- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 24, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

How did we get to the path that has led to Kirk Cousins being the starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins and maybe being the one to lead this franchise out of its decades-long abyss?

When we go through the Cousins exhibit years from now in Canton, what will be the timeline that led to the moment where Cousins — not Robert Griffin III — would be the franchise’s best hope Saturday night to win the NFC East division title against the Philadelphia Eagles?

It wasn’t a storybook beginning. After Washington traded three first-round draft choices and a second to the St. Louis Rams for the chance to pick second in 2012 — and select Griffin — the Cousins story began two days later.

April 28, 2012:Cousins is drafted in the fourth round by Mike Shanahan. He wasn’t happy. “I was surprised and a bit disappointed,” Cousins wrote in his book, “Game Changer: Faith, Football and Finding Your Way,” published in 2013. “My agent was shocked.”

Aug. 18, 2012:Cousins completes 18 of 23 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-31 loss to the Chicago Bears in Washington’s second preseason game. Bears analyst Jim Miller declares, “Kirk Cousins, let’s put it this way. I hate quarterback controversies, but after how [Cousins has] played so far, people are going to say that.”

Dec. 9, 2012:Griffin sprains his right knee after a 13-yard run late in the game while leading the Redskins on a late-game drive down 28-20 to the Baltimore Ravens. Cousins enters and hits Pierre Garcon with an 11-yard touchdown pass, then runs in the two-point conversion to tie the score at 28-28. Washington would go on to win, 31-28, in overtime on a 34-yard Kai Forbath field goal.

Dec. 16, 2012: Over the objections of Griffin, Cousins starts against the Cleveland Browns and completes 26 of 37 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns in 38-21 victory.

Aug. 19, 2013:Cousins sprains his right foot in a 24-13 preseason win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, setting the stage for Griffin’s “All In For Week One” return in the season opener after reconstructive right knee surgery.

Dec. 15, 2013:Shanahan benches a struggling Griffin for the rest of the season, starting Cousins for the final three games. He completes 29 of 45 passes for 381 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-26 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, but also throws two interceptions. He finishes the final two games of the year with poor performances against the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, failing to make the most of the starting opportunities.

Aug. 4, 2014:Redskins hold joint practices at training camp in Richmond with the New England Patriots. Reports surface that Patriots coaches were more impressed with Cousins than Griffin in the workouts.

Aug. 23, 2014:Griffin goes 5-for-8 for 20 yards and an interception in a 23-17 preseason loss to the Ravens. Cousins completes 14 of 20 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Redskins television analyst and Super Bowl quarterback Joe Theismann says, “Let’s stop beating around the bush. Kirk Cousins has played much better at the quarterback position than Robert Griffin III has. … Right now, Robert Griffin III is his quarterback. Now, if there was a quarterback competition, it wouldn’t be a competition. Kirk Cousins would be the man I believe he would have to go to.”

Sept. 14, 2014:Griffin dislocates his left ankle early in a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Cousins enters and completes 22 of 33 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-10 win. He remains the starter for the next four games — all losses — and then is benched at halftime against the Tennessee Titans, replaced by Colt McCoy, who leads Washington to a comeback 19-17 win. After eight interceptions in three games, plus a half against the Titans, Cousins doesn’t see the field for the rest of the season.

Aug. 20, 2015:Griffin is sacked three times, fumbles twice and goes 2-for-5 for eight yards in Washington’s 21-17 preseason win over the Detroit Lions. He also sustained a concussion. Despite being cleared, coach Jay Gruden said Griffin he won’t start the next preseason game against Baltimore.

Aug. 29, 2015: Cousins starts in the Baltimore preseason game, goes 20 of 27 for 190 yards and one touchdown. “Right now, I’m going to evaluate the game, go from there and find out how Robert is doing,” Gruden tells reporters. “I’m not going to announce anything. There’s no controversy.”

Aug. 31, 2015: Gruden names Cousins the Redskins‘ starting quarterback for 2015. “It’s Kirk’s team,” he tells reporters.

It has been a bumpy road since that Saturday in 2012 when Cousins got the disappointing phone call from Shanahan, but it may turn out to be the path for success for a franchise that has rarely chosen the right road.

⦁ Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.


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