Last month, former Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan went on 106.7 The Fan and said Kirk Cousins has a “big-time future” in the NFL. After Redskins Coach Jay Gruden named Cousins the team’s starter for 2015, Shanahan told NFL Network’s Dan Hellie that Cousins will be a top 10 QB in the league, “no doubt about it.”
So, with Cousins coming off a 23-of-27 passing performance in Sunday’s win over the Rams, I half expected Shanahan to tell Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier that Cousins is a lock for the Hall of Fame when he was back on 106.7 The Fan on Thursday. He didn’t go that far.
Shanahan credited Cousins’s early-season success, while hardly top-10 stuff, to the Redskins’s focus on the running game. Shanahan noted a common factor in Cousins’s starts against the Giants, Seahawks and Cardinals last season, all losses.
“They ran the ball 17 times in each one of those losses,” Shanahan said. “Well, you run the ball 17 times and that’s it with a quarterback that’s very young in his career, it’s going to be hard to be successful. One of the reasons we ran the ball so many times with Robert [Griffin III] in 2012, even though it was a little bit different type of scheme, was to take a little bit of pressure of the quarterback. When you start throwing the ball twice as many times as you’re running it, it really puts a lot of pressure, not only on the quarterback, but the offensive line, they have to do so many things coverage-wise, and it’s really tough. It’s a really tough situation. I remember just being with Elway his first year, Steve Young, and you take a look at their touchdown-to-interception ratios, you’re talking about Hall of Fame quarterbacks, and actually Kirk’s statistics are better than theirs. … I think what [the Redskins] are doing right now is great and I think people will see dividends tonight with the way they play.”
Paulsen asked Shanahan what Cousins is capable of in the near future.
“I think what you see, I think what Jay has seen in practice, I think players see it, coaches see it, is a consistency in how somebody goes out, goes about their job on a day to day basis,” Shanahan said. “How they handle the huddle, the command of the huddle, arm strength, vision, protections…route proressions. What does he do on the toughest down, and that’s third down. Can he read coverages? Can he go through a progression? Can he step up in the pocket? Can he make those tough decisions? Kirk’s been able to do that. Now he’s going to get some more playing time, and when you’re as consistent as he is in practice, you know that the sky is the limit. The better supporting cast you put around him, obviously the better he’s going to be. But even with a few of the starters [injured] in Washington — if you’re talking about DeSean [Jackson] or you’re talking about Niles Paul, or Logan Paulsen — a lot of teams would be in trouble, but they’ve got enough depth on their football team at the wide receiver and the tight end position, if they can stay healthy, to overcome a few of those major injuries.”
Cousins’s numbers through two games haven’t been flashy, but Shanahan noted that Elway’s numbers weren’t either in 1997. The Broncos passed for more than 300 yards in one game that year and for fewer than 200 yards nine times. They went 12-4 behind a strong rushing attack en route to their first Super Bowl title.