General manager Bruce Allen has certainly earned his paycheck this season. After paying a king’s ransom for Griffin, the decision to take Cousins in the fourth round drew puzzled looks from around the league.
But the former Michigan State standout looked extremely impressive in his first start, and his performance has justified the draft pick. Cousins completed 26-of-37 passes for 329 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Cousins’ play in this game proves that he has the confidence and skills to step in and ensure that the Redskins stay competitive. He will continue to grow and improve within the Washington offense.
With Griffin’s style of play, a quality is backup is essential.
The Rookie of the Year candidate’s running skills have been a polarizing subject this season. His ability to torment defenses by executing elements of the spread offense has made him a uniquely dangerous player, but it has also put him in harm’s way.
Atlanta Falcons’ linebacker Sean Weatherspoon gave Griffin a mild concussion earlier this season, but did not have to miss a game. In Week 14, he sprained his knee after a hit by Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Haloti Ngata, and this allowed Cousins to have his shot.
Mike Shanahan must walk the fine line between maximizing Griffin’s potential as a runner and putting him in positions to take unnecessary punishment.
Griffin is not built like a brick wall like Cam Newton, and as Michael Vick’s career has shown, it will be impossible for him to be an elite rushing threat while avoiding minor injuries across the course of a full season.
This is why Cousins is so valuable, and when his rookie contract is near its end, Washington must not let him leave.
Without a player like him, the Redskins would feel significantly more pressure to bring back Griffin before he has fully healed, and this would put the franchise cornerstone in danger of suffering a more serious injury.
Having a quarterback who can step in and win games in the midst of a playoff race allows Washington to take extra precautions and allow Griffin to completely recover. This will ultimately add years to his career.
Extending Cousins’ four-year deal may be pricey, but it will help protect Griffin, and that will be worth every penny.