Shanahan: Kirk Cousins will have a 'great career'

Robert Griffin III made news Monday after telling a local reporter that he still believes he can be the best quarterback in the league.

Taken in proper context, it's an understandable sentiment. That same ultra-confident, hyper-competitive mindset drove his rise to No. 2 overall draft pick and Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012.

As of the summer of 2015, though, it's fair to question if Griffin is even the best quarterback on the Washington Redskins' roster.

After Kirk Cousins directed three scoring drives in an impressive Thursday night performance, former coach Mike Shanahan predicted to WJFK Washington's Grant Paulsen that the 2012 fourth-round pick has a bright future as an NFL starter.

"I think Kirk Cousins has got a big-time future," Shanahan said, via the Washington Post. "He's a starter in the National Football League, and that'll be proven out in time. ... He's going to have a great career as a starter."

Although Cousins has shown the ability to rack up yards and put points on the board, he was benched for Colt McCoy last season after throwing eight interceptions in a four-game stretch. Shanahan believes those mistakes can be avoided with a stronger supporting cast and more balanced play-calling.

"If you put a guy like Kirk Cousins in and you run the ball 30 to 35 times a game, and then you look back at the success that he had, you'd say, holy cow, look at those stats -- when it's a balanced offense," Shanahan explained. "You can't put in a guy that's started nine games in the National Football League and ask him to win games week in and week out in the passing game. It just doesn't work that way."

Shanahan's comments echo those of his son, Kyle, who was Redskins offensive coordinator for Cousins' first two seasons. The younger Shanahan suggested in June that Cousins still has a chance to be a "great quarterback some day."

"Kirk's one of the sharper guys I've been around," Kyle raved. "He processes things so fast. He lets it rip. He's as tough as can be."

The Shanahans might be overstating Cousins' potential. His career interception percentage of 4.7 dwarfs those of other turnover-prone passers such as Mark Sanchez (3.7), Jay Cutler (3.4) and Eli Manning (3.3). Perhaps more disconcerting, he has yet to show the resiliency to shake off ill-timed gaffes.

That said, Cousins averaged nearly 100 more passing yards per game than Griffin last season. He threw more touchdown passes in six games (10) than RGIII and McCoy combined to toss in 14 games (eight).

The demonstrated ability to consistently move the chains and put the offense in scoring territory is undeniable -- and exceedingly valuable in a league with several would-be contenders staging underwhelming quarterback battles.

Turning 27 this week, Cousins is just entering his NFL prime with free agency on the horizon in 2016. If the Redskins don't recognize up-close what others see from afar, they run the risk of losing their most productive quarterback after the season.

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