Last year, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins got three late-season starts after starter Robert Griffin III landed on the bench, ostensibly to protect him from injury.
This year, thanks to an injury from which Griffin couldn’t protect himself, Cousins will get some more starts. And if he performs well, he could end up being the starter.
Everyone knows it. But Cousins is smart enough to not say it.
“This is Robert’s team,” Cousins told reporters after Sunday’s win. “My job is to be the backup quarterback, and if called upon to come in and play, then I better play and help this team win. That job doesn’t change. This is Robert’s team.”
Maybe it’s Robert’s team for now. But it can become Cousins’ team, if Cousins keeps playing like he did on Sunday.
For all its politics and periodic BS, the NFL is a meritocracy. Coaches, General Managers, and owners want to win. The guys who put the team in the best position to win will play.
Of course, it’s possible Cousins already was that guy. But he wasn’t going to get the chance to prove it absent an injury to Griffin, thanks to the politics and periodic BS employed to justify giving up way too much to move up four spots to draft Griffin. But an injury seemed inevitable after Griffin showed four weeks ago in the preseason against Cleveland that Griffin, for all of his God-given gifts, lacks the ability to keep himself healthy on a consistent basis.
With the team hoping Griffin will miss only four or five weeks, if Cousins shows in the next month that he has the ability to run coach Jay Gruden’s offense far better than Griffin can, Cousins could end up keeping the job well after Griffin is healthy.
Of course, whether Griffin is fully healthy could be the vehicle the team uses to keep Griffin on the sidelines. Two seasons after he was rushed back from a knee injury only to have the knee implode during a playoff game, keep your ears open for the “100 percent” rule, which other coaches have used in the past to justify keeping the starting quarterback on the bench when the backup has shown that he has the hot hand.