Coach Jay Gruden’s response to the early-season struggles of Kirk Cousins have struck me as the mostly honest, off-the-cuff ruminations of a man who thinks his quarterback can and should be better, and who isn’t sure why that isn’t happening. But others have had divergent reactions. That Gruden is babying Cousins. Or that Gruden is undercutting Cousins with undue criticism. Those are very different reactions.
If you’ve listened to sports radio in this market at all this week, you’ve heard both of these views. Here are crystallized versions.
Michael Wilbon on ‘SportsCenter’
“From afar, the answer that jumps out of my mouth is that Coach Gruden makes excuses for Kirk Cousins that he didn’t dare make for Robert Griffin [III], who he ran out of town, who he treated like garbage publicly. Now, Robert Griffin did so many things to undermine himself, okay? Talk about shooting himself in the foot; it was just constantly, bang bang bang, every week for a couple of years Robert Griffin did this, and it made it easy for the grumbling in the locker room to justify Coach Gruden treating Robert Griffin like garbage, publicly, which some of us have said we’ve never seen in pro football. I’ve been around it for a while; I’ve never seen a coach publicly go after a player, a starter, and try to humiliate him like Gruden did Robert Griffin.
“But now he’s tied to this quarterback — Cousins — and he soft-pedaled the criticism relative to Griffin. He soft-pedaled it, and there are gonna be people watching that, too. Because this town can get very exercised about quarterback controversies and some of the ‘dynamics,’ if you will, that surround them. So Kirk Cousins better produce, or we’re going to be watching his coach to see if he’s as critical publicly as he was with Griffin.”
Bram Weinstein on ESPN 980
“The divorce of Kirk Cousins and the Redskins seems to be prematurely happening, and way too quickly for my taste. … I’m sitting there going, what is going on with the messaging out there that is already happening, that they’ve just determined that they’re going to make sure that this guy fails? … Gruden almost sounded on Sunday that he was burying Kirk. And then on Monday [he] walked that back a lot, because forget watching the film or whatever the reaction was to all of it, I think he must have realized that he’s going to be part of the problem if he heaps all of the problems on the quarterback, when anybody who follows this team knows that the real problem is the defense. …
“They didn’t start well, he’s made some mistakes, let’s blame him and distance ourselves. That’s what it felt like to me the other day. At this point in time, at this juncture, is not the time to start distancing yourself from the guy who still might be the quarterback of the future. But if that’s what you’re going to do right now, then the season’s over. It’s over before it started. … They didn’t start well, and he’s made a lot of mistakes that he should be criticized for and should take the blame for, but instead of rallying around the guy, all I see is the tearing apart at the seams two weeks in, and blaming him, when the defense might be the worst in the league, and everyone’s ignoring that. …
“You want to calm him down? Make him feel like he’s your guy. That’s the easiest way to go about it. But he doesn’t feel like he’s your guy, because he’s not. … Again, I just don’t feel the support.”
Stephen A. Smith on ‘First Take’
“Do you see how understanding Jay Gruden is, but how he picked apart and dissected RGIII, threw him under the bus, told everybody. I mean, he didn’t just sit there and say RGIII was playing bad; didn’t he dissect everything from the three-step drop to the five-step drop, and how he wasn’t reading through his progressions? I mean, this dude went into detail. He went into detail about how bad RGIII was, but with Kirk Cousins, oh no, no such thing, never that, never that, why would I do that, let me just sit up there and say how Kirk Cousins is just struggling right now. …
“But when it was RGIII, I want to rake him through the coals and throw him under the bus. Jay Gruden, I wonder why that is, bro. I wonder why that is.”
“All I know is this: Jay talks too much. He’s now in his third year, and I thought at this point he would have figured it out. … He has not learned. You do not benefit from blabbing to the press, or sideline reporters, or anybody, about anything. The best coaches in this league: they bore the media to death after losses. And the more excruciating the loss, the worse the errors are by certain players, the more buttoned up a coach becomes. Not this guy.”
So either Gruden’s public criticism of Cousins was whoa.
Or Gruden remains stubbornly insistent on defending Cousins.