Jay Gruden really stuck his neck out on this one.
In deciding to bench Robert Griffin III and go with Kirk Cousins as the Redskins’ quarterback, Gruden made a high risk decision that perhaps does not have a very high reward at the other end.
In moving on from Griffin, the player the organization gave up a record bounty of draft picks to obtain and the quarterback who electrified the NFL with the best season a rookie quarterback has ever had in 2012, Gruden may be going against the preferences some key members of the organization, including owner Dan Snyder. Oh, and perhaps half of the fan base as well.
Gruden was hired to “fix” Griffin, to turn him into a pocket passer, the kind of quarterback who can have a long, successful NFL career. Now, after one year plus one offseason Gruden is throwing in the towel, admitting either that he can’t fix Griffin’s problems or that he can’t do it soon enough to make him an effective quarterback this season.
In place of Griffin, Gruden is playing a quarterback picked in the fourth round of the same draft as Griffin. Cousins has some notable flaws in his game. The primary one is ball protection. How bad are Cousins’ turnover problems? Look at this via ESPN:
In 575 snaps over 11 games in that period [since the start of the 2013 season], Cousins has thrown 16 interceptions and lost four fumbles. In other words, he has committed a turnover about once every 29 snaps, or 3.4 percent of his plays. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that's the worst rate among 46 quarterbacks with at least 500 snaps during that span.
Cousins had a chance to grab the starting job last year but it disappeared under a pile of turnovers. Gruden believes that Cousins has done what is needed to protect the ball better.
“We talk about a second year in a system, we talk about the comfort level for all three quarterbacks,” said Gruden. “We just feel like he’s taken the biggest step as far as the comfort level in the system, making the progression from year one to year two. Obviously we’re disappointed that he had an opportunity to take it and he had some interception issues and all that stuff. But we feel good about him moving forward… You know, when you get in the second year in a system, there’s a comfort level. Certain quarterbacks take a giant leap, certain quarterbacks don’t. But I feel like Kirk has taken a giant leap so far.”
Cousins could be the Redskins’ quarterback of the future. He could be benched by November. Gruden’s fate as the Redskins’ coach could well depend on which scenario plays out over the next four months.