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POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Debating the Kirk Cousins Decision

December 19, 2013 in Redskins Personnel

By Staff Writers John Manuel & Steve Shoup:

cousins

Discussing the Washington Redskins right now is not very difficult.  Each week gives us two things, a loss and more controversy to debate.  Let's look at the quarterback situation for the Redskins currently and in the future.  Right now it is Kirk Cousins job to finish up the season and should he be playing or should Robert Griffin III be taking the snaps?  

 

 JOHN:

I think Mike Shanahan made the right call for this organization to go with Cousins the next three weeks.  Maybe his reasoning of preventing RG3 from further injury is a BS reason but I really don't care about that part of the situation on why he did it.  Griffin was not getting it done out there so I think it was time for him to sit back the final month and observe so we can see what the Redskins got in Cousins.  

Is Cousins a threat to become the full time quarterback in Washington?  No.  I do believe it is still Griffin's job in 2014 still but have some other thoughts we will get to.  The long term future of this organization is better off seeing what they have in Kirk than throwing a struggling Robert out there in these meaningless games.  I just don't see any benefit from Robert playing these games out.  I would rather see him wait for the off season program to work with the potential new coaching staff or new offensive coaches under Shanahan if he sticks (which I doubt).  

Does he need the work in these games?  Maybe he does but it is more critical to see what Cousins has and the benefits of him playing well.  Did you agree with the decision by Shanahan last week?  And your thoughts on Cousins play versus Atlanta and the what to expect for the next two weeks. 

 

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STEVE:

My problem with this call is it comes 13 weeks too late (14 counting the bye). It's clear now that RGIII should have never started the season as he just wasn't ready. You can blame the injury, the lack of the offseason or just a lack of his natural abilities as a drop back passer. Regardless of what is at fault, Griffin wasn't ready for week 1 and it set him back. If they had given him say a month of rest before the Skins bye I think we might have had a very different season. I don't know if we'd definitely be in the playoff race, but we probably would be at least more competitive in games. Unfortunately the Redskins didn't do that and they decided to sit down Griffin now after the season is already over. 

While I think there can be some positives coming from sitting down Griffin, including Mike Shanahan's reasoning of protecting the franchise QB, I don't think it is really justified to sit him. It's just not something that is done in the NFL, especially when we are talking about a young quarterback who clearly needs the reps. Remember it's not just the 200+ offensive snaps he's missing out over three weeks of time, but it is three weeks of practice time. During the season back-up QB's get very few reps, and it's not likely they can take some reps away from Cousins.

I really think the fact of the matter is this benching I really was about sending a message about Griffin's level of play, and I think on some level those are both valid reasons to make the move, but they open up a lot of questions. Will Griffin get the hint that he needs to change some things about his preparation and attitude as well as some of the off the field stuff? Will Snyder understand that while Griffin has plenty of hype, he's still not ready as an NFL QB?

The final thing comes down to what happens if Cousins continues to play like he did in Atlanta (which was at a pretty good level)? Redskins will need to take an honest look at the situation to make sure they aren't trading away the better quarterback this offseason, and weigh all the options. What do you think, is there any scenario where Cousins stays and Griffin is traded? 

 

JOHN:      operation patience2

 

This is a great question because all you hear is that Robert Griffin is the starter and there is no way the team would pick Kirk Cousins over him in the long run.  Whoever is making personnel decisions come January for this team, Snyder, Allen, Shanahan, Vinny, etc. would be crazy not to explore trade value for both Cousins and Griffin.  

Yeah, I said it.  If Cousins plays strong the next two weeks this team must be open to all options that can make this franchise better.  Sad part is they will need to keep it very quiet so it won't effect the Griffin's feelings or I am unsure what the future will hold once it is leaked out like everything at Redskins Park the past 15 years.  But then again if the very unlikely case Shanahan is back and Cousins plays well it wouldn't be crazy if Griffin requests to be moved.  I wouldn't be shocked.  Griffin's trade value could be way too high to pass up if the coach and GM next year feel that Kirk Cousins can win consistently in this league.   

Do I think this happens?  No way.  I just can't see Dan Snyder allowing Mike Shanahan or the next person he brings in to trade his boy Robert no matter what the return could bring.  Which I think even with the injury and RG3's play in 2013 the return could be a lot.  Even if Snyder does a take a back seat in personnel calls he will overrule any move of RG3 for sure.  His history of  love for stars and player potential won't allow him to give up Griffin.  

As for Cousins come January I think you can consider him a goner unless they just can't get decent return via trade.  I just hope they play it smart with Cousins and do not blow this opportunity to get talent in return for a solid commodity.  When was the last time we got good trade value for a player?  Sean Gilbert?  

Do I hope that a quarterback is traded this off season?  Yes.  But I am just not certain it should be a lock that Kirk Cousins should be dealt.  The Washington Redskins would continue a recent history of bonehead personnel decisions if they did not put feelers out on Griffin.  I am sorry if it hurts Robert's, RG2's, Jared from Subway, or Dan Snyder feelings.  Maybe I am guilty of misjudging what Griffin's response would be finding out the team may want Cousins over him but I don't think it would be pretty.  Do you think being open to trading either quarterback is smart?  What do you think each could bring in return?

 

STEVE:

I think the Redskins have to at least explore both possibilities this offseason if they really want to do what it best for their franchise. Going with the bigger name or higher upside guy isn't always the best answer. Look back to 2007 when the Falcons traded away a young upside QB in Matt Schaub to the Texans for a pair of 2nd round picks and moving up two spots in the first round. The Falcons made that deal without even thinking of the alternative of trading the "franchise" quarterback Michael Vick. Vick was coming off a 1,000 yard rushing season, but he completed only 52% of his passes and had a QB rating of 75.7. Even ignoring the fact that a month later Vick would start being investigated for an illegal dog fighting ring and never play another down for the Falcons, Atlanta clearly traded away the better of the two quarterbacks.

Schaub became a top 15 to top 10 starter, posting 5 straight seasons with a QB rating over 90. Now there were of course other considerations (money in particular), but they choose the quarterback who was more potential and the bigger risk and it was the wrong call. That was a situation where they had 6 years to know what Vick could do and they still made the wrong decisions.  

For the Redskins it would be a little bit different since both quarterbacks are from the same draft class and Griffin doesn't have the experience so there is maybe a better chance that he reaches his potential, but the Redskins have to see what is better for the team. If they believe that both quarterbacks can succeed in Washington then it really becomes a matter of who brings back the greater return. With Cousins the market has gone down a little big since the Matt Schaub trade, but if Cousins has two more strong starts he could bring back 1st round value. Now that doesn't necessarily mean a team will trade a first round pick, especially since most of the QB needy teams are near the top of the draft. What it does mean is that the Redskins could get a 2nd and 3rd (maybe a bit more).

Griffin is a more interesting case. Obviously starting quarterbacks don't get traded too often, particularly top 5 picks just two years removed from being drafted. Griffin won't net the picks the Redskins gave up for him, but he still should bring back a bigger return than Cousins. Griffin is going to have more hype and potential on his side and teams will likely be far more interested, even with some of the question marks from this season. I think the Redskins could land at least 2 first round picks and probably a mid rounder (3rd or 4th) for Griffin. After all Jay Cutler was traded for 2 firsts, a 3rd and Kyle Orton (the Broncos sent back their 5th rounder), and that was a situation where the young quarterback wasn't wanted by the coach and everyone knew it.

Let's say the Redskins can land a 2nd, 3rd and 6th this year for Cousins, or a 1st and 4th this year and a 1st next year for RGIII which offer do you take?

 

JOHN:

Can I take both and bring in a draft wizard like, lets say, Vinny Cerrato to make all those picks?  The deal for Kirk Cousins is good and I think they should take it if offered.  If you use those two early picks correctly there will be plenty of talent at positions of need like interior offensive line, inside linebacker, and secondary.  It would also mean you took a fourth round pick that many thought was crazy at the time and as you said turned into a first round value.  And with the Redskins history we would have to celebrate that as a overwhelming success.  Rolling the dice one more season to see if they could get more is unlikely and Washington is far from the Niners or Seahawks who have a loaded talent roster and could wait to add possibly better picks in the future. 

I said I would take the Cousins trade you proposed but I didn't say I liked it more than the Griffin one you did.  The offer for Griffin sounds like a lot but I am sure some team would be winning to give that up for him.  If the football minds in Ashburn are 85-90% convinced that Kirk Cousins could be a playoff winning quarterback to the level of a Joe Flacco or Big Ben the Griffin offer could be too much to pass on.  Problem is come January we have no clue who have input in this decision other than Dan Snyder.  And we are pretty sure where Snyder stands on this when it comes to his quarterbacks.  

Getting back the two first round picks added with the end of the cap penalty could turn this team around immediately.  Of course depending very much on the play of Cousins over a full sixteen game season.  I must add also that I disagree with many on the comparisons of Cousins play versus Atlanta as a "Good Rex" effort.  Cousins has two career starts remember.  

Also, this isn't a San Diego situation where they had to decide between Rivers and Brees and Brees walked for nothing in return.  Or Indy getting nothing for Peyton Manning.  Say Washington makes the proposed Griffin trade and Cousins struggles next season.  It hurts but at least the team would be left with two first round picks in 2015 which would enable them to get back into the search for a QB in the draft.  Obviously that route we wouldn't want but it's not as bad as Griffin failing and not getting back the first rounders he cost the team.

This is the kind of decision that can make a GM an Ozzie Newsome or a Matt Millen. I don't think the question anymore is about do you trade Kirk Cousins this off-season.   It is all about do you trade a guy who looked like a superstar only 12 months ago at the most important position but for a possible franchise changing slew of draft picks?  Are you willing to take the chance on both Cousins becoming a top tier quarterback and facing the backlash that Griffin was moved so quickly into his young career?  I still want to see the final two weeks of Kirk as the starter but so far he has impressed me when giving the opportunity.  Either trade would work well for this team with the big question being who is making the draft picks obtained.

I think we can debate this all day and night until March but in the end my call is that no way Dan Snyder allows his people to select Kirk Cousins over Robert Griffin in the end.  Scenario will play out that Cousins is our famous "internal sources" leak that keeping Kirk and trading Robert instead was discussed which doesn't sit well with Griffin.  And they start 2014 with even more drama.  I am guessing you lean towards the Griffin trade but do you see any chance of it happening? 

 

STEVE:

I think you bring up some good points about how if you make the wrong call and the QB you keep struggles, at least in the trading Griffin scenario you have the extra ammunition to rebuild your roster. In the right circumstances I would be fine moving Griffin, as I believe there is no such thing as an "untouchable" player. Everyone has a price and If a team (particularly one with a top 10 pick this year) offers a pair of firsts for RGIII then it could get pretty interesting. A lot does depend on how Cousins closes out this season, but I'm at least open to the idea of trading either QB. In the end I don't see it happening because I believe it would take quite a bit for the new coach and personnel guy (note those are separate positions) to convince Snyder that it's the right move long term for the team. I think pretty much anyone that gets hired will know that Griffin is their quarterback, so I just don't see a strong chance of it occurring.

I also feel that unfortunately the fan backlash would be harsh. I get that Griffin brought excitement to the organization and quite a few people have already bought Griffin jerseys, but the fans need to care about what's best for the team as a whole and not an individual player. In the end, even with Cousins having two more strong-to-great games, I think the chances are less than 10% that Griffin would get traded.  

 



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