Let’s move past the accusations and denials and all the sordid behavior coming out of Ashburn this week. Robert Griffin III will sit, and at least publicly, he took the high road, which was one of his smartest decisions of the season.
Enter Kirk Cousins, who has been a steady but quiet presence since he arrived as a surprising fourth-round draft pick last year. Despite the fact that many felt Griffin was being rushed back for Week 1, or rather rushing himself back, despite the fact that Griffin has struggled, despite the fact that Griffin is getting pummeled more than any quarterback in the league, despite the fact that it appeared more and more obvious that Griffin and the Shanahans were not on the same page and despite the fact that many fans were ready to see Cousins get a chance — despite all that, seldom was heard a discouraging word from Cousins. In fact, never was heard a discouraging word, even though the metaphorical skies were cloudy all day.
This season had all the ingredients of a typical Washington quarterback controversy, but Cousins managed to stay above the fray. After this season, when the knives are pulled from the backs of the three major players in this farce, no one will find a weapon with Cousins’s prints on it. That’s not because he’s a master manipulator; he really means it when he says this is Griffin’s team and that he is auditioning.
That’s not to say Cousins wouldn’t take the starting job in a heartbeat. He’s a competitive guy who has had a fairly boring clipboard-holding season. But he’s not going to campaign publicly for it. He’s not going to plant stories and play games and bad-mouth people off the record.
What’s wrong with this guy?
We’re about to find out, but I’d say the answer is: nothing. He is what he appears to be. How refreshing, after having heard so many different descriptions of Daniel Snyder, Mike Shanahan and Griffin, especially in the past week.
There is zero chance Shanahan returns next year, unless someone, somehow, brokers a peace between him and Snyder, and if that happens, alert the Nobel committee and the Vatican. So Shanahan is not giving Cousins a look for the future, at least not for the future in Washington. And he’s not giving other teams a look at Cousins for trade possibilities, because he won’t be in charge of trades much longer, at least not in Washington. He’s not giving Cousins anything at all. He has managed to find a way to punish Griffin and paint it as a kindness. Genius! At least this petty mess has just three more games to run. Nothing we can do but wait for the next delightful phase: the coaching search.
But it doesn’t matter how Cousins got under center; it only matters that he’s there. For him, these three weeks — although he is not guaranteed to start all three, because there is still time to drag Rex Grossman into this cabaret of craziness — are a chance to prove his worth. Hopefully the rest of the team doesn’t mail it in so that Cousins can show his stuff, whatever that stuff proves to be. It probably will include the ability to check off his receivers, a pocket passer mentality, and the instinct to get rid of the ball in a timely fashion. He might not break any big runs, and he might throw some picks, but whatever he does, it’s on him. He gets his chance. That’s all he has ever wanted.
It’s hard not to root for a guy who isn’t about commercials or contract extensions or power plays. In fact, it’s pretty easy, and although I don’t think it was the intent behind the move, it might bring disgruntled fans back to their televisions, and maybe even back to FedEx Field, just to get a look at this guy. Because even though no two people see Snyder, Shanahan and Griffin exactly the same way, I think everyone agrees that Cousins has proven to be the most mature and admirable person in that group, and maybe in the building. On Sunday, it’s time to put aside this, ah, rigmarole for a few hours and give Cousins a look. He’s earned it.
For more by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.com/hamilton.