Back in 2012, the Washington Redskins made the decision to trade away three first-round picks and a second-rounder in order to snag Baylor signal-caller Robert Griffin III. Shortly before the start of this season, Washington made the decision to bench Griffin and roll with former fourth-rounder Kirk Cousins—presumably for the long term.
We're only two weeks into the 2015 season, so overreactions have to be tempered. For now, however, it seems that Washington's latest quarterback decision is going to pay off.
Cousins hasn't been perfect, of course. Through two games, he's gone 44-of-58 for 399 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. What Cousins has brought to the Washington offense is a little bit of stability and a little bit of predictability.
Cousins seems to have better pocket awareness, and he definitely exposes himself to contact to the same degree that Griffin has in the past and during this preseason.
According to Pro Football Focus, Griffin was sacked 33 times in 472 snaps last season. That's almost one sack every 14 plays—not dropbacks, but plays. Cousins has only been sacked three times through two games.
He also seems to command more respect from his teammates.
When you look at some of the words spoken by Griffin and Cousins over the past couple of months, it's fairly easy to see why teammates might support Cousins more.
Griffin first leveled criticisms directly at his coaches: The Redskins got outschemed by the Eagles, who “knew what was coming before it was coming.” Then, Griffin made more indirect, passive-aggressive suggestions: Because “all that stuff” wasn’t working, it was up to him to salvage the situation with “a lot of broken plays, a lot of scrambling around trying to make things happen.” Translation: It wasn’t his fault...it was the fault of the lousy offense — “all that stuff” designed by Mike and Kyle Shanahan.
Griffin seems to have made a habit of not crediting his teammates when things go his way and placing blame when they don't.
"If you want to look at the good teams in this league and the great quarterbacks, the Peytons (Manning) and the Aaron Rodgers, those guys don't play well if their guys don't play well," Griffin said last year, per Conor Orr of NFL.com.
For whatever it might be worth, Cousins went out of his way to credit his teammates after this week's upset over the St. Louis Rams.
Cousins, via Gabe Hiatt of the Washington Post:
Any time you win in this league, it feels great. To answer your question, the offense played really well. We ran the ball really well two weeks in a row now, which is really encouraging. I’m just so proud of the offensive line and the way they battled and fought, both in the run game and in the pass game against what I believe to be one of the better defensive lines in the entire NFL.
Again, it's important to have some perspective when we're talking about quarterback quotes here. However, the Redskins should feel very good about having a quarterback represent himself like a true franchise signal-caller.
What is even more important is the fact that Washington seems to have found a quarterback it can win with. The Redskins won only four games last season. Griffin was only responsible for two of those wins.
Two weeks into the 2015 season, Cousins is halfway to that total.
Cousins hasn't been a turnover machine either, which is important for a team trying to find its way. Griffin had eight turnovers in seven starts last season. Cousins avoided turnovers on Sunday, extended drives and kept the ball out of the hands of the St. Louis offense.
Can Cousins keep winning for Washington in 2015? That's like asking if M. Night Shyamalan is going to have a hit with his next film. There's a lot left to be seen.
For the moment, however, it seems that Cousins is more than ready to step up and be the offensive leader that Washington has been waiting for. Griffin had three years to rise and claim that role, and failed.
Now it's time for Kirk Cousins to try his hand.