Never has there been so much fulminating about a fourth-round pick. You’d think it was a slow news week the way folks have been carrying on about the Redskins taking Kirk Cousins, the Michigan State quarterback, three rounds after drafting Robert Griffin III. Is this really that big a deal? Not from where I’m typing.
Let me throw some names at you: Jeff Chandler, Montrae Holland, Will Poole, Sean Considine, Calvin Lowry, Brian Robison, Jeremy Thompson, Donald Washington, Darryl Sharpton and Jordan Cameron. Those are the last 10 players to go 102nd in the draft – before Cousins did, that is. Only Holland has started more than 28 games in his NFL career, and he’s already on his third team (the Cowboys, after spending time with the Saints and Broncos). But more to the point: Is there anybody on that list that particularly excites you?
Sure, you can occasionally hit it big in the fourth round. You know who else was drafted 102nd, once upon a time? Stephen Davis. But at this stage of the proceedings, it’s mostly an exercise in “throwing darts at a board,” as Charley Casserly liked to say. You’re happy if you can come away with a guy good enough to make your roster. If he can eventually start, so much the better. But you don’t expect to find a Pro Bowler, a difference-maker, in that area of the draft. Those types are usually long gone.
So what do you do? Well, if you’re the Redskins and are looking to upgrade the team just about everywhere, you pick the player you’re surest of. Let’s not forget, this is a club that has gone 4-12, 6-10 and 5-11 the past three seasons. It can’t afford the luxury of drafting exclusively for need. It has to be focusing mostly on quality. The Redskins are lacking in quality players, the kind that can put you in the playoffs. If they see Cousins as such a player, even in a backup role, why not grab him?
After all, we’re not talking about just any position. We’re talking about the most important position on the field. We’re also talking about a position where the Redskins have been lacking for far too long. Does anyone really want to see Rex Grossman take many more snaps for the Redskins? Does anybody have much faith in his ability to keep the team in postseason contention if, say, he had to fill in for Griffin for a month or more? Maybe Cousins can be that kind of insurance policy.
And that’s the thing: RG3 is a mobile quarterback who, unlike Grossman, is going to take off downfield a few times a game. He’s also going to be operating behind much the same line Rex did, one that hasn’t exactly been impenetrable in recent years. In other words, he’s going to get hit. And when you get hit, there’s always the chance you’ll get hurt – not seriously necessarily, but dinged enough to have to miss some time.
Look at what happened to the Colts last season when they didn’t have a serviceable Plan B behind Peyton Manning: catastrophe. Now Manning is gone, the coach is gone, the general manager is gone, the franchise architect is gone. This was a club that had made the playoffs 11 of the previous 12 seasons. Once you reach that level, you don’t want to fall off a cliff when you lose your starting quarterback. That’s part of the reasoning behind the Cousins pick – and the releasing of John Beck along with it.
I don’t think Griffin is destined to be a star, I think he’s destined to be a superstar. But if the presence of Cousins puts him off his game in any way, then he’s not nearly the QB I imagined – and he’ll never lead the Redskins where they want to go. So spare me all the consternation about The Player They Could Have Taken at that spot or what subliminal message their pick in the fourth round sends to their pick in the first round.
The Redskins are trying to build a football team, a real football team – and it’s about darn time. This preoccupation with the 102nd selection just makes me wonder if we’ve forgotten what a real football team looks like.
Or is there something else at work here, something that doesn’t have anything to do with football?