“It’s a lot easier knowing that you’re the guy,” backup quarterback Rex Grossman said. “That’s what I would want.”
That’s what Griffin has, but Grossman and rookie Kirk Cousins don’t. Instead, they’re stuck in the middle of an almost impossible situation. They’re the other quarterbacks without the catchy nickname, $21 million contract and high expectations.
Barring injury, neither one will be the starter Week 1, but that doesn’t stop the desire to want that.
“I mean, if you’re a competitor, you want to be the guy. You want to be the starter and you want to play. That’s not in the cards for us, but your mindset doesn’t change at all,” Grossman said. “Whether it’s awkward or not, you’re trying to get better. That’s your profession. You come out here to be the best, and you come out here to take advantage of any opportunity you have.”
Given Griffin’s role as the face of the franchise before playing a game in a Redskins uniform, the opportunity is partially mental. Grossman and Cousins split practice snaps behind the anointed starter.
They can’t think about the glass ceiling Griffin’s presence provides.
“I’m working really hard right now to be the best quarterback I can be,” Cousins said. “That’s going to take time. I’m not trying to look too far down the road, just trying to win each and every day.”
Every day is a challenge for the 23-year-old fourth-round pick out of Michigan State. He has endured an up-and-down training camp, including a 9-for-22 performance in the preseason opener at the Buffalo Bills, absent the fanfare of Griffin or other touted rookie quarterbacks.
It’s not an easy spot being drafted behind the quarterback of the present and future.
“Whether it’s hard or not, it’s the situation I’m in, and I’m going to do the best I can in that situation and make the most of it and look at the positives,” Cousins said. “I think there are a lot of positives.”
Like the fact that several NFL starting quarterbacks started out as the clear backup. The Houston Texans’ Matt Schaub, the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Matt Cassel and the Arizona Cardinals’ Kevin Kolb are among those who blossomed with time, either with their current team or somewhere else.
If Cousins isn’t thinking that far away, he’s not worried now about cashing in down the line. Patience has been forced upon him.
“You get a chance to learn and develop,” he said. “I’m in a good offense here, a good system, coaches who really know the game and can really get me developed to be a great NFL quarterback.”