When the Redskins drafted Cousins in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, three rounds after taking Robert Griffin III second overall, Shanahan and LaFleur worked most closely with the two rookies, educating them in the ways of the NFL and refining their skills.
“I came in and I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” Cousins recalled on Wednesday. “I was pretty clueless.”
Cousins spent hours studying video with Shanahan, even though he was a backup. Griffin received the bulk of the repetitions in practice, so Cousins often remained on the field long after his teammates had retreated to the locker room. LaFleur ran him through additional drills and helped Cousins improve on aspects the quarterback had struggled with.
“It was everything from spending a lot of time watching cut-ups, to going out and drilling, whether it was very basic drills or team drills,” Cousins said. “I always felt like Matt LaFleur, who is the QB coach down in Atlanta, did a great job of spending time with me, working hard to make sure I was prepared as I could possibly be. Sometimes, I would wonder, other places’ quarterbacks, who are rookies, especially third and fourth-string can get forgotten about a little bit. I felt like when I came in as a rookie, I was given a lot of attention and time and energy, and really was developed quickly because of the focus they put on me and Robert.”
In the 13th game of the season, Mike Shanahan benched a struggling Robert Griffin III and named Cousins the starter for the final three games.
Cousins’s first start came on the road at Atlanta. In that game, Cousins completed 29 of 45 passes for 381 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. With time running out, Cousins directed a scoring drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Santana Moss with 28 seconds left. However, his two-point conversion pass attempt to Pierre Garcon fell incomplete, and Washington lost, 27-26.
“I’m glad I had the experience,” Cousins said. “I think the fact that I’ve played there before and have been there before, that can only help. But I remember it was a game we were able to move the football, there were certainly some plays we wanted back, like any game. Came down to the final drive, final play, and we came up short.”
Cousins says that he has grown as a player since then, and his former and current coaches would agree.
Last week he found himself in need once again of a game-winning drive, and that time he delivered, leading his teammates on a 15-play, 90-yard charge that ended with a four-yard touchdown pass to Garcon with 26 seconds left on the clock. The Redskins beat the Eagles, 23-20.
Cousins hopes that if he is needed for a second game-winning drive in as many weeks, he again can display his maturity and produce a different result at the Georgia Dome.
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