The selection of Cousins — projected by many scouts and analysts to be an eventual starter in the NFL — came two days after the Redskins made Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III the face of their franchise by taking him with the second overall pick of the draft.
The Redskins introduced Griffin to 19,880 fans at FedEx Field on Saturday, roughly an hour after they selected Cousins and around an hour before news broke that they were parting ways with Beck.
The winningest quarterback in Michigan State history, Cousins caught the Redskins’ eyes at the Senior Bowl where he was a member of the North team. Mike Shanahan and his Redskins staff coached the South team, and Cousins said during that week in Mobile, Ala., he spoke with both Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. But since then, he has had no contact with the team and never expected the Redskins to draft him.
“It is a little surprising. I was trying to forecast which teams would be in need of a quarterback, and I didn’t see the Redskins thinking along those lines,” the 6-foot-2, 214-pound Cousins said on Saturday. “But Coach Shanahan’s words to me were that he couldn’t pass me up, and he was excited to have me. . . . Certainly, with Robert Griffin, there’s a lot of hope in him in being part of their future. But I’m excited to be a part of their organization and help that team win football games.”
Saturday marked the first time since 1989 that a team has taken two quarterbacks in the first four rounds of the draft. (That year, the Cowboys drafted Troy Aikman and Steve Walsh).
It also marks the first time since 1994 that the Redskins have taken two quarterbacks in the same draft. That year, Washington took Heath Shuler with the third overall pick of the draft and then drafted Gus Frerotte in the seventh round. Shuler wound up as one of the biggest quarterback busts of all time, while Frerotte reached the Pro Bowl two seasons later.
Mike Shanahan on Thursday described Griffin as a franchise quarterback but is fond of competition, and now has set up Griffin to have a talented young passer to push him.
“I’m going to work as hard as I can,” Cousins said. “There are a lot of things I can’t control, like where I get drafted. I’m just excited to be part of the NFL. At the end of the day, I believe God is in control of my future, and this is where I believe he wants me at this time.”
Meanwhile, the release of Beck doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
Last season, he went 0-3 as a starter while throwing four interceptions and only two touchdowns. He struggled with decision making, was sacked 16 times, was hesitant to throw downfield, and teammates quickly lost confidence in him.
Beck was owed $1.35 million this season, and considering that the Redskins carried only two quarterbacks on their roster last season, it seemed unlikely that they would retain him at that figure.
Washington acquired Beck from the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for backup defensive back Doug Dutch late in training camp of 2010. The team then signed Beck to a two-year extension only three weeks later.
Beck didn’t play a game in 2010, but entered training camp the following year as a contender for the starting job. Mike Shanahan said he was confident that Beck, who at that point hadn’t played a game since his rookie year in 2007, was capable of being a quality starter in the NFL.
But Grossman beat Beck out for the starting job following preseason. Grossman got benched for throwing four interceptions against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 5, and Beck played the fourth quarter of that game, and started the next three games. But he struggled to perform under pressure, and Grossman reclaimed his job the day before Washington played Miami in Week 10.
Cousins was Washington’s first pick of the fourth round, and then 17 picks later, they selected Texas linebacker Keenan Robinson. The 6-foot-3, 242-pounder spent all of his college career at outside linebacker. But the Redskins plan to move him to inside linebacker, where he will be groomed behind 36-year-old London Fletcher.
In the fifth round, Washington added their second guard of the draft, taking Iowa’s Adam Gettis. The sixth round featured the selection of Florida Atlantic running back Alfred Morris and South Dakota tackle Tom Compton. In the seventh round, the team drafted SMU cornerback Richard Crawford and Iowa safety Jordan Bernstine.