One game by Kirk Cousins did not -- and should never -- change anyone's thinking about the future. Cousins threw the ball well in Sunday's 27-26 loss at Atlanta, but he also turned it over three times, twice on interceptions. As Shanahan said in his news conference Monday, "Let's not get carried away with one game." Part of that is absolutely sage advice. Part of that could be to limit the stories about the future and how it pertains to Griffin.
But what Shanahan wants and has always liked is competition. The better Cousins plays the sharper Griffin must become.
"The thing that you want on your football team is you want competition -- legitimate competition," Shanahan said. "The better players you have, the more people compete. When you look behind your shoulder and you know that guy is pretty good, that makes you work a little bit harder in the offseason. It makes you work a little harder during the week."
Once more, it leads to more questions about the decision to sit Griffin for the rest of the season. Shanahan said it was simply about keeping Griffin healthy for the offseason. Perhaps it's to keep him from feeling cozy with his situation.
"When there is no depth, you don't have that competition. You look over your shoulder and say, 'Hey, I don't have to push myself that hard,' " Shanahan said. "So I've always believed that true competition is the biggest motivator you can have regardless of who you are, because everybody knows that we're going to play the best players at the end of the day, so that competition -- regardless of the position -- is great."
Shanahan said he wants a situation where he's not playing someone because of where they were drafted. Or not playing someone for the same reason. He wants his players to know the better player will ultimately get the job.
"The teams I've been on, the great ones, have always had that type of competition regardless of what their position was or the money they made or where they were drafted," Shanahan said. "Robert has a lot of confidence in himself and he should. He's got all the ability in the world and he will get better every day."
Cousins showed a lot of positives Sunday, but his two interceptions came on bad throws and he fumbled once. He played against a defense that featured three rookies in the secondary and is now ranked 24th against the pass and 29th overall. He was also decisive with his throws, leading at times to good yardage after the catch. The Redskins had 145 yards after the catch according to ESPN Stats & Information. But they've had four other games with higher totals.
"It's one game. That's all it is. Let's take a look at game after game after game," Shanahan said. "We saw what Robert did last year. We knew he had an ACL. We knew he had an LCL. He had rehab the whole year and, you know, he put up some pretty good numbers this year, maybe not in comparison to the first year. But let's not get carried away after one game."