In three starts, Cousins completed 53 percent of his passes for 747 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions while also losing two fumbles.
“It hasn’t all been perfect. I think I’ve been able to do some good things, but just the fact I was in there, I was able to make mistakes and being put in these situations, I think, develops me as a quarterback and a person and it’ll serve me well,” Cousins said.
When Coach Mike Shanahan shut Robert Griffin III down for the remainder of the season following the 45-10 blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 14, Cousins approached the final three games as an opportunity to showcase his skills to prospective teams while also gaining valuable playing experience.
Shanahan surmised that the Redskins could receive a first-round draft pick as compensation for Cousins this offseason if he played well.
“If he lights it up, hey, maybe we can bring a first-round draft choice back to this organization and say, ‘Hey, who are we gonna take in the first round?’ ” Shanahan said in an interview with the team’s radio station earlier this month. “And I think by him playing and Robert not playing, it gives us a chance to have a few options for our organization that we wouldn’t normally have and the safety of our quarterback going into the offseason is preserved. . . .
“And we’re still getting a chance to see a guy that we’ve got a lot of confidence in go out there and play. And his value can only go up. It cannot go down. It can only go up.”
Cousins did seem to increase his value in his first start against Atlanta, when he completed 29 of 45 passes for 381 yards
and three touchdowns despite also throwing two interceptions
and losing a fumble on a sack. But he didn’t manage much of a follow-up the next week at home against Dallas, when he threw for only 197 yards, a touchdown and interception
against the worst passing defense in the league.
Cousins entered this week encouraged by his production and said, “I’m in a good spot right now,” but added he hoped to finish on a strong note.
He wound up having his worst outing.
The accuracy that Cousins displayed in his first start was not on display against New York as he underthrew some receivers and threw behind others.
Washington’s line didn’t help, either. Cousins found himself frequently under pressure. He was sacked three times and hit another five times. He also had three would-be interceptions dropped.
Cousins and Shanahan both attributed some of his struggles to the weather conditions.
“The elements were tough. It never let up,” Cousins said. “At one point, later in the game, I was shaking. I was having a hard time staying warm, staying dry, all those things. It’s only so much you can do. The ball kept getting heavier and heavier as the game kept going on. I felt like I was walking in a puddle of water as the whole game went on. Yeah, those are the challenges you have to deal with. That’s part of the whole game.”
Asked whether he thought he had shown enough in the past three games to give prospective teams a good idea of his potential, Cousins said, “I’ve shown a lot of what I can do. I’ve been given an opportunity in all kinds of situations from two-minute drills, to rain games, to everything in between. I’ve shown what I’m capable of. I think there’s more there. It obviously would help if I was with a team for a long time and have a chance to really build up a team as their leader, as their quarterback. But we’ll see. Other teams can look at the film and evaluate it how they want, but I’m a Redskin and I’m excited to have this role here and just be the best I can to be a Redskin.”
Shanahan was asked the same question.
“We’ll see in time. Everybody’s got different evaluations at quarterback,” the coach said. “If you talk to one person, they’ll think one thing, somebody else. So the main thing, he got some playing experience, got a chance at playing, a lot of competition. I thought it was good for Robert and good for Kirk, getting some playing time. Robert will be healthy for the season, which will be great for him, going into an offseason full-speed, and Kirk got some valuable experience, which will help him.”