Robert Griffin III and Krik Cousins are not signed to contracts yet, but the two draftees of the Washington Redskins are already mired in a manufactured quarterback controversy.
Mel Kiper thinks there will be a problem if (read that as "when") RG3 falters and Cousins out-performs him during preseason. Washington's locker room will split into Griffin and Cousins camps, like the split into Grossman and Beck camps last season. (Hear the sarcasm....) The Redskins controversy is Beck and Grossman on the same roster, not Griffin and Cousins.
I haven't listened to Kiper since he proved himself so wrong about Cam Newton's fitness to lead a pro team. I do not understand why anyone pays him for his "expert opinion."
Skip Bayless made a completely baseless accusation that the Redskins drafted Cousins to undermine Griffin III because RG3 is black and Cousins is not. Come on now! Even the late George Preston Marshall would not have been that stupid, though his thought process might have been as inane as Bayless'.
Long time Washington Sports writer David Elfin, who I do respect, called the Redskins selection of Cousins in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft a colossal mistake.
Elfin, at least, called himself a draft for needs guy and buttressed his argument with football logic.
The Redskins' reasons for drafting Cousins are arguably good ones that I am about to defend. Full disclosure: I am a Michigan State grad, so I am obliged to support Spartans on the Redskins. I never booed Devin Thomas or Tony Banks. Banks, by the way, quarterbacked the 'Skins to seven of their eight wins in the 2001 season.
Here are five reasons why drafting Kirk Cousins was the right thing to do.
1. New players signed in 2012 are all about the 2013 season.
Whether it's Clinton Portis, Albert Haynesworth, Peyton Manning, or the 2011 Philadelphia "Dream Team," new players and coaches need time to get used to each other. That time always seems to be a full season. Manning completed a mere 56.7 percent of his passes and threw two more interceptions than touchdowns in his rookie year (1998) as he led the Colts to a 3-13 finish. The Eagles are a favorite to win the division, now that they have had a year to jell.
There were no players available in the fourth or later rounds who could start for the Redskins this year, or whose potential impact over the next three seasons would be any greater than Cousins' potential. Players from the 2011 Redskins roster will carry the team through most of the 2012 season.
2. Best available talent vs. draft for need, the opportunity cost
This is Elfin's basic argument. The Redskins have too many needs elsewhere to invest a Draft pick in another quarterback. The Redskins should have picked for need. Doing otherwise was an opportunity loss. The counter-argument is the approach followed by strong teams like the Giants and Ravens — draft the best athletic talent regardless of need and fill in the gaps around them.
Neither approach is foolproof, but more pro teams draft for best available than for need. The Redskins did so in 2007 when they selected LaRon Landry in the first round rather than a defensive or offensive lineman that they needed. Mike Shanahan did the same last season when he traded out of his 10th overall Draft position, bypassing quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Washington needed a quarterback, but got LB Ryan Kerrigan and more picks to boot. By selecting Cousins, Shanahan was consistent in his approach.
Elfin preferred that Washington take a tackle to backstop Trent Williams ("one failed drug test away from a year-long suspension") or to replace gimpy Jammal Brown, who has yet to recover his Pro Bowl form.
Fit to scheme is the issue. OT Bobby Massie (Ol' Miss) was still on the board when Washington took Cousins. Scouting reports describe Massie as a muscular downfield blocker that Joe Gibbs would have loved. That might explain why the Cardinals valued Massie. Russ Grimm (Remember him?) is Arizona's O-line coach and Massie fits Grimm's needs.
Shanahan's blocking schemes call for mobility over muscles. On paper and on coach's cam, Massie and others were not good fits for Shanahan.
We don't have access to coach's cam, so we have to defer to Shanahan's judgement and harshly evaluate the pick by results.
3. Cousins to Grossman, you are wearing my number
Cousins got the point that Bayless and callers to sports talk radio missed. His selection was not about RG3. ”I think it’s very important that Robert, myself, we handle this thing the right way,” Cousins said on the Dan Patrick radio show. “I think the important thing is that we’re not competing against one another.”
Cousins is in Washington to compete against John Beck and Rex Grossman. He has already vanquished Beck who was cut on the spot when the Redskins took Cousins. If he can pick up the playbook and take care of the ball better than Grossman, then Sexy Rexy will be on the first bus out of Ashburn next season and the Redskins will be better for it.
Both Cousins and Grossman wear Jersey No. 8. That sets up one of the minor, but more interesting dynamics of training camp. Veteran players usually keep their number.
4. Cousins' arm is strong enough
Arm strength is one knock against Cousins. "Cerebral" is another. Jeff George had fabulous arm strength. He was not particularly cerebral. Joe Montana did not have great arm strength, but was very cerebral. Arm strength is an over-rated measure of quarterback potential. Few passes are thrown more that 12 yards downfield in the three seconds or less that quarterbacks have time to throw. Some people use the term "arm strength" when they really mean, "make all the throws."
Is a quarterback accurate enough to throw at a body part (the back-shoulder fade)? Can he spin the ball so that it drops at an exact spot between a cornerback and safety? Yes, Cousins can make those throws and his arm is big enough to make big plays in big games.
5. The stars are aligning for Cousins to the Redskins
Not only does Cousins have the same jersey number as Grossman, but Griffin III played some high profile games in uniforms that looked suspiciously like the Michigan State Spartans. The Spartans beat the Michigan Wolverines in a Nike Pro Combat uniform that looked more Baylor Bearish than Spartan green and white. It's as though Griffin and Cousins were tied together all last season.
Queue the Twilight zone theme.
Cousins is the greatest Kirk to play MSU football since Kirk Gibson. But, there are reasons why he was undrafted by the fourth round. Both the Eagles and Broncos worked him out, yet both selected others for quarterback. The teams are silent. I can only guess why.
Mobility may be a question. Cousins started 45 games in Mark Dantonio's pro style offense that never featured Cousins as a running threat. It's the threat of running that freezes defenses. Pro teams want that. Cousins is not a running threat.
Tim Tebow may not have Cousins' passing skills, but his running skills strike fear in defenses until they figure him out. Defenses may already have caught up with Tebow. That's why the Broncos thought him expendable.
Cousins is a man of devout faith, like Tebow (and Griffin III). Lord knows, the Redskins could use some divine intervention. It's a tonge-in-cheek argument, but Shanahan can't afford to turn down any edge.
The question is not whether the Redskins wasted the pick on Cousins. The real question is whether Cousins is wasting his career in Washington where RG3 sits atop the depth chart?