’s part of what makes Jay Gruden’s continued defense of Cousins so grating; his playcalling suggests he has no confidence in Kirk’s ability to play the position. Of Cousins 228 pass attempts, only 19 have traveled more than 20 yards downfield — only 3 have been completed.
The offense right now consists of hitches, curls, slants, and other short routes, checkdowns and dump downs; high percentage throws. The idea is to get the ball out of Cousins hands as quickly as possible, which works in as much as Cousins doesn’t take as many sacks…
If you’re going to have an offense predicated entirely on safe, short routes, you really need guys who can get YAC. The Redskins do have guys capable of getting YAC — Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed (when healthy), Jamison Crowder, even guys like Ryan Grant and Chris Thompson are capable.
…The problem is that Kirk is terribly inaccurate, which hurts any receiver’s ability to generate positive yards after the catch. You can’t make yards after catch when the ball is thrown behind a receiver. Balls thrown behind a receiver force the receiver to slow down, adjust and focus on making the catch, all before they can do anything with the ball. Giving a receiver a ball in stride takes the thinking out of it.
See; 2012 Robert Griffin III (or even 2013 RGIII), who essentially lived off crossing routes and short post routes to Pierre Garcon.
Kirk is struggling to operate an offense your local high school QB could run at a decent level. He struggles reading defenses post snap, and too often would rather get rid of the ball than take that extra second and find a secondary option. And when he does put it all together, he forces receivers to adjust to his squirelly passes, which leads to more drops, more inefficiency, and less opportunities to score.
What the Redskins are running right now is not “Jay Gruden’s offense”; it’s a rudimentary, simplistic one, and Kirk can barely do that.
5.) The run game has been stagnant and that’s forcing the game to be placed on Kirk Cousins’ shoulders.
I wish I could say that a solid running game would alleviate all of Cousins’ woes, but Cousins is 4-3 in the seven games he’s started that the team rushes for 100 yards or more; based on the available evidence on his career, “running better” wouldn’t make a whole lot of difference. If anything, it’d echo what we already know; he’d probably break even.
The Redskins also have a stubborn, pass first offensive coordinator/head coach, who chose to make Cousins the starter. Yes, the run game has been stagnant, but it’s also been predictable, and it only takes a defense snuffing out a few runs before Gruden pulls out the screen game and the dumps off.
Because of the lack of creative thinking in the run game, and the bizarre lack of play action passing, Gruden chooses to pile more and more of the game on Cousins shoulders. Yes, the run game hasn’t been stellar, but Gruden’s knack for abandoning it after initial struggles, as well as he out right refusal to pick a starting running back and run with him, is an even bigger problem.
Gruden is, in essence, entrusting Cousins to get the job done by himself. And unfortunately for everyone, he’s not.
6.) Kirk Cousins starting means less drama and less chaos than starting RGIII.
I’d say the thing that stops drama and chaos is winning. It’s entirely possibly Griffin was and is a jerk, that he lost the locker room, and that people were sick of him. But most quarterbacks are jerks. It takes a certain amount of belief in yourself and ego and bravado to be an NFL quarterback. Players with fragile egos (see: Kirk Cousins) falter in the moments when you need the bravado and ego most.
RGIII became bigger than the team in some aspects, and that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. His every word was breathlessly reported, whether it was worth it or not, and it did create a certain amount of animosity, even from yours truly.
But what Jay Gruden is slowly finding out, and what the local Washington press is finding out, is that it’s not RGIII who creates the news; it’s the Redskins, and their never ending fountain of dysfunction that creates the news.
This week, prominent national members of the sports media picked up on the whole “Jay Gruden refuses to criticize Kirk Cousins” story. ESPN’s Bomani Jones, Sports Illustrated’s Doug Farrar, Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith,Yahoo’s Frank Schwab, and a host of others have started to pick on the story.
Even as his worst, the reason that RGIII was a story often was because the Redskins organization failed in some way to direct the narrative. They’re a disorganized group who’s public relations is terrible.
It’s never been about RGIII. It’s always been about the team. The longer Kirk plays without Jay Gruden being critical, the more drama and chaos will follow.
7.) The Redskins gave up so much for RGIII, that the expectations for him are much higher than Kirk Cousins, who’s only a fourth round pick.
For starter’s, that has nothing to do with how Cousins has played, so it should have nothing to do with how both men are covered.
The amount of picks that were given up for RGIII are now officially sunk cost. They can’t go back and get the picks back, so bringing up the high expectations for him means squat; all draft picks have high expectations.
It’s why, around draft time, fans work themselves into frenzies over the 3rd round wide receiver or the 5th round guard. Every pick comes saddled with high expectations, and most picks get slammed when they fail.
RGIII didn’t ask the Redskins to trade up to get him, nor did he demand they spend all the picks it took to draft him. The “high expecations” were created for him, not by him. Is it disappointing that he hasn’t lived up to those expectations? Of course it is.
But the disappointment goes beyond his on field play, and delves into personal attacks on his character and who he is as a human being. Having high expectations of a football player does not mean you can demean and/or dehumanize the man.
Likewise, Kirk Cousins shouldn’t have less expectations put on him than any other starting quarterbacks in the league. Lots of 4th round quarterbacks never get a chance to start 16 games. No team in the NFL drafts a player in the fourth and goes “Welp, we don’t expect much from him because of where he was drafted.”
Simply shrugging one’s shoulders and saying “well the expectations are lower for Cousins” is a cop-out, a dismissal of his overall problems. He’s a starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins, a once storied franchise desperately seeking to climb it’s way to relevance, in a pretty big media market, on one of the most profitable teams in sports. The expectations for Cousins should be no less than the were for RGIII. In fact, given that Cousins was supposed to be the perfect fit for Gruden’s offense, the expectations should be hire for him.
Ultimately, the excuses made for Cousins, and the excuses for excusing the excuses made for Cousins are what really has some Redskins fans pissed off. No one seems to want to be honest about why Cousins gets covered differently, which only leads to more frustration.
At any rate, one hopes the excuses stops as the season wears on. Of course, they won’t. Which will make the rest of the year a very, very long, drawn out slog to the offseason.