While we're all trying to figure out just what Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan is thinking with his plan to bench quarterback Robert Griffin III for the remainder of the 2013 season, it appears that the coach may have an interesting ulterior motive. It's been said that the Griffin benching could be due to anything and everything, from RGIII's performance to Shanahan's desire to stick it to owner Dan Snyder before he's inevitably fired at (or before) the end of the season. Even Shanahan's son Kyle, the team's offensive coordinator, doesn't really get the thought process.
But as the elder Shanahan said on Friday during his weekly appearance on Washington D.C.'s ESPN radio affiliate, there's another game afoot -- upping the potential trade value for ex-backup Kirk Cousins, who is now the team's starter for the rest of the season. Several current NFL personnel men are reportedly on board with the idea that Cousins, selected in the fourth round of the 2012 draft out of Michigan State, might bring a second-round pick were he to be traded.
Shanahan is banking for more.
“If he lights it up, hey, maybe we can bring a first-round draft choice back to this organization, and say hey, who are we gonna take in the first round?” Shanahan said of Cousins (via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post). “And I think by him playing and Robert not playing, it gives us a chance to have a few options for our organization that we wouldn’t normally have, and the safety of our quarterback going into the offseason is preserved….And we’re still getting a chance to see a guy that we’ve got a lot of confidence in go out there and play. And his value can only go up. It cannot go down. It can only go up.”
Well, that's not really the case. Cousins first showed up in everybody's radar in the Redskins' 38-21 win over the Cleveland Browns last Dec. 21, when he subbed for an injured Griffin and completed 26 of 37 passes for 329 yards, two touchdowns and one interception against a defense that finished 20th against the pass in Football Outsiders' metrics. This a week after he threw a touchdown pass in Washington's 31-28 win over the Baltimore Ravens -- a game in which Griffin's knee issues really started. When he came in late in the Redskins' wild-card loss to the Seattle Seahawks after Griffin suffered yet another knee injury, he completed three of 10 passes for 31 yards. In his NFL career, Cousins has completed 45 of 73 passes for 573 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions.
And it's Shanahan's apparent belief that Cousins will somehow play himself into an increased trade value behind an offensive line porous enough to have Shanahan shelving his marquee starter for protection reasons? Evidently, that's the logic here.
It's easy to see why the Redskins would want to grab some draft picks back -- they gave up their first-rounders in 2013 and 2014 for the right to move up in the 2012 draft and take Griffin second overall. But unless Cousins shows the NFL something no one has yet seen from him, he's going to be perceived by most to be a high-quality backup and spot starter in the Matt Flynn/Kevin Kolb mold ... and nothing more. History works against the Redskins, as well -- the amounts given up for Kolb and Flynn by the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks in potential-over-production swaps that did not end well should have all NFL general managers proceeding with extreme caution when gauging the value of this quarterback type.
Albert Breer of the NFL Network recently spoke with two NFL personnel men about Cousins' potential value, and the consensus seemed to be that while Cousins is a safe addition to any roster, he's also a replaceable talent.
Still, as an AFC personnel man told Breer, it only takes one team to think far outside the box and see Cousins as a true starter worthy of a first-round pick. Cousins has three games to meet that potential hype.