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Ten Yard Fight -- Trading Kirk Cousins Away Would Be a Mistake

Having a quality backup quarterback separates legitimate contenders from the rest of the league. With Griffin and Cousins on the roster, the Washington Redskins have two players capable of winning important games.


1. When the Washington Redskins selected Kirk Cousins, I was ecstatic. I quickly joined the "This was a brilliant idea!" army and valiantly argued to the death with all of those very rational "What about the million other holes on our team?" folks. There is no disputing that it was a luxury pick. Those who argued that the pick could have or should have been used to grab an offensive lineman or defensive back weren't wrong. Scratch that...they weren't wrong at the time. Through the magic of television, we now have the evidence required to credibly suggest this pick was as smart as it was important to the on-field success of this team--in the short AND long term.

2. In fairness, the potential future trade value was absolutely a reason the trade looked so good right away. If you believed that Robert Griffin III was the man, which we all did, then you probably believed that Kirk Cousins was a superfluous asset and therefore would ideally be used to gain valuable draft picks down the road via trade. There was always more to this deal however. No potential Hall of Fame coach inserts a player on his roster with zero intention or vision of him playing. (T.J. Duckett, please put your hand down.) If we never made the deal to get Griffin, I believe the Shanahans would have drafted Cousins earlier and gone with him as our franchise guy. They fell in love with him at the Senior Bowl last year and felt confident he could come into the league and be successful. He wasn't handpicked to be trade bait. He was handpicked to run the offense. He was handpicked to be a more than capable starter.

3. Part of what confuses me when people suggest that we should trade Cousins this off season is the lack of historical perspective. We haven't had a solid quarterback situation for...jeez...maybe twenty years. In an era when Joe Gibbs found ways to stash players like Mark Rypien on injured reserve while Doug Williams and Jay Schroeder suited up, the Redskins focused on the kind of quarterback depth that led to multiple Super Bowls won by multiple signal callers. Since then...well...please remember that you made me do this:

4. Rich Gannon, Cary Conklin, Heath Shuler, John Friesz, Gus Frerotte, Jeff Hostetler, Trent Green, Brad Johnson, Jeff George, Tony Banks, Shane Matthews, Patrick Ramsey, Danny Wuerffel, Tim Hasselbeck, Mark Brunell, Jason Campbell, Todd Collins, Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman and John Beck. In addition to being the list of quarterbacks that have started games for the Washington Redskins since Mark Rypien last played under center, it is also a prayer we say in the Meringolo household on many nights before dinner. We call it the "Abominable Creed," and it serves to teach my kids that before they were born, sanity did not come easy.

5. When we weren't employing actual scrubs, we were failing to identify and retain players that still had plenty of gas in the tank--guys that could have helped us win. Rich Gannon and Trent Green got away. Brad Johnson was shown the door because we had...oh God...Jeff George. With a few exceptions, this list reads like a list of BACKUPS. By the time Mark Brunell got here, he was still able to manage a game, but he was not the legit starter he was in his prime. His best move was the Heimlich. Jason Campbell had his moments but was undone by a steady diet of chaos and change, rarely having the chance to get comfortable in a system, or the pocket. Were there other factors involved in our steady assault on mediocrity? Of course there were, but you won't be seeing a "30 for 30" episode on ESPN examining how the Redskins failed to win it all at any point during the period these men played in Washington. Nobody is shocked or surprised that we cornered the market on irrelevance during that time.

6. I hear some of you saying, "So what?" We still have no first round picks the next two years. We still have major holes to fill and limited resources to spend in the effort to fill them. If some team comes calling with a high draft pick, you still believe we have no choice but to take it. I think that perspective fails to properly value what a backup quarterback is worth on a good team. If we make the playoffs, it will be because our backup came in and got a win in relief against Baltimore, and a complete game win against Cleveland. That's it. That's the margin between making the playoffs or not making the playoffs. I look at the list above and I don't see many names that could have done what Kirk Cousins just did. And those were our starters! I don't think a second round pick is going to make me forget that with Cousins, we are still a good team, while without Cousins, we are a play away from putting Rex Grossman on the field. Instead of rolling with a backup at our starting position as we did for years, why not run with a starter at the backup position?

7. Quality depth is important at every position, but having a quality backup quarterback is a whole different ball of wax. You wouldn't say your team is as good as your backup running back or backup linebacker, but it would be fair to suggest that most teams will only go as far as their backup quarterback can take them. Think about that--even if they only play one game throughout the season (odds suggest that they will), that is enough to change whether or not a team qualifies for the playoffs. When is the last time we had a guy on our bench that we felt could come in and get that one win? Would you really give up a guy that you know can come in and get that win for the chance to roll the dice in the second round of an upcoming draft? And we have not even mentioned the increased likelihood of injury to Griffin given the way he plays. We know going into every game that there is a pretty reasonable chance that we will have to use our backup quarterback. Therefore, we can't afford to hand the clipboard to a player that we don't have confidence in right away.

8. Kirk Cousins has been our #2 guy since the first game of the season. We now know why. If we were to trade him, he would have to be replaced in order for our team to remain in good position. Rex Grossman, despite his experience, is not a suitable replacement. In fact, to replace Kirk Cousins with a player of similar value, we would either have to spend some serious dough in free agency (which we don't have) or use a pretty high draft pick (which would kind of negate what we got for him in any trade). Otherwise, the Redskins would once again be left in the lurch if and when Robert Griffin III missed time.

9. There is no such thing as wasted value on your bench when you are talking about your backup quarterback situation. Captain Kirk is on year one of a four-year deal paying him a very reasonable fourth-round pick's salary. His value to other teams may be escalating at the moment, but his value to the Redskins over the next couple of next season is higher than anything a team is likely going to give up for him at this point. There very well may come a time when the strategy regarding Cousins transitions from "Hold" to "Sell," but that is still a few years away. He is a valuable contributor to a playoff contender right now. Perhaps just prior to him walking away as a free agent to take the reins of his own team, the Redskins will succeed in capturing the appropriate trade value for Kirk Cousins. Until then, assuming Griffin stays relatively healthy, Washington looks to have one of the most secure quarterback situations in the league for seasons to come. There is almost nothing worth trading that away for in my humble opinion.

10. Speaking of valuable members of a team, I wanted to pass on news that our very own Parks Smith has moved on from Hogs Haven. We certainly hope Parks stops by and contributes his two cents whenever he can, but it sounds like he will be very busy focusing on a few other endeavors. Most of you will never know how hard Parks worked to help make Hogs Haven a great place for Redskins debate and banter. He was always ready to take the unpopular side of an argument just to make sure it saw the light of day. That tended to land some heat on him, but at the end of the day, he was the kind of writer that felt strongly about getting as many viewpoints represented as possible. Some of you have surely attributed perspectives to him that were not necessarily his, but rather just him putting it out there in case someone had not considered it. Parks has been a regular here at Hogs Haven since Kevin and I took it over. In the early days, I promoted him to Head Bouncer since he relished in chasing away disrespectful Cowboys and Eagles fans. In time, he would become our hardest-working editor and one of our most well-known voices. Even if you butted heads with Parks in the comments section--perhaps especially if you did--you always got the sense that being a Redskins fan and participating here at Hogs Haven was a passion into which he invested his whole heart. Please join me in wishing Parks the best and in hoping that we haven't seen the last of him here at Hogs Haven. Thank you Parks. Take care of that family, son. And for God's on that wiffle ball game of yours.