The Washington Redskins had the second overall pick in this year’s NFL draft. They used it to select Baylor’s Robert Griffin, arguably one of the best rookie prospects in several years. He will be their franchise quarterback. The Redskins organization will be looking for Griffin to lead their team back to greatness, and everything points to him having the ability to do just that.
So, why did they use their fourth round pick to select another quarterback in Kirk Cousins?
Two rookie quarterbacks? What’s the point in that I hear you ask.
The criticism of the Redskins decision is, to an extent, understandable. There is no question that Griffin will be the starting QB come the start of the season. And you would expect him to be getting the majority of the reps in practice, as he looks to adjust to his surroundings and learn the offence.
So, will Cousins’ role always be as a perennial backup?
Head coach Mike Shanahan has stated that it will be a battle between Cousins and veteran Rex Grossman as to who has the responsibility of backing up Griffin.
So, why does the selection of Cousins in the draft make sense?
Firstly, Cousins is a high calibre football player, and the Skins got themselves one of the steals of the draft. Cousins has good height at 6’3 and his efforts at the NFL combine had scouts buzzing. He has a strong arm, and can manage the game well. He obviously is nowhere near the type of quarterback that Griffin is, but he is solid and reliable, and can play well under pressure.
But what does any of this matter if Griffin is the starting quarterback?
Well, let’s be honest for a minute here. Quarterbacks like Griffin don’t stay healthy for long. He is not afraid to tuck the ball and run, using his excellent athleticism to gain yards on the ground. But that’s how players like Robert Griffin get injured. Think Michael Vick. Think running for that extra yard and getting levelled by the opposing linebacker.
Now, Griffin could well stay healthy for the entire season, but it’s not as if he confines himself to the protection of the pocket all the time. He likes to run with the football, and that makes injuries likely.
You could comfortably argue that the Redskins should have used all their draft picks to surround Griffin with more receiving threats and strengthen the offensive line. But you have to remember that Cousins was still on the board when their fourth round pick rolled round. I think he was just too good a player to pass on, even if it was another rookie QB.
No one can see into the future. While Griffin has all the skills to be an elite NFL quarterback, there is no absolute guarantee that he will fulfil his potential.
Funnily enough, back in 1994, the Redskins who faced a similar quarterback controversy. The skins drafted Heath Shuler in the first round, and then chose Gus Frerotte way down in the seventh round.
Who went on to become the eventual starting quarterback? That’s right; Gus Frerotte. While Heath Shuler went on to be known as one of the biggest busts in NFL history.
I am not for one minute suggesting that Griffin will be a bust. We just don’t know that. But I think Cousins provides an adequate insurance policy if this were to happen. Griffin is the man of the moment in Washington. There is no quarterback controversy, as much as some journalists want to suggest there is. It’s clearly going to be Griffin’s job, and if everything goes according to plan, it will be his job for a long time to come.
But Cousins is there. A good, well-rounded quarterback, ready to step in if the Redksins ever need to go to plan B.