Washington Redskins  

 

Jay Gruden backs Kirk Cousins despite Redskins' struggles

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Robert Griffin III adjusted his tie, alone at his locker, the same way he had been alone for much of the time on Washington's sideline during its 34-20 loss to the New York Jets.

Griffin had been active on Sunday -- the first time this season -- but that was really a mistake of nomenclature. There was nothing active about Griffin on Sunday, save for a brief but highly compensated stint as Kirk Cousins' bullpen catcher as the starter kept warm between drives. There is really nothing all that active about Griffin's career, either, which is why he dresses in silence now, just a few reporters hovering to check his pulse on what counts for incremental progress this season.

"Whatever they ask me to do ... it's my job," Griffin said. Griffin wasn't sullen when he said it, just polite but resigned to his fate.

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And it is clear, despite another loss, despite another multiple-interception day by Cousins, that this is his job now and for the foreseeable future: to help keep Cousins warm, to be polite while saying little, to not ask the questions that Jay Gruden was peppered with after the game.

Like: How much longer can Washington go on like this?

"We'll have to look at the film," Gruden said. "I'd like to see what happens when we get our full cast of characters back. There were opportunities for Kirk to make some plays. He missed some throws. We have spent a lot of time, invested a lot of time this season in Kirk. We stand behind Kirk. We'll see what happens next week with Tampa."

And: Is Cousins still the starter for the rest of the season, as Gruden said when he gave him the job before the opener?

"Yeah," Gruden said. "That's the intent."

The Redskins were down six starters Sunday, including two offensive linemen and receiver DeSean Jackson. They ran for just 34 yards on 17 carries. It would be difficult for even the most secure quarterback to function under those conditions. But the reality is that while Cousins is essentially the same quarterback he has always been -- capable of constructing key drives, but also prone to throwing interceptions and wildly off-target passes -- Washington has few other options. Colt McCoy is no better and is certainly not the future -- the team's coaches have not spent countless hours, or piles of personal capital, to cast their fortunes with McCoy. And after spending an offseason trying to get him ready, Gruden and his staff have decided Griffin is not capable of being anything more than the most expensive and attention-grabbing backup in history.

There was one play, early in the third quarter (and that period has been a particular Washington bugaboo), that summed up what the Redskins have to deal with. On second-and-8 from his own 23-yard line, Cousins took a snap out of the shotgun and first looked to his right. Those receivers were covered. Cousins briefly contemplated running, he later said, but he saw no lane. So with seconds ticking by, he looked to his left, where Ryan Grant was standing near the boundary. Cousins threw his way, but Darrelle Revis was waiting. He dove for the interception.

Cousins would later concede that he has to work on situational football, on knowing that in a tie game, when the Jets had struggled with their own offensive foibles in the first half, it would have been better to throw the ball into Row 6 of the bleachers than where he did -- not just toward a rolled-up cornerback, but well short of the intended receiver. That is the part of the play that should drive Washington to distraction. It was not just a poor decision, it was a poor throw, one that would have fallen well short of Grant even if Revis were nowhere around. It was just one of the passes that Cousins over- or under-threw Sunday.

"I'll have to look at the film," Gruden said again. "Overall, you hate to pin this game on Kirk. Kirk is not at the stage to carry the team."

And so the Redskins are again stuck spinning in a circle, and probably spinning down the drain, even in an entirely winnable NFC East. And they are trapped in a box, too, mostly of their own making -- with no other way to turn and only a limited chance that things can improve enough to make a difference this season, even at 2-4. Griffin would not talk about his own situation or how strange it must feel to have gone from presumptive preseason starter to healthy scratch in a matter of weeks. Even Griffin knew that being in uniform was a mere wardrobe change -- there was no expectation he was going to get on the field as a quarterback.

"I'm here to support the team," he said. "Not expecting anything. It's not my call. I was not expecting it."

Nobody was. Cousins said he would not start to doubt himself, despite the eight interceptions he has thrown this season, including a pick-six in overtime last week that lost the game to Atlanta. But he is insightful enough to admit that the inaccurate throws and the mind melts in critical situations deserve just as much of his attention as the interceptions. Still, there is no real pressure bearing down on Cousins because there appears to be no real threat that he will lose his job any time soon.

"If I start to question or doubt myself, I might as well throw in the towel," he said.

Which might be what is happening to the Redskins' season anyway.

Follow Judy Battista on Twitter @judybattista.

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