Competing in arguably the most talented division in pro football, the Washington Redskins have finished last in the NFC East each of the past four seasons, the last two of which have been under head coach Mike Shanahan. The obvious culprit has been consistently subpar play at the quarterback position, which is why Washington was so willing to forfeit the bounty of picks (including first round picks in the 2013 and 2014 drafts) necessary to swap spots with the St. Louis Rams and assure that they'd get either Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. As it turns out, Luck went to the Colts and Griffin to the Redskins in two of the few picks that went as planned.
Despite what former Redskins' quarterback Donovan McNabb might think, the Heisman Trophy-winning Griffin is an ideal fit for the West Coast Offense preferred by Shanahan and his son, Kyle, Washington's offensive coordinator. Griffin possesses the intelligence, quick release and accuracy on short to intermediate routes that are critical to the scheme. Griffin's two most unique traits -- his straight-line speed and touch on the deep ball -- are not required in the West Coast Offense but are elements that can be incorporated into the attack easily.
Despite the fact that Griffin possesses the physical characteristics necessary to enjoy success early in his career, make no mistake that he, like every rookie, will have his growing pains in the NFL. Griffin's spectacular production and charisma may have won him the Heisman Trophy. But the fact that Kevin Kolb produced eerily similar numbers in his final season under head coach Art Briles at Houston (completed 67.6% of passes for 3,809 yards and 30 TDs/4 INTs) as Griffin did under Briles at Baylor (completed 72.4% of passes for 4,293 yards and 37 TDs/6 INTs) should serve as a warning that Griffin's ascent to NFL superstardom is not guaranteed, despite the exorbitant price owner Daniel Snyder's team paid in acquiring him.
Because no rookie is guaranteed, the Redskins made a wise choice in hedging their bet on Griffin when Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins was staring at them at in the fourth round. Cousins, who a team source tells me the Redskins had as the No. 3 quarterback in the draft behind Luck and Griffin and a second round value, is also an ideal fit in the Shanahan's scheme.
Furthermore, he's as competitive and dedicated as any quarterback I've ever scouted. If Griffin received high grades for his intangibles, Cousins' would be off the charts. He was an unprecedented three-time team captain at Michigan State, finished his career undefeated against rival Michigan and dazzled coaches who interviewed him at the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine.
Because of these intangibles, Cousins might be the perfect backup quarterback for the Redskins. Though Shanahan was not a member of the Denver Broncos' coaching staff when the team traded for 1983 No. 1 overall pick John Elway and drafted Gary Kubiak in the 8th round in the same year, he coached both while serving as the team's offensive coordinator from 1984-1987 and of course returned to Denver as the head coach of two Super Bowl winning teams (with Elway as his starter) from 1995-2008. Having achieved success with a superstar in Elway being backed up by the selfless Kubiak, it isn't surprising at all to see Shanahan attempt to repeat history with Griffin and Cousins a few decades later.
Shanahan has already annointed Griffin as his starting quarterback, but considering how frequently quarterbacks -- especially mobile quarterbacks -- are hit in today's NFL, adding perhaps the ideal backup available in the 2012 draft in the fourth round not only makes sense from a value perspective, it should aid in the developing of Griffin and provide the team with the insurance it needs to rise in the NFC East standings quickly.
The rest of the Redskins' picks:
1st Round - No. 2 overall - Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
3rd Round - No. 71 overall - Josh LeRibeus, OG, Southern Methodist
4th Round - No. 102 overall - Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State
4th Round - No. 119 overall - Keenan Robinson, LB, Texas
5th Round - No. 141 overall - Adam Gettis, OG, Iowa
6th Round - No. 173 overall - Alfred Morris, RB, Florida Atlantic
6th Round - No. 193 overall - Tom Compton, OT, South Dakota
7th Round - No. 213 overall - Richard Crawford, CB, Southern Methodist
7th Round - No. 217 overall - Jordan Bernstine, SS, Iowa
Read more about all of the Redskins' draft picks here: