The Redskins stunned no one with their first quarterback choice. They did just that with their second, selecting Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins in the fourth round.
Washington becomes the first team since 1989 to draft two quarterbacks within the first four rounds, having already taken Robert Griffin III in the first. Clearly, the Redskins hope they have their starter and main backup for the next four or five seasons.
“It’s a little surprising,” Cousins said. “I was trying to forecast which teams will be looking at a quarterback and did not see the Redskins thinking along those lines. Coach Shanahan’s words to me were that he couldn’t pass me up and he was excited to have me.”
They also have Rex Grossman, John Beck and Jonathan Crompton on the roster. Clearly only one of this group will remain and they just re-signed Grossman. His experience provides him a significant edge over the others. It’ll be up to Beck to prove a full offseason has made him a better quarterback if he wants a chance to return.
As for Cousins, he went in the round that many anticipated. He’s considered an excellent leader, but only a marginal quarterback – hence his draft position. In the fall, ex-scout Russ Lande, now the head of Sporting News’ draft coverage, said of Cousins, “He reminds me a lot of Matt Ryan, all the intangibles but he finds ways to make errors.”
Cousins is said to have good footwork, a trait Shanahan likes in any quarterback. He’s not a scrambler, but neither was Matt Schaub coming out of college and he flourished in a similar scheme in Houston (and then-coordinator Kyle Shanahan). Cousins did play in a pro-style offense at Michigan State.
Cousins was 27-12 as a starter at Michigan State, including 3-0 vs. Michigan. He's MSU's career leader in touchdown passes (66), passing yards (9,131) and passing efficiency (146.1 rating).
One scout said of Cousins, “He has all the physical skills. His problem is making bad decisions. But if you’re looking for a QB, he’s smart and he’s tough and he has the production. Some QB coach or coordinator will say, ‘I can help him make better decisions.’ Especially if he doesn’t have to start right away.”
Cousins said he wasn’t bothered going to a team that had just drafted a quarterback in the first round.
“I’ll take it one step at a time and right now my job is to go into rookie minicamp and pick up on the playbook and work as hard as I can to make the team and have an impact on that team down the road,” he said. “Certainly Robert Griffin, there’s a lot of hope in him in the future. I’m excited to be a part of the organization and do what I need to do to help that team win games.”
Cousins also said he’s familiar with the last time the Redskins drafted two quarterbacks: Heath Shuler (first round) and Gus Frerotte (seventh round) in 1994.
“I’ve head Mark Schlereth tell that story on multiple occasions,” Cousins said. “I’ll work as hard as I can. There are a lot of things I can’t control, like where I’m drafted.”
His intangibles were on display when he organized his Pro Day, unlike most quarterbacks who have it designed for them.
“I think my strengths are my accuracy, my attention to detail and my leadership,” he said. “I believe a lot of things that are hard to measure at the combine and hard to measure in the draft process. You have to get around me for a while to see my value.”
Cousins said he had little contact with the Redskins throughout the process, but he talked with the offensive coaches quite a bit at the Senior Bowl (he played for the North; the Redskins staff coached the South).