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He Said, She Said: The Youth Movement (Part II)

ASHBURN, VA - MAY 06: Robert Griffin III #10 and Kirk Cousins #12 of the Washington Redskins drop back to throw a pass during the Washington Redskins rookie minicamp on May 6, 2012 in Ashburn, Virginia. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
ASHBURN, VA - MAY 06: Robert Griffin III #10 and Kirk Cousins #12 of the Washington Redskins drop back to throw a pass during the Washington Redskins rookie minicamp on May 6, 2012 in Ashburn, Virginia. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
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A few weeks back, Ken and I introduced you to a new segment called "He Said, She Said" about debatable topics in DC sports. We started a conversation about DC rookies, prompting some great discussion in the comments. Today, we'll wrap up the second half of the rookie chat.

What could RG3, Bryce Harper, and Braden Holtby learn from each other about handling the DC-sports spotlight? And who do you think plays in DC the longest?

Keely: All three players could learn a lot from one another. Holtby's poise under pressure was nothing short of astounding--that composure will be vital for RG3 in this pressure-cooker football market. Just look at the scar above Harper's left eye and you know "Bam Bam" could benefit from a little poise himself.

Harper's hustle and grit are just as well suited to a football field as a baseball diamond. Heck, anybody could take a page from his book about competitiveness, but you'll likely see just as much of that from RG3 this season--albeit in a more polished form. And that's one of Griffin's greatest strengths: his charisma endears him to fans almost as much as it inspires his teammates.

As for tenure in DC, I read that Harper’s $9.9 million contract is good through 2018. That said, people are already talking about the Yankees writing him a $400 million check when the time comes. The Nats’ best hope of keeping him is staying in contender form, because a guy like Bryce wants to play for a winner.

I'd say Holtby will have the longest career in DC just because Harper could be poached by the pinstripes and RG3 has durability concerns. NHL goalies also take longer to mature and tend to have long careers. Purely speculation, of course.

Which coach has the most work to do to maximize the potential of his rookie, Mike Shanahan, Davey Johnson, or the yet-unnamed Capitals coach?

Ken: There is going to be far more work put into RG3 than the other two. Davey Johnson is not going to just leave Bryce Harper alone, but both Harper and Holtby are more likely to be left to find their way in a manner that RG3 will not. At the plate, it is Harper versus the pitcher. In the net, it is Holtby versus the shooter. Under center, it is RG3 and ten other guys versus eleven players hell-bent on hurting him.

This is not to suggest Harper and Holtby don’t or won’t require coaching, but playing quarterback in the NFL has to rank among the hardest jobs to master in professional sports. Hitting a major-league pitcher and stopping a 100-mph puck are extremely difficult tasks, often made possible only by latent abilities that few possess. Successful NFL quarterbacks also must possess these intangible skills, but capable players have bombed out at the position repeatedly. In many instances, it is the pairing of a smart coach and an eager player that allows a quarterback to succeed.

There is no comparison when it comes to the amount of communication that takes place between the quarterback and his coach(es) during a game and the amount of communication that Harper and Holtby have with their coaches during the game. I mean, RG3 will be hearing Shanny’s voice in his helmet between every single play, and then they will be breaking down everything on the sideline between possessions.

I think the question is interesting because it asks about "maximizing" the potential of each rookie. Maybe I am being too naïve, but I am thinking Holtby is pretty much on an island. He is going to sink or swim back there based on his own mental toughness.

Harper though… Davey Johnson is really getting psychological in his approach to the young phenom. Maybe he is not as hands-on as Mike Shanahan will have to be with RG3, but Harper’s potential is so great, you have to think that Johnson is employing a great deal of thought in his effort to get the most out of Harper. I happen to think Davey Johnson is the best coach/manager of all the pro teams we have in DC. I have supreme confidence that he will maximize Harper’s potential. Further, I think his impact on his player will be greater than Shanahan’s impact on Griffin—even if Shanahan ends up working harder.

Keely: You're right about the coaching scenarios. The transition from college quarterback to NFL quarterback is arguably the toughest jump to make in pro sports. Complicated offensive schemes are largely responsible, though the physicality of the game leaps ahead as well.

You make a compelling point about the mental aspect of Holtby's job, and there have been numerous articles written about his quirky, borderline oddball routines before and during games. Baseball also has a hefty mental element, as anyone who’s watched a pitcher returning from injury knows. That no-limits, ferocious confidence is one of Harper's biggest assets. It's the edge he has over other physically talented players.

Sure, mental toughness goes a long way in football. Just long enough to get your bell rung if you don't know what you're doing. That's where Shanahan comes in. RG3 has expressed his long admiration for Shanahan, and that should make for a good working relationship because Griffin will give Shanny the wide-eyed reverence he demands in exchange for the old man’s considerable vault of expertise.

Which jersey are you going to buy first?

Keely: I'm definitely a jersey-wearing fan. But let's clarify: I mean the real jerseys, not the bedazzled ladies wear the NFL is hawking these days. And I'm buying a Harper jersey, right after I get that RG3 one :)

Ken: I am very much relieved to hear you wear the real jerseys. That leaves Kevin as the only one of us supporting the bedazzled ladies’ apparel market.

Keely: I cannot tell you how many posts I could devote solely to denouncing the monstrosities that the NFL markets to women as "fashion apparel." But I digress...

How does Kirk Cousins fit into the rookie mix?

Ken: Let’s not leave out Kirk Cousins. His development is almost as important to the Washington franchise as Griffin’s. On one hand, he could be on the field if something happens to RG3. Assuming we are riding high behind #10 for the long haul, Cousins becomes a valuable bargaining chip in trade discussions with other teams.

Let me be very clear when I say that I am FAR more interested in Cousins’ development as our primary backup for the immediate future. I love the investment we made at this position in the most recent draft and I love the commitment to depth at the most important spot on the field.

The reality is that very few starting quarterbacks stay healthy indefinitely. Teams are consistently held hostage by backup quarterbacks that are insanely inferior to their starters. We could very well be one of those teams, but Kirk Cousins could be the reason we aren’t. I think that his arrival, while less glitzy and less impactful, is very meaningful. Nobody is going to confuse Cousins with Harper, Holtby, or Griffin, but we do know this: few people in DC are as popular as the backup quarterback.

Keely: On the same page with Cousins. I'm surprised so few people in the national media pointed out what a brilliant, win-win move it was. Am I interested in his development as a backup? Sure. Am I more interested to see his worth skyrocket as last-resort quarterbacks choke across the league? If I'm lying, I'm dying.

Let's see here… At the end of last season, the following teams were active in the QB market: Colts, Redskins, Seahawks, Broncos, Jaguars, Dolphins, Browns, and Vikings. While the first four got whom they wanted, the last four settled for Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Tannehill, Colt McCoy/Brandon Weeden, and Christian Ponder, respectively. Add to that list teams that are relying on Matt Hasselbeck, Carson Palmer, and Kevin Kolb, and I'll bet money that someone is going to see value in a promising young QB. Or even a not-so-promising one.

Maybe it's just my desperation to recoup draft picks talking, but I'm excited to see what Cousins can do.

To the comments!