Robert Griffin III ‘clearly’ remains Redskins’ starter but ‘legitimate competition’ needed, Mike Shanahan says

A day after Kirk Cousins’s 381-yard passing performance in his second NFL start, Coach Mike Shanahan said that Robert Griffin III “clearly” remains the Washington Redskins’ starting quarterback. But Shanahan also added Monday that he wants “legitimate competition” at every position on his team, including quarterback.

“The thing that you want on your football team is you want competition, legitimate competition,” Shanahan said. “The better players you have, the more people compete. When you look behind your shoulder and you know that guy is pretty good, that makes you work a little bit harder in the offseason. It makes you work a little harder during the week. And when there is no depth, you don’t have that competition. You look over your shoulder and you say, ‘Hey, I don’t have to push myself that hard.’

“So I’ve always believed that true competition is the biggest motivator you can have regardless who you are because everybody knows that we’re gonna play the best players at the end of the day. So that competition, regardless of the position, is great.”

Cousins threw three touchdown passes but also had two interceptions in Sunday’s 27-26 loss at Atlanta, the first game since Shanahan shut down Griffin for the remainder of the Redskins’ season.

“Robert is clearly our starting quarterback,” Shanahan said. “But I’m gonna still emphasize this: The better players you have, the more competition you have, you get better as a football team. I’ve always felt that way. If players know that you will always play the best player regardless of signing bonus, regardless of draft choices, that you are gonna look at them [by] who performs, then I think as a head football coach, then you’ve got respect by your football team.

Kirk Cousins (left), who threw for three touchdowns Sunday at Atlanta in his second NFL start, with Robert Griffin III (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Kirk Cousins (left), who threw for three touchdowns Sunday at Atlanta in his second NFL start, with Robert Griffin III. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

“If you’re gonna play somebody just because you drafted him in the first round or the sixth round or the seventh round and you’re gonna keep him there just because you drafted him or you sign a guy with a big signing bonus, you lose respect by your football team. The teams I’ve been on, the great ones, have always had that type of competition regardless of what their position was or the money they made or where they were drafted.”

The Redskins are engulfed by uncertainty. Shanahan said he will discuss his job status with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder after the season, with many observers convinced it’s unlikely that Shanahan will be back next year for the final season of his five-year contract.

Now there is room to wonder if Shanahan, or his successor, could face a quarterback controversy unless Cousins is traded in the offseason.

“Let’s not get carried away with one game, okay?” Shanahan said Monday. “It’s one game. That’s all it is. Let’s take a look at game after game after game. We saw what Robert did last year. … He put up some pretty good numbers this year, maybe not in comparison to [his rookie] year. But let’s not get carried away after one game.”

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.

What’s ahead:

●  Mike Jones’s mailbag mid-day Tuesday.

More on the Redskins and NFL:

Hamilton: Jordan Reed is the player who should be shut down

Outsider: Positives and negatives from Cousins’s start

Mike Jones’s five observations from Redskins vs. Falcons

D.C. Sports Bog: All 34 times Fox showed RGIII on the sideline | More

The Early Lead: 5 reasons why Redskins should pursue Bill O’Brien

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