What drafting Cousins means for Redskins and Shanahan

Michigan St. QB Kirk Cousin was pumped back then. But now?/AP

One of the NFL draft’s most interesting decisions came when the Redskins drafted Michigan St. QB Kirk Cousins in the fourth round. It led to some serious debate (considering they picked their franchise in Robert Griffin III in the first round) and lots of criticism.

I thought all that was pretty stupid. If Griffin feels intimidated by a lowly fourth-round pick, then he’s not the right guy, anyway. And sure, the Redskins have plenty of holes to fill.

But just 14 quarterbacks started all 16 games last year, so this is long-term quarterback insurance. And the Redskins won’t be fixed in one year, anyway, so spending a fourth-round pick on a player who will absolutely make your roster (instead of a random project linebacker or whatever) is a sound move.

There is another issue that I think shouldn’t be lost in all of this. And it’s one that I was thinking about yesterday while at lunch (great burgers, this place).

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan thinks he’s going to be coaching the Redskins for a while. A long while. In the third year of a five-year deal, Shanahan’s move to select Cousins as a third-string quarterback makes me think that he thinks he’s not going anywhere.


Drafting a backup quarterback is an investment. It’s not a situation where you pick a guy now and he pays off in November. At least, you kinda hope not because that means something bad happened to the starter. No, selecting a backup is something you hope pays dividends down the road.

The ideal situation is that the Redskins find a star in RG3, Cousins impresses in this training camp and the next, and then he’s traded for a second-round pick or whatever in 2014. That would be a solid return, a fourth-rounder becoming a second-rounder. It also means that Shanahan, 60 at the start of next season, sees himself as the coach in 2014 and beyond. (Insert cheer or groan, ‘Skins fans.)

When Patriots coach Bill Belichick traded Richard Seymour for a first-round pick in 2009, those around him knew it meant he had plenty of years left to coach. You wouldn’t make the deal, then leave the first-rounder, who turned out to be OT Nate Solder, to someone else. Belichick was going to be the guy to see it through, and he has been.

With quarterbacks — assuming you hit it on the head in the draft — it can take some time to find fulfillment. Thanks to this article from SI.com, I found a list of backups who left their original teams and became starters. So, I made a chart of some notable backups and how long it took their investment to pay off.

Name/Years on their first team/Compensation
Brett Favre     1          First-rounder
Matt Schaub  3          Two seconds and a first-round swap
Matt Hasselbeck 2     First-round swap, third for seventh swap
Mark Brunell             1          Third and fifth
Aaron Brooks             1          Three-player deal & third rounder
Rob Johnson  3          First and fourth
Scott Mitchell 3          Left as a free agent
Kevin Kolb     4          Starting CB & second-rounder
Matt Cassel    4          Second rounder (but received Mike Vrabel)

On average, that’s two and a half years that it takes for the move to pay off. So, Shanahan thinks he’ll be in Washington at least three more seasons… which may or may not be good news for Redskins fans.

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