Redskins coach Jay Gruden has three quarterbacks to choose from to start his team’s Week 15 game against the Giants, assuming that Colt McCoy is healthy enough to be an option. It appears that Gruden is going to go with McCoy if his sprained neck allows him to do so, with Robert Griffin III being the second option if McCoy can’t go. Gruden said that he took a look at Kirk Cousins this week as well.
It appears that Gruden is making his selection based on who will give the team the best chance to win. But do the numbers support that decision? Might Griffin or Cousins be able to put more points up on the board? After all, the last time we saw McCoy last Sunday against the Rams, the Redskins took just one snap in the red zone and were shut out.
Cousins has played about five and a half games, Griffin has played about four (counting the Jacksonville game that Griffin left early with an injury as Cousins’ game) and McCoy has been behind center for three and a half games. Those aren’t huge sample sizes but enough to look at some numbers and get a comparison among the three.
Griffin 69.9 %
The league average is 62.9 percent. Griffin and McCoy are close enough here to call it a coin toss between the two. Cousins lags behind.
The league average here is 7.2 yards/attempt. So even though Cousins is less accurate than the other two in terms of completion percentage, he gets as much production out of each pass than McCoy does and significantly more than Griffin does. In fact, Cousins’ average of 13.6 yards per completions is among the best in the league. Of the Redskins’ eight longest pass plays this season, Cousins was the passer on six of them.
Net yards/pass attempt
This metric accounts for yards lost to sacks. The league average is 6.4 new yards/attempt. Given that the three QB’s have been playing with mostly the same group of pass protectors (with the notable exception of Trent Williams missing all of the 49ers game and three quarters of the Bucs game, both games with Griffin behind center). Still, it shows that Cousins, who played almost all of his snaps with the since-benched Tyler Polumbus at right tackle, is more productive with each dropback than either of the other two. For the record, Cousins was sacked on 3.8 percent of his dropbacks, McCoy on 12.3 percent, and Griffin on 14.6 percent.
This clearly is Cousins’ biggest issue, but it’s not like the other two are particularly good at protecting the ball. Both Griffin and McCoy are right around the NFL average of 2.5 percent of passes thrown being intercepted.
Touchdown pass percentage
The league average here is 4.7 percent so none of the three are truly lighting it up here.
The NFL’s passer rating is 88.2 so Cousins and Griffin are about average while McCoy would rank in the top 10 in the league if he had enough pass attempts.
Average opponent passer rating rank
This is just to give some perspective on their performances. Opponent passer rating is a better way to measure pass defense than raw yardage in part because it includes interceptions. It shows that Griffin and Cousins have faced average pass defenses overall when it comes to passer rating and McCoy has had it slightly easier.
Although this isn’t comprehensive or conclusive in any way, these numbers appear to point to Cousins as the one who has performed the best. However, the interceptions are a major drawback to his game.
Looking just at performance this year, it would be hard to justify putting Griffin in as the starter. He isn't clearly superior to the other two in any of these statistical categories and he lags well behind Cousins and McCoy in the metrics that include yards per attempt.
Now, whether Griffin should play so that the organization can get another look at him before deciding his future during the offseason is a separate discussion altogether. But based on giving the team the best chance to win in 2014 it's hard to make the case that he should be the one behind center.