- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Relax. The following 800 words don’t contain a single anonymous source.

I know, I know. How can two sentences be strung together about these Redskins without handing over the Teflon-coated protection of allowing the participants to spew invective without being named?

Those sources close to those familiar with the thinking of someone inside (or outside) the organization have become as much a part of this shambolic season as the seven-turnover game and special teams that can’t do much of anything right.

The festival of leaks is such that the passage of two or three days without another report, crammed with anonymous accusations and blame-shifting that would embarrass a grade-schooler, seem as rare as an actual victory.

No one wants to attach their name to this odious season and, for that, you can’t blame them (much as they try to blame most everyone else).

Amid the orgy of discontent, however, resides the temptation to scrounge for the slightest bit of hope on the woebegone 53-man roster Mike Shanahan assembled. That’s what happens with 3-11 teams. Even the barest hint of success can quickly lose all sense of proportion and that, of course, brings us to Kirk Cousins.

The second-year backup played the part of a capable, prepared NFL quarterback in his first start of the season Sunday. That the game ended in a one-point loss to the abysmal Falcons was beside the point. In this season of ever-shrinking expectations, the effort by Cousins looked positively transformative.

In throwing for 389 yards and three touchdowns, the quarterback hit receivers in stride, threw catchable screens and showed the accuracy to not force receivers to contort their bodies into all manner of unnatural positions to simply come down with the football. Cousins didn’t dawdle in the pocket and, in the process, his much-maligned offensive line turned into a group that didn’t allow their quarterback to be ground into the turf on a regular basis in the space of a week.

In short, Cousins was all the things Robert Griffin III hasn’t been this season.

But the backup’s outing against one of the NFL’s worst pass defenses can’t obscure the fact that, for better or worse, Griffin is the franchise’s future.

The starter will watch the last wheezes of this season from the sideline because of Shanahan’s head-scratching dictate to preserve his health for the offseason program. Days earlier, the coach insisted regular-season snaps were the critical to the quarterback’s development. Regardless, we now inhabit a world where the man the Redskins swapped three first-round picks — the final one currently sits No. 2 in the 2014 draft — to the Rams for the opportunity to draft is relegated to the third-string behind Rex Grossman.

That is the latest installment of a forgettable season for Griffin. The adoring “R-G-3! R-G-3!” chants and infestation of No. 10 jerseys that filled his charmed rookie season seem more distant than they actually are. The man Washington worshipped as its read-option messiah morphed into a question mark in sweats listening to play calls on an earpiece.

For all of Griffin’s physical gifts, struggles with footwork and accuracy and cycling through his progressions and mechanics and taking too much time to throw the football dogged this season’s 13 games. An offseason that could’ve been invested in refining those wanting areas of his game instead was devoted to rehabilitating his damaged right knee because, as the shoe commercial shouted, he was all in for week one.

Whether Griffin can become a quarterback worth the franchise-altering bounty the Redskins surrendered is an open question. But he is just 23 years old, playing the most challenging position in professional sports. Patience is warranted. After all, no picture of Griffin is complete without both the success of 2012 or this season’s regression.

One game from Cousins shouldn’t change the long-term view in an organization where a coherent path forward is difficult to discern. But the backup quarterback, as the old joke goes, is the most popular man in town. Lost in the glee about Cousins‘ play Sunday was that Griffin surpassed his 94.8 quarterback rating four times this season and nine times in 2012. It wasn’t as if Cousins, who handled an awkward situation with decency and grace that should be an example to the rest of the organization engaged in an open war of leaks, did something unprecedented.

Even the backup is adamant that Griffin remains the franchise. The Redskins can’t afford for him not to be; anything else would only compound this season’s embarrassment. Difficult of spot as the Redskins are in today, the quarterback not developing into the dynamic, consistent player we’ve seen flashes of would set them back a decade.

For all of Griffin’s missteps on and off the field, responsibility for the months-long debacle extends far beyond No. 10. The free-agent busts? The woebegone defense? The anything-but-special teams? The draft flops? None of that is on the quarterback.

You don’t have to be an anonymous source to figure that out.



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