- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 1, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Jay Gruden, in his continued attempt to try to make the Washington Redskins not look as incompetent as they appear, revealed Monday in his declaration that Kirk Cousins is the starting quarterback that there was a secret quarterback competition that the rest of us didn’t know about and weren’t smart enough to figure out.

“When we announce a starting group — a first-team offense, a first-string defense — there is still competition there,” Gruden told reporters at Redskins Park. “It’s linebacker, defensive back — it doesn’t matter. You still have to perform at a high level to keep your spot and if you’re a backup and you perform at a high level, you have a chance to take a spot. That’s basically what happened.”

Of course, when the 2014 season ended, we were told by Gruden there was a competition. “I’d like to pick one as soon as I could so we could try to work and grind on him and develop him,” he said. “But until that position is earned, you have to have a competition. I anticipate us having a competition at a lot of spots, and quarterback is no different next year.”

Two months later, in what amounted to a hostage statement at the NFL combine, Gruden declared the competition over and that Robert Griffin III would be the starter.

“Robert ended the season as the starter and we anticipate that moving forward, and we anticipate both of them with a good frame of mind and eager to get better,” he told reporters.

“We’ll go into the season with Robert as the No. 1 guy obviously, and it’s up to Robert to continue to grow and mature as a quarterback and a person and moving forward, we just want to see some improvement. That’s up to us as a staff to get more out of him.”

Who knew there really was a competition, and Gruden kept it secret from all of us? Those Redskins, they’re a clever bunch. Like Gruden said in his post-game press conference in Baltimore on Saturday, “I know people want to make it out that we’re incompetent, but this had nothing to do with us.”

In other words, we’re not as dumb as we look.

Well, guess what Jay — neither are the rest of us.

There was no competition. If there had truly been one — and Gruden, like he has boldly declared, has full authority to pick his starting quarterback — he would have made Cousins the starter after the preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens last year.

No, this wasn’t a competition — it was a window of opportunity, and Gruden and the football people in the building made the most of it.

The window opened on Aug. 20 at FedEx Field, in the second preseason game against the Detroit Lions, when Griffin turned in a horrific performance — 2-for-5 for eight yards and three sacks. It doesn’t matter if it was his fault, their fault, my fault — it looked bad, ending with Griffin being helped off the field with what was allegedly a concussion.

Then you had the nuclear press conference a week later at Redskins Park, when Griffin hung the team out to dry by making them look incompetent when he was asked when, or if, he sustained a concussion against the Lions.

“You’ve got to talk to the people who report that stuff,” he responded. “I don’t report that stuff. I was in the locker room, taking a shower, getting ready to watch the rest of the game, so I don’t know.”

He later followed that up with an “I just work here.”

Griffin had been prepared by the Redskins staff for that press conference and ignored everything he had been instructed to do, sources said, which infuriated those non-football people at Redskins Park.

The final piece, though, was Cousins‘ performance Saturday night in Baltimore. After starting shaky with an interception, Cousins responded by completing 20 of 27 passes for 190 yards, one touchdown and one interception, and running the first-team offense better than it had looked all preseason.

Armed with those three weapons, Gruden was able to make his case to owner Dan Snyder that Cousins should be the starting quarterback.

Without any of those components — particularly Cousins‘ play — Gruden’s press conference on Monday naming Cousins the starter never happens.

Or do you really think, if Cousins went 5-for-14 for 70 yards and two interceptions in that Ravens preseason game, Gruden would have stood before reporters Monday and said, “This is Kirk’s team?”

• 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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