Last year when the Packers were struggling early in the season, quarterback Aaron Rodgers went on the radio and told the team’s fans not to panic.
He spelled it out for them: “R-E-L-A-X”.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden has the same advice for Kirk Cousins as he prepares for his first start in an NFL season opener.
“I think he just has to relax and do what he does, what he's done,” said Gruden when asked what Cousins needs to do to be successful. “Obviously he's done some good things in college and some good things here.
“The biggest thing is he can't feel like the weight of the world is on his shoulders. He has to rely on people to help him out, take what the defense gives him, hand the ball off, get us in the right run checks, play the position and have fun.”
Cousins had some fun last year, throwing for 1,719 yards and 10 touchdowns in five starts. But he also threw nine interceptions and he did not react well to them. Gruden thinks that Couins will react better this time around.
“We have total confidence in Kirk,” he said. “He's just got to understand that if it doesn't go right early, hang in there and good things will continue if he stays the course. But I think he's going to be fine, he's just got to relax.”
During the preseason game in Baltimore, Cousins threw a first-quarter interception to Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs. It was a screen pass that Cousins should not have thrown.
“You're not going to go a whole season and not throw a pick,” said Gruden. “But when you do throw one, what happens after that? He showed against Baltimore that he threw the pick to Suggs, bounced back and recovered and led the team on two scoring drives after that. I think he's come a long way in that regard. Time will tell, we have high hopes obviously.”
As Griffin said, Cousins did lead two touchdown drives before halftime. But one first-quarter turnover in a preseason game is not the same test as throwing multiple picks during a game that counts. We won’t really know if Cousins is over the poor reaction to turnovers until he goes through some additional adversity.