Healthy or not, Robert Griffin III will not be Washington's starting quarterback Week 1. The team's coaching staff has informed Griffin that Kirk Cousins will be under center for the opener against the Miami Dolphins, as Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson reported Monday morning.
Head coach Jay Gruden confirmed the decision later in the day, saying Cousins is the starter "moving forward," per Brian McNally of 106.7 The Fan, adding "it's Kirk's team," per Ross Jones of Fox Sports.
Cousins expanded on his mentality now that he's the starter, saying: “It doesn’t feel like a finish line by any means, it feels like the work is still ahead of us,” Cousins said via the Pro Football Talk report. “I go out and try to prove myself every time I’m out there.”
This should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the Griffin situation, which is quickly becoming one of the NFL's most toxic topics. The former Rookie of the Year suffered a concussion in Washington's Week 2 preseason win against the Detroit Lions before being cleared and subsequently uncleared by independent neurologists.
The team's latter tweet noted Griffin would be rested one to two weeks. That time frame already put him in danger of being out for Week 1, opening the floodgates for a major fiasco that threatens to undermine Washington's season before it even begins.
Following the team's Week 3 preseason win over the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday, Gruden addressed the uncertainty regarding Griffin's status, telling reporters, "We have to re-evaluate the [game] tape. We have to find out how Robert is, he's going to go through the protocols at the end of the week, Thursday or Friday, and see how he's doing then. And make our decision then.
"As far as who's starting, at every position we're going to evaluate that as a staff and talk about it," Gruden added. "I'm not going to make any announcements now, that's for sure."
Gruden once again confirmed that Griffin is still in the concussion protocol and that when he is cleared, the team will make a decision regarding the second- and third-string quarterbacks, per Around the NFL.
Jeff Darlington of NFL Network reported the decision will "assuredly" catch Griffin's camp off guard, saying they were under the belief that Cousins starting in Week 1 was a result of the delay in Griffin's progress through the concussion protocol.
ESPN.com's Dianna Russini and Adam Schefter reported Sunday that a large contingent of the Washington organization wants to move on from Griffin altogether. Washington has reportedly gone as far as to have exploratory trade discussions with teams, though little progress has been made.
Russini and Schefter wrote:
It is becoming increasingly apparent that Griffin has lost his starting quarterback job, and depending on the events and conversations in the coming days, possibly his roster spot. Outside of ownership, there has been a groundswell of support from a strong segment of football people within the organization to change quarterbacks, but there is a question about whether they have the authority to part ways with Griffin, sources said.
Despite the reports of discontent with Griffin within the organization, Gruden publicly supported Griffin after making the announcement, saying: "We believe in Robert," per the team. "It's a good problem to have to have three quarterbacks that are competing and working their butts off."
On paper, choosing Cousins over Griffin remains strange. For his career, Cousins has thrown interceptions on 4.7 percent of his passes. Griffin, on the other hand, is at 2.2 percent. While there are other factors that move the needle in Cousins' favor—most notably Griffin's injury issues and propensity to take sacks—it's clear he lacks the ball control necessary to be a long-term option.
"The Redskins don't have a choice in sidelining Griffin, but Cousins' apparently clear priority over third-string quarterback Colt McCoy is worthy of further inspection," wrote ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert, who classified Cousins as a "turnover machine."
Despite Cousins' turnover issues, Mike Shanahan, his former coach, has high hopes for the signal-caller, saying: "Kirk Cousins is a franchise QB he will be a top 10 QB in this league no doubt about it," via Dan Hellie of NFL Network.
Even if Griffin's relationship with the organization is beyond repair, he has a far higher ceiling than Cousins. He's still only a few years removed from posting one of the most dynamic rookie seasons in NFL history, and Washington should be incentivized to play him given the organizational investment.
Instead, it appears head coach Jay Gruden and Co. are looking to move on. As we enter the 2015 campaign, it's possible we'll find out that there is more to this story than we know at the moment.
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