Had it been left up to Kirk Cousins, he would not have been drafted by the Washington Redskins. But on Day 3 of the NFL draft Cousins received a phone call from Redskins coach Mike Shanahan welcoming him to the team. Cousins racked up the most wins at quarterback in Michigan State history. He would have rather been drafted by a team that wanted and needed to groom him to start immediately.
Earlier this month, Cousins reported for the Redskins' three-day rookie minicamp and went about his business with goals for both the immediate and distant future.
"The cream always rises to the top, so if I'm as good as I hope to be some day, then I'm going to get that opportunity – whether here or somewhere else," said Cousins, who many draft experts thought would be selected in the second or third round and compete for a starting job as a rookie. "But this is a great opportunity to learn and develop and to grow."
Coach Shanahan and his staff believed they needed more than just Robert Griffin III and 10th year veteran Rex Grossman at quarterback. The day after the Redskins chose Griffin, Shanahan told him that the team likely would draft his long-term backup as well. When Cousins fell to the fourth round, the Redskins felt he was too good to pass up.
After only five practices, Shanahan named Griffin the team's starter, attempting to kill any talk of a quarterback controversy. But the coach explained why Cousins is a vital piece to the puzzle.
"That guy's one play away from being the starter," Shanahan said. If the starter goes down with an injury, "I want to have the ability to still win. It's hard. You can't find quarterbacks. ... If you can develop a couple of guys and have three guys on your team, you feel like you have the chance to do something special in the long run."
Some football analysts disagreed with Shanahan's decision to draft two quarterbacks with the ability to start. "It can divide a team, and it can cause problems," ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr. said. "If RGIII is nicked up and Cousins lights it up, what are you going to do then?
Shanahan disagrees. He is very comfortable with his draft decisions. As for Cousins, he said his relationship with Griffin has "gotten off to a great start." And Griffin – who roomed with Cousins during minicamp – said, "There are no issues here. ...Having two rookie quarterbacks growing together is a good thing."