It is becoming apparent that the No. 2 quarterback in Washington will have a good shot at becoming No. 1 at some point during the season.
It’s not too much of a stretch to concoct a doom and gloom scenario for Robert Griffin III. Watching him on Thursday against the Lions and throughout his career since 2013, it seems almost inevitable that his season will be interrupted by either injury or ineffectiveness. That means that the winner of the competition for the No. 2 quarterback job is likely to start some regular season games and perhaps sooner rather than later.
So who is the leader in that competition between Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy? Jay Gruden said during training camp that performance in preseason games would be the primary determining factor. If there is a leader in the battle, Gruden has not tipped his hand to reveal which one it is.
Throughout OTAs, minicamp and training camp Cousins and McCoy have split the work with the second and third teams about as evenly as you can. One day Cousins would work with the second team offense and McCoy would work with the third. The next day at practice it would be McCoy with twos and Cousins with the threes.
“They’re doing extremely well,” said Gruden of the play of the two backups during the preseason.
The numbers bear out that assessment. Cousins has completed 77 percent of his passes averaging 9.4 yards per attempt while McCoy is completing passes at a 75 percent clip and also averaging 9.4 yards per pass.
Both have been behind center for seven drives. Cousins has had better results, with the team scoring three touchdowns and a field goal with him in the game while McCoy’s possessions have resulted in two touchdowns.
Neither quarterback has thrown an interception. Cousins was sacked once for eight yards and McCoy lost a fumble at the goal line in the closing seconds of the first half.
In terms of passing attempts, Cousins has thrown 26 times, which is a small sample size. McCoy has 12 attempts, an extremely small sample size. That’s one problem with comparing the performances of the two quarterbacks. The other problem is that both have played against players who will be backups when the season starts or will be unemployed in September.
If we assume that such factors even out, the numbers and results seem to give Cousins an edge. But it is important to remember that Gruden benched Cousins last year in favor of McCoy and, when Griffin struggled after returning from an injury Gruden turned to McCoy. That is likely to factor in to the decision.
Gruden hasn’t said when he will announce who the backup is. He might like to wait until he submits the inactive list for the season opener on September 13. But if Griffin’s performance continues to falter Gruden might have to accelerate his timetable.