Gruden feeling good about Redskins’ quarterbacks


Jay Gruden feels Robert Griffin, left, is taking steps forward while Kirk Cousins has been the ultimate teammate. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Jay Gruden has made no secret that he is all in on Robert Griffin III, and that the hierarchy in the Redskins’ quarterback room is clear. But Gruden feels strongly about his backups, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy, and based on the approach and competitive fire of all three, the coach believes the Redskins have great strength at the position.

Gruden sees Griffin taking steps forward in his development and this week said the third-year quarterback is starting to see “the full scope” of the quarterback position.

“He’s calling plays faster in the huddle; he’s got a better command of the game, the snap count. All those little things that go into playing a position are very, very important,” Gruden said. “How he handles dummy counts, snap counts, quick counts, hard counts, and then his progression from being able to change the protection from one side to the other – whatever he has to do – just a total understanding of the game other than you see passes flying in the air and they’re complete or incomplete. Great, but playing quarterback is a lot more than throwing a football. It’s getting us into the right run, it’s handling formation, handling the clock in two-minute, all of these things that he’s starting to understand – the total big picture of the game – and I’m excited about his progress already.”

Although there’s no question regarding the depth chart, Cousins continues to prepare as if he is the starter, directing his segments of practice with authority, speaking up in the quarterback meetings and getting in extra work following practice – often being one of the last players on the field.

At the start of the offseason, Cousins informed General Manager Bruce Allen that while he wasn’t demanding a trade, he would welcome the opportunity to go elsewhere so he could have a chance to start. Washington entertained some trade offers (the Browns being a team with interest), but didn’t receive an offer to their liking, and Cousins remained with the Redskins.

Gruden said Cousins didn’t let the lack of a trade discourage him, and that he has remained the good soldier and ultimate teammate.

“You know, Kirk’s handled it like a pro,” Gruden said. “He understands the situation here. He understands it’s Robert’s job to lose right now but he’s still coming in here, competing and battling every day. And, that’s what a quarterback does. Whether you’re the starter or not, you have to take advantage of the reps you get and they are few and far between sometimes, but I think he’s done an excellent job. … There’s been no controversy whatsoever. It’s just been business as usual and they’re all trying to get better and master this system and he’ll be ready when his time comes. ”

McCoy, who signed with Washington this offseason, is the third-string quarterback with no apparent chance to overtake Cousins. But Gruden likewise praised the fifth-year pro, who in his mind brings his own unique value and contributions to the room.

“You know, he gets less reps than Kirk obviously, but he does a good job,” Gruden said of McCoy, who started for the Browns his first two seasons in the NFL before serving as a backup in Cleveland and San Francisco the last two.

“He’s got great command of the game. He’s a very smart quarterback, very fundamentally sound,” Gruden said. “He’s had great coaching throughout his career obviously and he’s got a great wealth of experience as far as some of the plays that we’re running. He’s had some success in some – he’s seen some of them obviously when he’s played before. So he’s a good tutor for Robert also. So to have a veteran quarterback like Colt who’s gone through it, even though he’s still 27, he’s started some games and been through some ups and downs in his career. To offer any insight is also very good, but I also know if need be, some teams have had to go to their third quarterback throughout the season and I feel good about Colt if he had to come in and play.”

Griffin shares Gruden’s sentiments on the quarterback position and described it as a competitive, yet united, group.

“I think our quarterback room is great with Kirk, Colt, Jay and [offensive coordinator] Sean [McVay] and myself in there. You learn something new every day,” Griffin said. “[We are] just demanding excellence out of ourselves. You learn something from every rep, whether you take that rep or not. That’s great to have those guys on this team, working out here, getting better together. That’s what everyone is doing. … We’ve got great competition on the field, so when we step out there on the field as quarterbacks, you have to be ready to play, and learn from those reps. It’s great we have so much talent.”

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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