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Need to Know: Redskins have seen this QB switch before

Dec 15, 2013, 6:29 AM EDT

Cousins-vs-KC

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, December 15, the day the Washington Redskins visit the Atlanta Falcons.

Dawn of a (mini) era

Welcome to the Kirk Cousins era in Washington even though it will only last three games. The insertion of the Redskins’ backup quarterback into the lineup adds a level of intrigue to the games as the team plays out the string in December for the fifth time in the last six years.

The Mike Shanahan Redskins have done this before. In 2010 Shanahan benched Donovan McNabb after a third straight loss sent the team to 5-8 and eliminated Washington from the playoff race. Rex Grossman started the final three games and was predictably mediocre as the Redskins went 1-2. After 13 games it was clear that the deal to acquire McNabb was a mistake.

If Cousins plays like Grossman did in 2010 (55.6 completion percentage, 6.6 yards/attempt, 81.2 passer rating) there will be no great call among the media and fan base for a quarterback competition between Cousins and Robert Griffin III in 2014. Actually, let me walk that back a bit. If Cousins completes three passes in a row at some point some of the less rational observers out there will start a Cousins in ’14 campaign. But beyond the lunatic fringe, a Rex-like performance will not stir a call for any change.

But let’s say Cousins completes 65 percent of his passes, throws for seven TD’s and one interception and puts up a 95 passer rating in his three games. Then the question becomes not so much if there should be a QB competition but if the Redskins should trade one of their quarterbacks. And Cousins is the only quarterback who can be traded.

Whether there is a new regime in place in 2014 or if somehow Shanahan survives, Griffin is going nowhere. Even if dealing him was a good idea (it’s not) and if they could get anything approaching what they gave up to get him (they couldn’t), the salary cap hit would be prohibitive. Such a move would create over $12 million in dead salary cap. They simply can’t afford that much dead money on the book as they attempt to climb out of the hole created in part by the $36 million salary cap penalty the Redskins were hit with over the last two years.

Part of what would make Cousins attractive to teams in the market for a quarterback is his contract. He has two years left on his rookie deal with salaries of $570,000 in 2014 and $660,000 in 2015.

But nobody can be traded until the new league year begins on March 11. What’s at hand today is Cousins facing Atlanta defense that has allowed opposition quarterbacks to rack up a passer rating of 104.3, the highest in the leage. That basically means that every week the QB Atlanta is facing is like RG3 in 2012.

The Redskins, of course, are just ahead of Atlanta with an opposition passer rating of 101.2. You rarely see this kind of advice given out there but take the over.

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In case you missed it

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Friday 12.13

Saturday 12.14

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