Kirk Cousins' Has Proven He Has A Future In The NFL

Kirk CousinsEvan Vucci/APSince taking over as the Washington Redskins starting QB, Kirk Cousins leads the NFL in passing yards

Kirk Cousins has been Robert Griffin III’s backup for three years in the NFL. Coming into this season, Cousins had played just eight regular season games, three of which he started last season in Griffin’s absence.

Cousins’ career production was hardly noteworthy: nine touchdowns, 114-203 passing, 10 interceptions, and a 50.8 QB Rating.

But when Griffin went down with an ankle injury in week 2, Cousins slid into the game with ease, helping the Redskins win for the first time this season. Against the Jaguars, Cousins threw for 250 yards, with two touchdowns, and no interceptions in a 41-10 victory. The performance had fans and experts questioning whether the Redskins should make Cousins the starting quarterback, even when Griffin returns.

Cousins answered the question with a strong Week 3 performance, albeit in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Cousins threw for 427 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. He displayed good chemistry with the team’s top two wide receivers, Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, and showed off a cannon of an arm on a deep find to Jackson for the touchdown:

For Washington, the discussion will only heat up, could Cousins become the future quarterback of the team?

Since Griffin tore his ACL and LCL in the 2012 postseason, he hasn’t looked the same. He’s less mobile than his rookie year, has trouble avoiding and taking contact, and has been affected in his passing game.

Michael David Smith of ProFootball Talk says that Griffin is a far more talented and athletic quarterback than Cousins, but that Cousins is the better fit right now. Eric Edholm of Yahoo’s Shutdown Corner also argues that the Redskins are in better hands with Cousins.

Even if the Redskins remain loyal to RGIII and make him the starter when he returns, Cousins is solidifying his future in the NFL.

The team could easily be 2-0 since Cousins took over, and his 677 passing yards in the past two games is the best in the NFL. Looking at just weeks 2 and 3, Cousins in on par with the NFL’s top five quarterbacks in QB rating (minimum 60 pass attempts):

QBR Completion% Yards TDs INT
Philip Rivers 127.1 74.2% 540 5 0
Andrew Luck 117.5 69.9% 542 7 1
Peyton Manning 106.8 69.3% 545 5 1
Jay Cutler 106.3 63.9% 401 6 0
Kirk Cousins 105.8 64.2% 677 5 1
Drew Brees 103.8 72.0% 530 4 1

It’s important to note that Cousins is far less experienced than those quarterbacks. Week 3 was the 10th regular season game of his career and only his fifth start. Here’s how the top quarterbacks in the NFL played in the fifth start of their careers:

Passes Completion% Yards TDs INT QBR
Philip Rivers 29-39 74.4% 334 2 0 116.8
Andrew Luck 22-44 50.0% 280 0 2 51.3
Peyton Manning 12-23 52.2% 137 1 1 66.8
Jay Cutler 21-32 65.6% 230 1 1 84.1
Kirk Cousins 30-48 62.5% 427 3 1 103.4
Drew Brees 26-42 61.9% 235 1 2 65.1

Those stats bode well for Cousins’ future. Several of the NFL’s top quarterbacks today began as backups. Tom Brady for Matt Cassell, Aaron Rodgers for Brett Favre, and Rivers, Cutler, and Brees didn’t become full-time starters until after their rookie seasons. When given the opportunity, these players became permanent starters through impressive performances, which is exactly what Cousins has done this season.

His breakout early this season will not go unnoticed, and given that he only has one year left on his contract after this season, he could be given the opportunity to start elsewhere if the Redskins don’t retain him.

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