Washington Redskins quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Robert Griffin III each have a different style of play and a different skill set.
It has been just over one year since the Washington Redskins surprised nearly everyone with their selection of Kirk Cousins in the fourth round of the NFL draft. Just days earlier, the team appeared to have secured their quarterback and the future of the team with the selection of 2011 Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
Cousins, a three-year starter and three-year captain with Michigan State, had not expected the team to select him.
"I think it is a little surprising," he said carefully during his first conference call with reporters following his selection. "I was trying to forecast which teams would be looking at a quarterback, and didn’t see the Redskins thinking along those lines."
With the selection of Cousins, the Washington Redskins became the first team since 1989 to spend two picks in the first four rounds of the draft on quarterbacks, according to ESPN analyst Trey Wingo during the network's live coverage of the draft.
Immediately, fans and media alike questioned why the team would choose Cousins when other needs on offense and defense were not addressed. Many people, including myself, wondered why the team felt it needed a backup quarterback with such a different playing style and skill set than RG3.
And why take a second quarterback with such a high draft pick when it was obvious, with the selection of RG3, who was going to be the starter for the upcoming season?
After all, the Redskins surrendered three first-round picks and a second-round pick to have RG3 as the face of the franchise. In drafting Cousins, it immediately set off a sense of uncertainty that the Redskins might have with their long-term investment in RG3.
Cousins' role as a backup QB was defined by head coach Mike Shanahan from the very start of training camp. He came in off the sidelines during preseason and replaced RG3 in Week 5 against the Atlanta Falcons following a particularly hard hit sustained by RG3.
His next call into action occurred in a Week 14 game against the Baltimore Ravens following a right knee sprain to RG3.
He had about enough time to put down the clipboard, grab his helmet and throw a few warm-up passes on the sideline before entering the game late in the fourth quarter—eventually leading the Redskins to a 31-28 win in overtime.
“You can see through preseason that this guy earned the right to be the backup quarterback,” Shanahan said in a December 10 press conference on Redskins.com following the overtime win against the Ravens.
“Being a backup quarterback, you get a chance to dress," Shanahan added. "You’re one play away from being in the game. You have to prepare yourself that the quarterback could go down on the first play and you have to step in and get the job done. He’s done that each and every week.”
That is why the Redskins should retain Kirk Cousins and not trade him.
In having Cousins, the Redskins have a polished QB who can step up, start and win games. And as coach Shanahan said (via Redskins.com):
"The backup quarterback is one of the toughest positions in the game because you have to be ready to play and you have to prepare yourself," Shanahan said. "If you don’t, you are going to get embarrassed pretty quickly."
"You always grow anytime you practice, and obviously with Kirk there is no difference. To be able to go through those game plans and be prepared and be ready to play…there is a lot of work involved. Kirk has done a great job."
Cousins does not have the market value for a lucrative trade at this stage of his NFL career—one start in three appearances, less than 50 pass attempts (33-of-48 for 466 yards), four touchdowns and three interceptions.
He is a solid, long-term insurance policy for the Redskins and his value as a backup to RG3 is more valuable than a trade to a team whose quarterback sustains an injury in the opening weeks of the upcoming season.
Redskins quarterback coach Matt LeFleur, as quoted by ESPN.com at the end of last year's regular season, said Cousins has adjusted well to his role.
"He's going to take the positive out of this situation," LeFleur said. "He likes what we're doing here and he knows where we're going. Everybody believes in him here, and he's only going to benefit from that."
Cousins may have summarized his experience thus far and his future with the Redskins in an interview with the Detroit Free Press on April 21.
"It's just a matter of staying patient and understanding that my career is a marathon and not a sprint," he said. "I've just got to make the most of the opportunities I get, and if I do, I'll get a chance to be a starter in this league at some point."
Cousins will prove to be a valuable asset for the Redskins as a backup quarterback and his leadership skills and intensive study of game film will not only increase his value, but will benefit him and his teammates. It is only a matter of time until Cousins is a highly sought-after quarterback in demand.
Almost one month ago, he told ESPN's Mike and Mike In The Morning, "It's about playing as long of a career as possible, not getting off to the fastest start possible."
That being said, now is the time for him to be with the Redskins. It is not the time for the Redskins to trade Kirk Cousins.