Kirk Cousins said Wednesday he’s trying to ignore the situation that led to him assuming the role as the Washington Redskins‘ starting quarterback for the final three games, beginning Sunday on the road against the Atlanta Falcons.
“I can’t control those circumstances, so I’m not going to waste time or energy worrying about them or wishing they were different,” Cousins said. “It’s wasted energy, and I’ve got to devote all the energy I can to beating the Falcons. I need to rise to the occasion, rise to the challenge, dig deep and hopefully have a good performance on Sunday no matter what the circumstances are.”
Robert Griffin III will be inactive on Sunday, and Rex Grossman, who as the third quarterback hasn’t dressed for a game all season, will be the backup. The Redskins had Cousins take all of the first-team snaps during Wednesday’s practice, while Grossman assumed Cousins‘ usual role as the backup. Griffin was left to run the scout team as the third quarterback.
Griffin said he tried to convince coach Mike Shanahan to allow him to finish out the season, but Shanahan, citing Griffin’s safety and the fact that the Redskins, at 3-10, cannot make the playoffs, told him it was in his best interests to remain on the sidelines.
“At the end of the day, Coach’s decision is what we go with, and that’s what it’s always been,” said Griffin, who looked disheartened during his nine-minute press conference. “I have to do that. I have to sit here and do whatever I can to help Kirk, do whatever I can to help this team win, and that’s what we’ve got to do for the next three weeks and going into the offseason.”
Griffin needed surgery to repair the ACL and LCL in his right knee following last season, when he was named The Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year. After missing all of offseason workouts, Griffin was medically cleared to return for the start of training camp, but he was held out of all four preseason games.
When he did return, his play was noticeably different. Griffin lacked the quickness and burst that made him a true dual-threat quarterback as a rookie, and defenses were quick to adapt, forcing him to become a pocket passer for the first month of the season. It wasn’t until near midseason that Griffin resembled the player he was a year ago, but by then, the deficiencies in the rest of the passing game, on defense and on special teams stunted the Redskins‘ success.
Still, his accuracy continued to be a factor, even in recent games. Assuming he does not play again this season, Griffin will finish having completed 60.1 percent of his passes for 3,203 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His completion percentage was down from a year ago and his interceptions have increased; he threw for three more yards in 13 games than he did last season and was on pace to surpass his 20 passing touchdowns from 2012.
“Sometimes you have to evaluate, when you’re getting hit repeatedly — you’ve got to take a look at the risk and reward, and with Robert, I thought that his hits were piling up on him, giving him his toll, and I was afraid we would set him back,” Shanahan said, insisting his decision was approved by owner Dan Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen.
Cousins, who has played in six games during his two seasons in the NFL, coincidentally made his only start during Week 15 last season — a 38-21 road victory over the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 16. This season, he played 10 snaps in a loss to the Denver Broncos on Oct. 27 and played the fourth quarter of the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
“To start this game in Atlanta on Sunday is not the first time that I’ve had to face something that is a little unique,” Cousins said. “It’s just one more time where you’ve got to dig deep, you’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to be tough — mentally and physically tough — and get the job done and help lead others to hopefully do the same.”
Griffin expressed his desire to continue playing to Shanahan, who overruled his objections. In fact, Shanahan said, he first though about benching Griffin before Sunday’s game against the Chiefs, with the conditions of the game and the hits he took only reinforcing his decision.
“As a quarterback, you run the plays that are called,” Griffin said. “You do what your coaches tell you to do. In this instance, he’s telling me it’s time to shut it down. I can’t fight that.”