Robert Griffin III was great, Alfred Morris was superb, and the Redskins' defense played stunningly well down the stretch to push Washington into the playoffs in 2012.
Despite all of those amazing performances, there would have been no playoffs, no division title if not for the unheralded Kirk Cousins.
Cousins' case is complex and interesting. He's under contract until the end of the 2015 season, but his performance last year—466 yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions while completing a shade under 70 percent of his passes—suggests that he could be used as trade bait somewhere down the road.
As of right now, Cousins' role is simple: back up RGIII and provide a quality arm under center when necessary. But he was so much more than that in 2012, single-handedly saving the season with a gutsy game-winning drive against Baltimore and then shredding Cleveland on the road to the tune of 329 yards to preserve Washington's playoff hopes.
Cousins showed that he could be a good player in a pressure situation.
Somewhere down the road, the Redskins will be faced with a tough decision. Will they hang on to the player who has proven his worth to the club, or will they trade him to improve the current roster? No doubt there will be interest from around the NFL (if there hasn't been already). Cousins may be better than eight or nine current starters and could be a bargain for a team looking to rebuild.
In any other case, the answer would be simple. Of course you trade the backup; the drop-off from second-string to third-string is negligible and totally worth the price some desperate team would pay to snag him.
But RGIII complicates things.
Not only is he currently healing from a serious knee injury, but his history and style of play suggest he will do it again—and likely sooner rather than later. That means Cousins is more valuable to the Redskins than a typical backup, because you can be sure he'll probably get snaps in three or four games per year.
If you know you have an injury-prone starting quarterback, the best thing you can have is a dependable plan B. Cousins is familiar (and will become even more knowledgeable) with the game plan and executed it to near perfection in Cleveland.
He struggled a bit against Atlanta; he was a rookie, anyone who expected otherwise was foolish. All in all, Cousins displayed an unbelievable knack for playing well when it counted most.
At this point, the answer is easy. Hang on to Cousins and use him as a potential weapon if RGIII goes down. There's no point in trading a player who has immense value to the team, even if he is just a backup. As previously noted, Cousins is more than just a normal backup to the Redskins.
Unless some steal-of-the-century trade comes along next year or in the years after, the Redskins should stand pat with Cousins as the backup. The question of whether or not to keep him on board should intensify near the end of his contract—that's when things get really, really tricky.
But right now, Washington shouldn't mess with something that isn't broken. Cousins likely means more to the Redskins than anyone they'd get in return. He saved the season in 2012, and he'll probably be called upon to do the same thing in the near future.
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