Kirk Cousins on Sean McVay Calling Plays from Coaching Booth

WASHINGTON — Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay viewed Thursday’s preseason opener from a new vantage point.

Instead of calling plays from the sideline, as he had for the Redskins the past two seasons, he took a bird’s-eye view, coordinating the offense from high above the field in one of the coaching booths.

Joe Theismann, who spoke to McVay before announcing the game on Comcast Mid-Atlantic, says the change was an experiment for McVay, who has yet to decide whether he’ll choose the booth or return to the sideline once the regular season kicks off.

“This was an experiment, just like preseason is something where the players like to try different things,” Theismann told 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier Friday.

“Sean went upstairs because he’d never been there before. As a matter of fact, [Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator] Kyle Shanahan was upstairs for the first time. It gives you a different perspective and a view of the games. I’m curious to talk to Sean and see how he felt viewing the game from the booth versus down on the field.”

It also meant a change for quarterback Kirk Cousins, who frequently consulted McVay on the sideline during his breakout 2015 season.

“It’s a little different,” Cousins told 106.7 The Fan. “This is the first year that a play-caller can be in the box upstairs and directly talk to us through the helmet. You used to have to talk through somebody on the sideline, which took too long with the play clock, so Sean was always down on the sideline.”

“So he’s trying it this preseason just to get a feel for it and see which one he likes better,” he said. “There’s pros and cons to both for him as a play-caller. For me, I think it’s just, between series when the defense is on the field, it’s obviously easier to talk to him face-to-face on the bench right there, but with [quarterbacks coach Matt] Cavanaugh being there on the bench and Sean’s ability to call down, I didn’t feel too different last night, and I think whichever one he feels gives him the best chance to call the right plays, I’m good with that.”

Part of the impetus for the change is a new league rule. Prior to this season, coaches with headsets were not permitted to relay plays to the quarterback without being physically present on the field. That’s no longer the case. McVay can now transmit play calls directly to Cousins’ helmet from the booth.

Regardless of whatever rules were in place last season, Cousins says “it’s pretty much always just been Sean for last season and for this season, so I think that’s the rhythm we’ll keep up with.”

“Down on the field, you really can’t see whether corners are sitting inside wide receivers or the true depth of the safeties in a proximity to where they are on the line of scrimmage,” Theismann said. “There’s a lot of things you can see from a vantage point up high that you can’t see. Now, what you sacrifice is that immediate communication with the quarterback and the conversation you want to have.”

“But Matt Cavanaugh does a great job as the quarterback coach being able to communicate what Sean’s thinking,” he continued. “You know, you have three people on the same page, three minds all working as one — Matt, you’ve got Sean and Kirk — all three minds in sync when it comes to communicating, so it’s very easily for one to say something to the other and it doesn’t get lost in translation.

“So I’m curious to see how he felt upstairs. I think it was an experiment. My guess is he’s an on-field guy. I think that’s where he feels most comfortable, but I’m curious to see, like I said, after a conversation with him if he’ll try it again this week.”

Follow @ChrisLingebach and @1067TheFan on Twitter.

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