There are several reasons to be skeptical about whether Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins can repeat his success of 2015.
For starters, Washington declining to extend Cousins long term — making him the first quarterback to play on the franchise tag since Drew Brees in 2005 — should inherently be cause for concern on some level. Brees, though San Diego had Philip Rivers waiting in the wings, wound up with a new team the following year.
One would also be foolish to dismiss outright the possibility of a sophomore slump, especially in Washington, where fans watched Robert Griffin III go from Rookie of the Year in 2012 to clipboard holder in the span of one calendar year.
Can Cousins juke a similar fate in his second year starting?
“It’s going to be interesting to see what Kirk Cousins is able to do as it applies to now being the incumbent quarterback for the Washington Redskins, because there’s now film,” Redskins great LaVar Arrington told fill-in host Eric Davis on the “Rich Eisen Show” on Tuesday.
“I said that wildcat would ruin people’s careers because once these defensive coordinators get enough film on it, they are going to realize that all’s you need to do is hit the quarterback,” he said. “Hit the quarterback, we’ll worry about the yardage and all that stuff later. If a guy gets 30, 40 yards, but in that 30, 40 yards we’ve hit your quarterback four or five times, you have a decision you have to make.
“So, the same thing goes with Kirk Cousins. Now that there is film on him, and he had such a strong performance last year as the first-year quarterback for them, I think that it now comes back to will Kirk Cousins be able to raise his game high enough to have the success that he did before people got film on him, and had an entire offseason to study him?”
Arrington had been asked if he believes Griffin, now starting for the Browns, can revitalize his career in Cleveland. Arrington, at one point, posed a hypothetical in which one would need to choose which QB, between Griffin and Cousins, has a better chance at having future NFL success.
Their careers inextricably linked, both as Redskins draft picks in 2012, Cousins and Griffin may be measured against each other in this way for years to come.
“Kirk Cousins has a plethora, an array, a diverse, a wide range of talent on that team,” Arrington said. “From [DeSean] Jackson, to [Pierre] Garcon, to [Jordan] Reed. They get Niles Paul back this year. They have some weapons on that team. [Jamison] Crowder. I don’t know if they’re all going to be able to be on the roster. That’ll be an interesting storyline to follow, but if there’s anybody in the NFL that has a nice opportunity with the group of guys that is in that locker room and in that huddle with him, you’d have to assume that Kirk Cousins is going to be the guy.”
“But as far as Robert Griffin III,” he said, “I just. You know, if he went to a team where it was a weaker division, like the Eagles or somewhere within the NFC East, or another division where you could sit there and say it might be a top-heavy division, maybe like the NFC South that has a few good teams but you can also put points on the board, you can get yards up on the board and do things like that, I would say maybe Robert Griffin III has an opportunity.
“But you go to the one team that is the worst team in one of the toughest divisions in all of the NFL, it doesn’t make sense to say that a guy that was struggling in the NFC East can go to the worst team in the AFC North and have success against Pittsburgh, against Cincinnati and against Baltimore. …It’s just, it’s not a good recipe at all.”
Of Griffin, Arrington also said he “needed someone to develop him as a quarterback before he got to the NFL. And then once he got to the NFL, he needed more of someone to develop him as an NFL quarterback.”
“At this point in his career, I think it’s just going to be difficult,” Arrington said of Griffin’s chance at success. “Because, for one, we all know, once you come into the league, the longer you’re in the league, the harder it is to convince a grown man of certain things that they need to do. And even harder than convincing them, once you convince them, for what it’s worth, it’s hard to break those type of habits.”
“He doesn’t have — just speaking bluntly — he doesn’t have NFL quality habits,” he continued. “We’ve done numerous film studies on Robert Griffin III. We broke the film down on him quite a bit. I think that, unless you have it in you where that personal timer in your head says, ‘Okay. Here are my reads. I’m going through my progressions. Boom. Time’s up. Throw it away. Get on the ground. Run, slide.’ One of those things. His is: Get the ball. Look at my first receiver, my first option. He’s not there? Oh, I feel pressure? I’m running.
“That’s his options. Those are the options that he has shown. I’m not making this up. Go watch any film; that’s what he does. I don’t know that [Hue Jackson] can break him out of that habit, and if that’s what he is as a quarterback in the National Football League, those type of quarterbacks aren’t able to have a long measure of success in the game.”
“It was the running attack that led to his success in his rookie season,” he said. “So the same principle that we’re looking at, as it applies to Robert Griffin III, which was the element of the unknown, was the reason why I believe he was able to have so much success so early in his career.”