Whether you want to believe it or not, there’s a quarterback controversy in Washington.
Robert Griffin III is hurt again – he really hasn’t been right since that disastrous January 2013 playoff game against in Seattle, in which he took a pounding, tore his ACL and LCL and went back in the game – and early indications are that he’ll miss the entire season with a dislocated ankle.
Enter Kirk Cousins, who was drafted the same year as RGIII – we were told there’s no QB controversy! – and in the NFL has looked equal parts capable pocket passer (2 TDs, 7.6 ypa, 250 yards, no turnovers Sunday, albeit against Jacksonville) and clueless, not-even-close-to-ready NFL backup.
The problem? Mike Shanahan drafted RGIII into his system, and flourished as a rookie, carrying the team on his back into the playoffs. Griffin was repeatedly beat up last season in Shanahan’s final year in Washington, and his stats tumbled.
Enter Jay Gruden, brother of Jon and a former QB himself. He runs a different offensive system than Shanahan did. Guess who is a better fit for his system? Kirk Cousins. Gruden, who was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati last year, made Andy Dalton look like an above average QB. The Bengals made the playoffs three years in a row (all first-round ousters in which Dalton played poorly, but that’s another story for another day).
Think Gruden sees a little Cousins in Dalton? Mike Wise of the Washington Post seems to be hearing as much:
As reaches for silver linings go, Griffin going down with at least a dislocated left ankle and perhaps worse, as agony-ridden as it was to watch, was the only way Gruden could have Cousins flourish in his offense without polarizing management and possibly rattling a young player whose confidence he was essentially hired to restore.
Even if he wanted to experiment with Cousins as the starter, it was going to come at such a high price for Gruden, a price including a fractured fan base, the angst of an owner banking on Griffin to be his meal ticket for a decade or more and, of course, alienating Griffin, who was rehabbing an image while simultaneously learning to play effectively in a pro-set offense before he went down.
Cousins will have an entire season to prove he’s worthy of being The Guy in Gruden’s system. With the NFC East wide open – well, except for the Giants, who are arguably the most pathetic team in the NFL (0-2) – would it really surprise you if Cousins put up solid numbers, the Redskins won nine games, and snuck into the playoffs?
RGIII’s recent history of injuries isn’t going to make him desirable on the open market, but with a dearth of talented QBs in the NFL – see, St. Louis, maybe Tampa Bay, maybe Tennessee, maybe Cleveland, maybe the Jets, maybe the Dolphins and on and on and on – we could be looking at an exciting offseason in DC. Here’s one that I’d love, but would never happen: Cowboys bottom out (as expected), Jerry Jones can’t help but try to buy RGIII low.