I am a new Redskins fan… ever since they drafted one of my all time favorite college players: Kirk Cousins. From an extremely biased MSU fan’s perspective, I think Washington made a great pick, and I’d like to share some background information with you about your fourth round pick.
Let me first preface this, however, by saying as much as I am a fan of Kirk Cousins, it is indisputable that RG3 is the franchise quarterback and hopefully will be for the next decade and onward. This is not meant to be a comparison to Robert Griffin III in any way. Also, I’d like to add that I don’t hope for players to be hurt… ever and I wish RG3 all the best. If Kirk Cousins remains on the bench for the duration of his career as a Redskin, my message to you is you should still be excited to have this guy on your team.
Let me tell you a bit of the football story of Kirk Cousins.
In the fall of 2006 Michigan State had not one, but two well regarded quarterback recruits committed for the 2007 class, neither of which was Kirk Cousins. MSU’s prospective signal callers were Keith Nichol and Nick Foles.
After Spartan head football coach John L. Smith got fired, Keith Nichol de-committed from MSU and went instead to Oklahoma. New MSU coach Mark Dantonio still needed depth at QB so weeks before signing day he offered an unheralded two star recruit who had been trying to decide whether he should go to Toledo or Western Michigan.
Fortunately, for Spartan fans everywhere, Kirk Cousins went instead to Michigan State. After redshirting his freshman year Cousins was selected ahead of bigger, more athletic/heralded QB Nick Foles during MSU’s spring game draft. Traditionally, MSU’s seniors are divided into two squads… the seniors then draft the rest of the teams; once a player is selected i.e. a QB the rest of that position group has to be exhausted before a player at a different position can be drafted. This type of surprising pick by the players usually indicate a player performing really well in practice (which may or may not translate into performance in the fall) or the players know who has a sore ankle or otherwise. I did not mention this to speculate as to why this happened; I will however speculate that Cousins made a positive early impression.
Keith Nichol decided to transfer from Oklahoma to Michigan State. Then Nick Foles transferred to Arizona (where he did quite well).
Following Brian Hoyer’s graduation, there was an open competition for the starting QB job between Nichol and Cousins. Nichol was the more athletic QB, the recruit with elite 11 accolades (the two shared snaps in 2009). Before the season started, before the starting job had been decided, MSU’s players voted redshirt sophomore Kirk Cousins as a team captain.
Mark Dantonio’s response? Are you sure? He made the team vote again.
In 2010 Cousins led MSU to a share of it’s first Big ten title in 20 years. Leading MSU to back to back 11 win seasons, Kirk Cousins helped transform the very culture of football at Michigan State, changing a middling program best known for it’s Sparty No! moments (yeah, just like that except in real games… every fall) into a top tier big ten program.
- Wins (27)
- Passing touchdowns (66)
- Passing yards (9,131)
- Completions (723)
- Passing efficiency (146.1 rating)
- Total offense (9,004 yards)
- 200-yard passing games (26)
And there have been a few NFL quarterbacks from MSU in the not so distant past:
- Jim Miller (6 year pro, 2+ as a starter, 15-10 record)
- Tony Banks (9 year pro, 5+ as a starter, 35-43 record)
- Jeff Smoker (2 year back up)
- Drew Stanton (4 year + back up – current, 2-2 record)
- Brian Hoyer (3 year backup, no the Patriots aren’t trying to flip him… yes they’re glad they have him for another year)
I was attending MSU during Miller and Banks’ tenure and have followed all these guys. Is Kirk Cousins better than RG3? Probably not (as an ardent Cousins fan I’m holding out the possibility there’s a slim chance he could be… statistics and experts be damned).
Is Kirk Cousins better than all those other quarterbacks listed above, as well as other backup quarterbacks and potentially some starters in the NFL? There is no doubt in my mind the answer is an emphatic yes and that is the primary reason he was picked by the Redskins.
Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins are different quarterbacks. In every draft there may be 1 or 2 can’t miss prospects (though inexplicably almost half of those miss). RG3 is the NFL prototypical dream with amazing athleticism to boot. You sell the farm to get him.
Then there are those QBs that have a deficiency here or there but are projected as a potential future NFL starter (Russell Wilson? Too short. Brandon Weeden? Too old. Kirk Cousins? Not athletic… too Kirk Cousinsy. Still Mike Shanahan was not alone in thinking Cousins fit in this category. And if you can get a player like that to be your back up QB, that is a luxury for a lot of NFL teams.
So what exactly are you getting in Kirk Cousins? You’re getting a very good pocket passing quarterback. He’s not known as a scrambler… he’ll get rid of the ball or eat it. And he unloads quickly, because, well he’s had to. MSU’s offensive line last year was a combination of inexperience and injuries. I'm a fan of the guys up front too, but in all honesty, they struggled some or at best were inconsistent. Despite having a well regarded stable of running backs, the Spartans finished dead last in the Big Ten in rushing… and Cousins protection frequently only lasted a brief while. So he got better at pre-snap reads, reading shifting defenses faster, releasing the ball quicker.
Make no mistake, Kirk Cousins carried the Spartan offense on his back last year. Third and six was frequently a better situation than third and one, because in the former case, you knew Cousins was going to make a good decision and a good throw.
In Kirk Cousins, you don’t get a guy with a rifle for an arm, but you do get a guy who can make all the NFL throws.
In Kirk Cousins you get a consummate teammate. Yes Kirk Cousins will compete. Yes he will want a chance to play… no it probably won’t happen. And RG3’s biggest supporter will be Kirk Cousins (please see also, the 2011 Lowe’s Senior Class Award). You get a guy who is going to do everything he can to help the Redskins win even if it is from the sideline. Take a listen to his recent interview with Dan Patrick if you have any doubt.
Fianally, you get a quarterback who’s greatest asset is between his ears. He is a film study junkie and a meticulous preparer. Should the need arise, he’ll be ready to go.
If you still have reservations, please just give Kirk a chance. I think that's all he wants.