On Monday, Redskins coach Jay Gruden had a very simple answer when he was asked if he was considering turning to third-string quarterback Colt McCoy in light of backup QB Kirk Cousins struggles.
“No. We’re going to go with Kirk again,” he said.
Gruden then launched into some details of the three interceptions that Cousins threw in the fourth quarter against the Cardinals. Cousins was the main culprit on all three of them, according to the particulars provided by the coach.
“Obviously, the fourth quarter was an issue,” said Gruden. “The first interception I believe was to Andre [Roberts]. He just overthrew it, he over-strided. Andre ran a heck of a route. He beat the underneath coverage, man coverage, was bending it in front of the safety and Kirk just kind of hesitated and over-strided and threw it high. It was intercepted. The second one was one he hesitated on should’ve thrown the ball to DeSean [Jackson] on the little pick screen thing that we did. I don’t know why he waited. He just hesitated for a second. Of course the third one was 30 seconds to go in the game and he was trying to make a play. That one could have been avoided also.”
Perhaps going through the particulars of the meltdown made Gruden rethink his position. He was singing a different tune on Wednesday. Gruden was asked what he saw from Cousins that made him want to stick with the third-year QB over McCoy. After talking about “catastrophic mistakes” made by the team in key situations and saying that “third downs [and] turnovers are very, very a direct reflection on play calling and the quarterback position,” Gruden said this:
“He [Cousins] is facing quite a bit of scrutiny and obviously if things continue in this downward spiral there is always a chance to see Colt. But I think Kirk will play himself out of it. I have total faith that he will, and we are going to coach him like he will and he will be ready but I know Colt will be ready also.”
That’s quite a difference from a flat “no”. You have to wonder how much further along the “downward spiral” Cousins would have to be before Gruden would pull the trigger and put Cousins on the bench. Suppose he throws two interceptions in the first half against Tennessee on Sunday and the home team walks off the field to a cascade of boos, trailing 13-3. Would we see McCoy, who has 21 NFL starts under his belt, take the field in the second half?
There isn’t as big a difference between the two QB’s as some might think. McCoy is a 58.3 percent career passer while Cousins sits at 58.8 percent. Cousins’ passer rating (78.1) is a bit higher than McCoy’s (74.9) but McCoy’s interception rate (2.8%) is much better than Cousins’ (4.6%).
Looming over the quarterback picture, of course, is the pending return of Robert Griffin III. Some are theorizing that he could be back for the Monday night game in Dallas, the next game following this Sunday’s Titans game. Would Gruden make the switch to McCoy even if it’s only for a half?
At this point, Gruden and the Redskins just need a win. If the coach perceives that Cousins is ruining his chance to do so by turning the ball over, it’s possible that he will look to McCoy, an experienced starter, to stop the bleeding.