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Mike Shanahan: The Goal Is To Win Out

Posted Dec 12, 2013

What happens if QB Kirk Cousins plays well in the final three games of the 2013 season? Washington Redskins HC Mike Shanahan says that's a problem the team would like to have.

Frequently, the power of a storyline is based on perspective.

Take the current situation with the Washington Redskins, where franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III will sit the remainder of the season to ensure his health, while backup Kirk Cousins takes over under center.

But what if Kirk Cousins plays really, really well?

"Well that’s the problem that you want to have," head coach Mike Shanahan said bluntly. "You want to have everybody playing good. I hope that’s what happens.

"If he lights it up, we’ve got a lot of options with Kirk."

Shanahan has said it a number of times in the last 18 months: this is the value of quality depth, especially at the most critical position.

In Robert Griffin III, the Redskins have a proven commodity: rookie Pro Bowler, reigning offensive rookie of the year and franchise/NFL record holder in myriad categories.

"We made a decision a long time ago that Robert is our quarterback," Shanahan said unequivocally. "He’s our quarterback of the future.

"We made this decision [to start Cousins] based on what we think is best for [Griffin III] and it could be the best for our organization."

In Kirk Cousins, the Redskins have a proven backup who can increase his personal value to every team in the NFL by playing well.

And he knows it.

“I think it is a great opportunity to show what I’m capable of," Cousins said on Wednesday. "I feel like every time I get a rep in practice I’m auditioning.

"I’m always trying to prove myself. Whether it’s here or somewhere else where I’m auditioning, that feeling of challenging yourself, being tough on yourself and putting pressure on yourself, I don’t think that ever goes away regardless of the circumstances you’re under."

Cousins also understands that his three-game audition has an expiration date. When the team enters the offseason on December 30, he goes back to being the backup quarterback.

"I do believe that Robert is the franchise quarterback here in Washington. He was drafted No. 2 overall," Cousins said. "I’ve never wanted to take that away from him or do anything to undermine his role.

"Even as I start this week, I believe that, at the end of the day, this is Robert’s team going forward into next season. The reason they are resting Robert is because this is Robert’s team and he is the franchise quarterback. You wouldn’t rest him if that wasn’t the case.

"My job is to help this team get a win against Atlanta and then the last two weeks after that, but again, I’m going to continue to try to excel in my role as the backup quarterback to Robert."

And if Cousins plays well? You don't find his coordinator apologizing.

"I think that’d be awesome for the Washington Redskins," said offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. "When you have a franchise quarterback like Robert, there would be nothing better for us than for Kirk to come in and light it up.

"Worst-case scenario, you have a very good backup quarterback or you have got a guy that you can get a lot for. I think if Kirk plays to his capabilities I think people will see that he’s capable of being a starting quarterback in this league."

The Redskins are one of few teams in the NFL that have carried three quarterbacks for the entirety of the last two seasons. All three will have extensive starting experience by the end of the season.

With Kirk entering the third year and a constant, league-wide search for NFL-caliber talent at that position, Kyle Shanahan suggested his play could ultimately inspire a move that would pay off in everyone's favor.

"If [Cousins] plays good enough and he can help this team with draft picks, which we don’t seem to always have too many of those. The more draft picks you can get the more it definitely would help us," Kyle said.

"I think it’s ridiculous to act like this is a quarterback competition. Robert just had the best year as a rookie in NFL history.

"To give up on him like that and say that you’re going to play someone else, that’s, to me, that’s fun for people to talk about but that hasn’t entered my brain one least bit and it’s not even a possibility or an option to me."