LANHAM – Five years ago, the Washington Redskins were in dire need of a franchise quarterback.
It had been some time since the organization had some stability at the most important position in the NFL.
Coming into the 2012 NFL Draft, the Redskins staff and fans alike salivated over the chance of signing Robert Griffin, III as the future quarterback and cornerstone of a fledgling franchise.
Seeing how Rex Grossman and John Beck could not fit the bill, Washington felt it was time for a change in order to become a legitimate contender in the NFC East, instead of being known as a team that hadn't won a playoff game since Jan. 7, 2006.
They got their wish. However, it is safe to say the blueprint did not quite meet the expectations of the master plan.
With a late fourth round pick (102), the Redskins took another quarterback to provide depth at the position, selecting Michigan State product Kirk Cousins.
RG3 was viewed as the future before ever taking a snap due to his potential and dual-threat capability at Baylor, which led to him being the second overall selection in 2012. Nevertheless, Cousins was still a three-time captain who at the time held records for passing yardage and touchdowns for the Spartans before Connor Cook broke those marks in 2015.
Griffin shot out of the gates, leading his team to a playoff appearance and winning Rookie of the Year honors. Despite having early success, Griffin could not stay on the field after dealing with numerous injuries.
Cousins remained out of the spotlight; the promising signal-caller was barely acknowledged for leading a game-winning drive that year against the Baltimore Ravens when Griffin went down with an injury. Then the former Spartan took down Cleveland after he threw for more than 300 yards and two touchdowns the following week to keep the team's playoff hopes alive.
You like that? Well, it was not a big enough sample size.
Fans were still star struck with the former track star in Griffin and were even blinded by the hype besides the hard-working prodigy in his shadow.
In the end, Griffin couldn't keep his cleats between the white lines and never found the same success he had his rookie season. He is currently looking for a roster spot. Saying that being released by the Cleveland Browns is a fall from grace is an understatement, to say the least.
Cousins, on the other hand, finally got his chance to shine in 2015 when he leapfrogged Griffin into the starting role. And Cousins went on to break several franchise records in 2016, including most passing yardage in a single season (4,917), competitions in a game (41 vs. Dallas) and completions for a season (406). Surprisingly enough, Cousins broke all of those records after he had previously set them.
You would think a long-term contract would be in sight after all of those accolades in just a two-year span as a starter. However, Cousins is on the verge of being the first player to be hit with a franchise tag for the third consecutive time following this year after both sides could not agree on a deal this offseason.
The age old question is why? I cannot understand for the life of me why a player, who has been more productive than many other legendary franchise quarterbacks, can't get any respect. The Rodney Dangerfield of football continues to show leadership and prove his worth on gameday, but it never seems to be enough.
You could still hear fans cheering “RG3!” some games when Cousins was having a rocky start, even when the former Baylor product was inactive, or not even on the team for that matter.
I cannot understand how you do not lock up a player that has taken a team to the postseason multiple times in the last five years and has thrown for nearly 10,000 yards in a two-year span.
One big knock on Cousins was his inaccuracy and interception issues at the start of his career. Truth be told, Cousins was thrown into a lot of garbage-time situations in his first few years when the game was out of hand, had mop up duty because Griffin got hurt again, or the team simply didn't want to damage its golden goose.
Even though Cousins was not a top pick like Griffin, he has vastly outperformed him. His touchdown to interception ratio has improved drastically, and Cousins simply gives the Redskins the best chance to win.
Don't get me wrong, I love what Colt McCoy brings to the team, but we all know he is nothing more than a stop-gap in regards to the future of the quarterback position. Former Nebraska product and 2016 sixth-round draft pick Nate Sudfeld has not shown enough consistency or promise since he has donned burgundy and gold.
Some analysts claim Cousins does not deserve what he is looking for in a long-term contract. However, I believe it is quite the contrary. The market indicates what a player deserves, and when you see nothing but tumbleweed in the free agent market, you have to pay top dollar for an upper echelon quarterback.
Most critics may scoff at that last statement, but whether you like Cousins or not, the numbers are there. Cousins has had a top 10 QBR rating the last two seasons as a starter and was ranked as a top five quarterback in that stat according to ESPN in 2016, just behind future hall of fame inductee Drew Brees.
Unless the Redskins want to tank or start the process all over again, they will have to throw the kitchen sink at Cousins in order to have a chance at being competitive in the future.