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Thursday, December 5, 2013
Cousins agrees: RG III should keep playing

By John Keim

ASHBURN, Va. -- It’s not a debate, yet it’s a topic that keeps coming up, partly because of the attention focused on Robert Griffin III. Is he healthy? Is his game back?

So here goes: Should Kirk Cousins play in the next four games?

The short answer: No. I’ve written that before, so you might know my opinion already. In a nutshell, Griffin needs to play to keep learning. Yes, he was hit a few times Sunday, but only five times in the first half. Of the 16 overall, many weren’t bad. A few that stood out made it seem worse than it was.

Kirk Cousins
"It's a much bigger deal for [Robert Griffin III] to get the reps than for me because he's the starting quarterback," Kirk Cousins said.
But Griffin needs to learn. If he’s going to transform from a running quarterback to more of a pocket passer, then he needs to get every rep he can. If he’s the Redskins’ future, he absolutely must stay in -- and there’s no reason to think he’s not. He’s been bad in some games, OK in others and really good in some. But he also had to learn how to develop his game while losing one part of it.

To think he would somehow learn by sitting is a silly notion. If the Redskins ever sit him in the next four weeks and use that line, know what I’ll think? Offseason quarterback debate. Don’t forget, Cousins spent the entire offseason and most of training camp getting reps he would not have had if Griffin had been healthy. That was his chance to develop. That’s more than most backups receive. It gave the coaches many opportunities to evaluate him, more than usual.

Regardless, Cousins agrees with not sitting Griffin.

“Robert’s a young player too, and he’s getting better,” Cousins said. “It doesn’t happen overnight. To take him off the field so I can develop, then he’s not developing. It’s a much bigger deal for him to get the reps than for me because he’s the starting quarterback. It sounds nice when you say that, but you have to see it from both angles.”

Cousins must sit and wait his turn. It will happen someday. He’s shown enough to warrant a look at some point.

“I believe if I’m good enough I’ll get that chance, so I don’t need to force it to happen today or tomorrow,” Cousins said. “It may happen four or five years from now, but if it happens, it happens. I’ll be patient and wait, and if I’m not good enough, I’ll have to live with that.”

When it does happen he’ll be ready. I can’t imagine many prepare better than Cousins. But this is Griffin’s job and, when you’ve invested as much as they have in him, you need to give him every opportunity to improve. That means staying on the field for the next four games. If he becomes physically beat up, then remove him. But even last week he did a better job of avoiding hits -- sometimes those hits were just shoves out of bounds or a guy failing to get a good lick on because he slid. Or he dumped the ball off before taking a hit. I saw improvement. Why not see if that continues?

Meanwhile, Griffin said he takes no offense to such talk. Not sure I buy that one; he’s an intense competitor. I know it would irk me.

Still, here’s what he said: “That’s just outsiders looking in that just don’t understand the game of football. When it comes to a time like this, it’s easy for guys to check out. I think it would be real cowardly of me to check out and say, ‘Hey, I don’t want to play these next four games.’ It’s not who I am. It’s not who any competitive football player is. You want to play, so we’re going to finish out the year and you take what’s happened this year, being 3-9, and you face it. That’s why I come up here every single week. I face you guys because this is what you have to do. You have to do the same thing no matter whether you’re winning or losing and we’ve got four games and I’m going to give it my all these four games and I know those guys will, too.”