In 2012, the Washington Redskins traded several first round picks to draft a quarterback to lead the team to the playoffs. They also drafted Kirk Cousins.
In his first season, Kirk Cousins watched from the sideline as quarterback, Robert Griffin III led the Redskins to the playoffs. Injuries and poor play gave Cousins some playing opportunities over the next couple seasons where he showed flashes of potential. But the team still belonged to RG3.
The Redskins did not have high expectations entering the 2015 season. Coming off of a 4-12 record in 2014, there seemed to be little hope for finishing with a decent record, let alone a playoff berth. Head Coach Jay Gruden, who was likely going to be fired after this season if the team couldn’t find success, put his job on the line and named Kirk Cousins the starter over RG3.
This move did not pay off immediately. On September 13th, In his first game as starter against the Miami Dolphins, Cousins struggled. He threw for just 196 yards, a touchdown and two picks. The Skins lost 17-10. This trend continued for the first month and a half of the season and it looked like Washington was on their way to another disappointing year. Through Week 6 they were 2-4 and Jay Gruden was already beginning to clean out his office.
Then in Week 7 everything changed. It was a home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Skins were looking to turn their season around. In the first half they did exactly the opposite of that as they found themselves down by 24 at one point. They headed to the locker room trailing 24-7.
Then in the second half, Washington turned into a completely different team as Kirk Cousins and the offense slowly chipped away at the lead. With 24 seconds left Cousins hit tight end Jordan Reed for the go ahead touchdown and the Redskins won 31-30. Kirk Cousins headed into the locker room screaming, “You like that!” to the media. This soon became Cousins’ catchphrase throughout the season. This was also a signature win for the team as well as a major turning point in their season.
After this win, the team would go 6-3 in their remaining games. But Kirk Cousins was not the sole reason for this newfound success. With DeSean Jackson injured and the rest of the receiving core struggling, this allowed tight end Jordan Reed to emerge in the passing game. Reed, a 3rd round pick in 2013, had been one of the most underrated tight ends in the game. But this year he quickly became Kirk Cousins’ favorite target. He finished the regular season with 952 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns and became arguably the best pure receiving tight end in the NFL.
The Redskins were also able to turn it around on defense, led by the second year cornerback Bashaud Breeland. He established himself as a lockdown corner with 2 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles this season.
With their second half surge in a weak NFC East, the Redskins finished with a record of 9-7. They were able to send a message down the stretch that they were better than their record showed. This was showcased in their division-clinching win over the Philadelphia Eagles, a 38-24 victory in which Kirk Cousins finished with 365 yards and 4 touchdowns. As 9th grader John Keating put it, “The Redskins are a good team. I haven’t said that in a while.”
Once again, the success of this season all comes back to Jay Gruden’s decision to name Kirk Cousins the starter. Cousins ended the season with 4166 passing yards and 29 touchdowns and proved that he, not RG3, is the franchise quarterback. Why the Redskins drafted another quarterback just three rounds after Griffin still bewilders many, but today Skins fans are very thankful that they did.
The Redskins finally found a long-term solution for quarterback, made the playoffs, and have plenty of success to build on for the future. You like that?