Aug 29, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) drops back to pass during the first quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
“Tough times don’t last, Tough people do.” Kirk Cousins reminded himself of this after being benched last season. Now he gets his first chance to be the undisputed starter of the Washington Redskins on Sunday. Cousins will start the tenth game of his career versus the Miami Dolphins and their $114 million dollar defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh.
Cousins has had his chances to lead the Redskins before. When Robert Griffin III was injured versus Baltimore in 2012, Cousins came in and completed both of his passes to bring the Redskins from behind to beat the Ravens, 31-28. He got his first start the following week and completed 26 of 37 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Redskins to a 38-21 victory.
Cousins didn’t start another game until week 15 of the 2013 season when Redskins head coach, Mike Shanahan sat Griffin for the final three games of the season. Cousins responded with a 381 yard and three touchdown effort in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons. However, the Redskins would go on to lose the final two games of that season as Cousins floundered with five interceptions in those final three games.
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Shanahan was fired and Jay Gruden hired for the 2014 season. Griffin was injured again in the second game versus Jacksonville and Cousins came in and the Redskins blew out the Jaguars, 41-10. Cousins played well the following week with 427 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-34 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. From there, Cousins play suffered and his on field relationship with Gruden deteriorated.
Cousins threw four interceptions versus the New York Giants when the Giants fooled him with disguised coverages and bated him into terrible throws. Kirk Cousins played good the following week versus Seattle but had another three interceptions the next week versus Arizona to give the Redskins four straight losses in his four starting opportunities.
Cousins was pulled from the game the next week at halftime versus Tennessee. He threw one interception in that half so Colt McCoy was brought in to rally the team to a 19-17 victory. Cousins did not see the field for the rest of the season as Gruden flip-flopped with McCoy and Griffin but left Cousins on the bench and largely inactive.
will Gruden stick with Cousins if he has rough stretches…?
Now Gruden has given Cousins the starting quarterback job for the entire 2015 season. The real question is, will Gruden stick with Cousins if he has rough stretches as he did in 2014? Many people have their doubts and Gruden may have shown his own trepidation also when he added that Cousins “has to keep earning it” when talking about the starting quarterback job. Cousins said, ” It’s my job to almost stay relaxed…enjoy the moment,” addressing not letting himself get over-whelmed.
If Cousins fails to lead the Redskins to wins early in the season, Gruden may feel the pressure to win and change quarterbacks again. Doing that though would put Gruden’s job in jeopardy also since he chose Cousins over Griffin and McCoy so changing quarterbacks would cast doubt on Gruden’s judgement. With that in mind, Cousins’ and Gruden’s futures in Washington are dependent on one another.
Kirk Cousins needs to eliminate the mistakes that have plagued him in his previous chances to lead the Redskins. Cousins has thrown 19 interceptions over his three year career in only 407 passing attempts. He also has a lower than average completion percentage of 59.0% that he needs to improve upon and of course, his 2-7 record as a starter.
If Kirk Cousins does struggle, Gruden needs to resist the temptation to go to another option and show Cousins, who said “I do feel believed in,” that he has faith in him. If Gruden goes back to his quarterback merry-go-round, the Redskins will have a difficult time winning games consistently. The Redskins success is therefore completely dependent on a strong Cousins/Gruden bond and if they are unable to produce together, they could both be elsewhere in 2016.