The veteran quarterback tutoring the rookie is so common an NFL arrangement because it makes so much sense: An apprentice learning from someone who has done it before.
Two young quarterbacks learning on the fly together is a different approach. But it's one that so far has worked well for the Washington Redskins with rookies Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins, and the Cleveland Browns with rookie Brandon Weeden and third-year player Colt McCoy.
For the Redskins, drafting Griffin and Cousins in April allowed them to pick up the playbook and much more at the same time.
"We've been going through this experience, this rookie experience since Day One when we showed up together," Cousins said. "We've both been rookies, we've both had to learn a lot when it comes to living the NFL life. We have done that together. ... I see him more than I see anybody in my life because of how many hours we're here, because we're both rookies. We do spend a lot of time together trying to help one another."
Even though there's a question who will start Sunday in Cleveland given that Griffin is questionable with a right knee injury, there was no debate about who the Redskins' guy was all along. Cousins has said all the right things about wanting to take advantage of his opportunities to prove to someone, be it in Washington or elsewhere in the league, that he could start full-time.
But that didn't stop him from cultivating a good working relationship with Griffin and picking up parts of his game and even some study habits.
"Well, I think it's been great for both quarterbacks to come in because they feed off each other. They're both students of the game," coach Mike Shanahan said. "They're both extremely bright. They have great work ethic, all the intangibles that you're looking for in a quarterback, and they have that type of work ethic and work together."
Cousins said it was a "unique" situation to have rookies in the top two spots on the depth chart, but that hasn't hampered either one's development. Griffin, at least up until this week while dealing with a Grade 1 sprain of the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee, took the majority of the reps in practice.
But Cousins' presence still means something.
"I think it's a great situation," offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. "When you got guys who are very competitive but really good people, smart people, they really do push each other. I think they bring the most out of each other."
Mike Shanahan said Cousins really didn't have a choice but to accept his role when drafted, but it might've been hard to envision his handling the situation this well.
"It worked out like Coach wanted it to. You've got two guys coming in, so we're both having to learn the system," Griffin said. "Both of us learn it in different ways, and it's just been a great relationship with me, Kirk and then Rex [Grossman], the two young guys and the 10-year vet."
In Cleveland, Weeden, the 22nd pick in the draft, is getting his tutorial from McCoy, the Browns' starter last season. McCoy is just 25, but he had 21 games' worth of experience coming in.
"He's able to help me out throughout the game and throughout the week of practice," Weeden said. "Colt has been helpful. He's helped prepare me week in and week out."
Like Griffin with the Redskins, Weeden was handed the keys to the Browns' offense. So McCoy's job as the backup is a bit different than Cousins'.
"Colt has done an outstanding job of doing his role this year. I appreciate him for that," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "There's a lot of people here that are helping Brandon do his thing."
Considering that Redskins coaches believe Cousins has helped push Griffin, the Michigan State product has done his job, too, while also showing his talents.
But Griffin and Cousins' work is never done.
"We're sort of learning as we go how to best prepare. The first time around we're just figuring things out," Cousins said. "I think the more time we spend together, the more we've been able to help each other, the better we get to know one another and the better our relationship is."
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