“It’s Kirk’s team.”
With those words from Jay Gruden, the Kirk Cousins era officially got underway on Monday afternoon.
“It’s just one step in the process,” said Cousins.
How long will it last? That is largely up to Cousins.
Cousins has appeared in 14 games for the Redskins since they drafted him in the fourth round in 2012. One of those was a start in Cleveland when Griffin sat out due to a knee injury. Four of those were mop-up appearances after Robert Griffin III had either been injured or was benched for ineffective play. Three came at the end of the 2013 season after Griffin was deactivated. It was clear after each game or stint that Griffin would be the starter when he returned.
Last year, he got his first big opportunity when Griffin left early in the Redskins’ Week 2 game against the Jaguars with a dislocated ankle. Cousins became the starter and Gruden would not commit to Griffin getting the job back when he was healthy.
In some respects Cousins played well enough to keep the job, completing 61.8 percent of his passes and averaging an impressive 8.4 yards per pass attempt. But the Redskins lost the four games he started and finished, in part because he threw eight interceptions. In his fifth start against the Titans, he threw a ninth pick and lost a fumble in the first half. Colt McCoy replaced Cousins at halftime and led the Redskins to a comeback win. Cousins never took another snap.
Now he gets another chance, something that doesn’t always happen in sports. If he doesn’t want to end up on the bench again, it’s pretty obvious that Cousins has to maintain the positive aspects of the play while cutting down on the interceptions.
Cousins did some specific things since he was benched last year to try to cut down on the interceptions but perhaps the biggest factor will be getting more experience behind center.
“I think it’s a combination of things, but certainly just trying to see the field better, recognize defenses better, recognize coverages, blitzes, pressures, my movement in the pocket needs to be better,” he said. “All those things contribute to being able to protect the football. The longer I play, the more reps I get, the more practice and game experience I gain, I’ll become a much better quarterback when it comes to protecting the football along with a lot of other areas of playing this position.”
The problem is, he might not get more game experience if he doesn’t learn how to cut down on turnovers. There is no reason to believe that Gruden wouldn’t go back to McCoy if Cousins starts throwing the ball to guys in wrong-colored jerseys.