The most popular person in Washington is often the Redskins' backup quarterback. From Babe Laufenberg to Colt Brennan, the backup has become an annual symbol of hope for a team that never could find its starter.
Kirk Cousins became the latest reserve to win over fans after he led the Redskins to a victory in Cleveland on Sunday, which followed an overtime win in relief over Baltimore. But instead of championing a new hero, the talk around town has turned into how much the Redskins could get for him in the offseason.
Cousins, of course, is playing behind the Redskins' best quarterback since Sonny Jurgensen four decades ago: fellow rookie Robert Griffin III, who may return against Philadelphia on Sunday after he sprained his knee against Baltimore.
There's no quarterback controversy here. Instead, the debate is whether dealing Cousins could help offset the 2013 and 2014 first-round picks that were dealt away as part of the Griffin trade last spring.
It's silly talk by giddy fans counting the team's riches. Washington has its best set of quarterbacks since Brad Johnson and Jeff George in 2000.
It needs to stay that way.
Washington has Cousins' rights until 2016, and there's no reason to peddle an extra quarterback because there's really no such thing. Given Griffin's mobile style, he's going to get dinged occasionally. The Redskins need someone to keep their momentum going as Cousins did against Cleveland. A loss to the Browns probably would have ended the Redskins' playoff hopes, so he's far more valuable than a second-round pick.
Also, there probably aren't many teams that will trade for Cousins before the draft when they could use a second-rounder themselves on a rookie. That means the Redskins would have to wait until 2014 to use any kind of pick. Forget that.
It's tempting to trade Cousins to find a starting safety or cornerback, but no one's giving away a quality player for a young passer who frankly has played well in a little more than a game. Not that Cousins doesn't seem legitimate, but he's still unproven until he does it a dozen times. Until then, his value remains questionable.
At most, the Redskins could trade Cousins before his final season to get something for him before he leaves via free agency. But his value goes down at that point because teams know they're only getting Cousins for one year unless they can re-sign him. That means the Redskins could get maybe a third-rounder depending on what happens the next three years. The Redskins can worry about that later.
Of course, if some team is desperate enough to offer a middle first-rounder in March, Washington might consider it. But the Redskins likely won't keep Rex Grossman after this season, so they would be barren at backup if they deal Cousins.
Remember, the Redskins let Johnson depart as a free agent and kept George, who was cut after three games in 2001. The team was forced to play Tony Banks. That's all the proof needed to keep Cousins.
Fortunately, Cousins' maturity allows him to be a backup, whereas some quarterbacks who know they could play elsewhere might try to force a trade. The Redskins are lucky here.
Playoff teams need a dependable backup quarterback. Washington has one. There's no sense creating a void for a team that has been seeking to fill one for two decades.