A week later, the shock subsided and reality set in. If the keys to the kingdom are tucked snugly in Griffin’s pocket, all is certainly not lost for Cousins. Earlier this month, he reported for the Redskins’ three-day rookie minicamp and went about his business with goals for both the immediate and distant future.
“The cream always rises to the top, so if I’m as good as I hope to be some day, then I’m going to get that opportunity — whether here or somewhere else,” said Cousins, who many draft analysts thought would be picked in the second or third round and compete for a starting job as a rookie. “But this is a great opportunity to learn and develop and to grow.”
Cousins sees two game plans: the Redskins’ and God’s. He doesn’t fully understand either, but believes he must accept both.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about me,” Cousins said. “I’ve got to put other people ahead of me. That’s not just on the football field as a quarterback, that’s in life. That’s just being a servant, and to me what it means to follow Jesus and be a Christian, so I’m going to put my teammates ahead of me.”
In March, the Redskins sent the No. 6 and 39 overall picks in the 2012 draft, as well as first-round picks in 2013 and 2014 to the St. Louis Rams to secure the No. 2 overall pick and Griffin. But Shanahan and his assistants believed they needed more than just Griffin and 10th-year veteran Rex Grossman at that position.
The day after the Redskins picked Griffin, Shanahan told his young starter that the team likely would draft his long-term backup as well. Cousins fell to the fourth round and the Redskins considered him too good to pass up.
Shanahan killed all talk of a quarterback controversy after the mini-camp, when he named Griffin the team’s starter after just five practices. But the coach also explained why Cousins is a vital piece to the puzzle.
“That guy’s one play away from being the starter,” Shanahan said. If the starter goes down with an injury, “I want to have the ability to still win. It’s hard. You can’t find quarterbacks. . . If you can develop a couple guys and have three guys on your team, you feel like you have the chance to do something special in the long run.”
A number of analysts disagreed with Shanahan’s decision to have two young quarterbacks with the ability to start.
“It can divide a team, and it can cause problems,” ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said. “If RGIII is nicked up and Cousins lights it up, what are you going to do then?”
But Shanahan dismisses such talk.
“I’ve been in this situation before with [John] Elway and [Gary] Kubiak,” Shanahan said of 1983, when Denver traded for Elway and drafted Kubiak. “I think it’s a lot of fun for guys coming in because they have the same goals, both were very successful collegiate quarterbacks, they got to study film together, they’re rooming together, they’re talking football. Great process.”