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Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

Who wants to ride on the wheel of starting quarterbacks? The Bills announced this morning that they'll go with former Baltimore backup Tyrod Taylor to start in Week 1. Taylor was a sixth-round pick of Baltimore in 2011. On one hand, Taylor provides an unknown upside that you don't get from Matt Cassel. On the other hand, Scott Kacsmar's article from last year about where teams find good starting quarterbacks (hint: not the sixth round, not since 2000). At least Taylor should provide enough rushing yardage to be an interesting fantasy football value.

And then in Washington, it looks like the Skins are going with Kirk Cousins over Robert Griffin. In fact, it looks like Griffin is now officially persona non grata. Or he's not. The reporting and counter-reporting has been predictably confusing. I always write that someday, someone will write a great Psychology Ph.D. study on what the Tampa Bay Bucs did to Josh Freeman. Maybe that same person will write about what happened to Robert Griffin afterwards. I know it's fun to bash the guy, but he was great in college and great as a rookie. He was great even from the pocket as a rookie. So many people to blame for that disintegration.

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79 comments, Last at 03 Dec 2015, 6:00am

2 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

I wonder what will happen to RGIII when he's eventually out of Washington, if he'll be asked to start somewhere else or if he'll be a back-up for a while in decent place for QB's.

I think he could maybe be put back together in a place like Seattle or New England or Baltimore. A place with stability at QB where he can learn and be in a decent system.

I think he'll likely end up in New York with the Jets. From the frying pan and into the fire?

I'm curious how he'd do under Norv Turner as a backup to Bridgewater.

4 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

The big off-season development for the Redskins that hasn't gotten much coverage nationally was hiring Scott McLoughan as GM. I suspect Gruden would have gotten rid of Griffin in the offseason if it had been up to him alone. But McLoughan apparently wanted to see if there was anything that could be salvaged there.

Three pre-season games have been enough to show that the Redskins work much better on offense with either Cousins or McCoy as QB than with Griffin taking snaps. I have no idea what exactly happened, but I haven't seen much from RG3 in a long time that would make me want to have him on my team. It's like he's never wanted to learn how to be a real NFL QB.

5 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

I think its very possible the injury(s) permanently shell shocked Rg3 into oblivion. He was great as a rookie from the pocket - and then you read articles by Cosell where he has 5 receivers completely open(Great falcons D right?) and he doesn't throw the ball to any of them.

6 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

As a complete outsider, and mostly based on Griffin's public pronouncements, the problem has always seemed to be work ethic. Griffin has always blamed his problems on factors outside his control. Sometimes he has been right. But unlike (for instance) Peyton Manning, who famously blamed the offensive line for a playoff loss, Griffin never tried to overcome those problems.

[I've said before in these pages that I view Manning's 2010 season as one of the single most astounding quarterbacking performances of all time. Manning's offensive line was dominated for 16 games, and he threw 30 touchdowns to Reggie Wayne and a bunch of practice squad players.]

For that reason, I doubt Griffin will recover. Alex Smith improved as a quarterback in the NFL, as have players as diverse as Tom Brady and Michael Vick. What they have that Griffin doesn't very much appears to be character.

I hope I'm wrong. Griffin promised to be 120% of Russell Wilson as a rookie. And that would be awesome.

11 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

Back in 2012 he really did seem to have great character as well.

I think the Shanahans just irretrievably broke him. It became a very deeply entrenched game of me vs. them for him, and I believe he was right, but I think that screwed him up mentally and made him permanently defensive instead of willing to accept what he has become and quietly work hard to fix it.

I believe that the key to success for a good coach (like Kelly) is to get into his head by appealing to his pride, saying they know what he really is but that those two clowns in Washington really screwed him up, and let's just start over in a place where you're finally set up to succeed.

(And then take him to QB 101 and teach him how to go through his reads all over again from scratch - which surely ought to humble him - and hope it works.)

12 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

"I believe that the key to success for a good coach (like Kelly) is to get into his head by appealing to his pride"

I'm not sure why Kelly's come up a few times in this thread. While there have been a lot of ridiculous accusations against Kelly over the past year, the one thing I think is fairly obvious is that his style is definitely not to "appeal to [a player's] pride." Rather, Kelly seems to be of the "I know what's best, if you don't agree, there's the door" mentality. We can debate if that's a good or bad trait in a coach (as always, there's a huge gray area), but I don't see why Kelly would be a particularly good fit for Griffin from that angle.

16 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

Its remarkable what everyone's opinion of Kelly is these days. He's almost seen as this infallible Qb whisperer who can now take any athletic qb and spin him into gold no matter how flawed he is as a passer. Is this really even true?

I get that he made Sanchez look better, but Sanchez was still solidly below replaceable even under Kelly's tutelage. And Mike Vick has been awful as well. I don't buy that Kelly can take Griffin and in an offseason, fix his mechanics, presnap awareness, or his injury proneness.

42 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

I can certainly agree with you that Kelly's reputation is a little overblown, but it was built on more then just Mark Sanchez. He also coaxed one of the more statistically improbable 10 game stretches ever out of Nick Foles, came within 3 minutes of a National Championship with Darron Thomas, and got a Fiesta Bowl win out of freshman Marcus Mariota.

If he makes Tim Tebow a legitimate NFL QB even I might start tithing at the Church of Kelly.

13 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

What is more likely? That the skins happened to hire two consecutive vindictive coaches that crushed Rg3's psyche or that rg3 happened to clash with two coaches and that led to a public spat?

I can buy Shanny being vindictive, but I really think Rg3's poor mechanics led to a lot frustration for Jay gruden. Its probably even more frustrating when you inherited Rg3 and so you don't feel the same sense of investment in him that the prior regime did.

21 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

Plummer was 29, without any real track record of success, when he came to Denver. His productivity immediately took a step forward with Shanahan running the team. Cutler took over because it was the smart move. Cutler, by his 6th start, was better than Plummer, and Cutler was not as good in Chicago, except for one year, as he was the one year with Shanahan. Brian Griese had some of his best years with Shanahan.

Shanahan's track rerod with qbs prior to RGIII was pretty good. Shanahan's biggest problem as a head coach is that he's not very good on the defensive side of the ball.

36 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

I think he is probably the most over-rated coach I can think of, and really just a dick. The guy got run out of the Raiders in just over one season. Inherits a HOF QB and manages to win 2 SB, then spends the next 14 seasons winning exactly 1 playoff game. His treatment of RGIII in his rookie year was at best callous disregard for the player and incredibly short-sighted. He basically picked a fight with Davis in Oakland and got fired, and picked fights in Washington until he was fired all the while driving that organization even deeper into the ditch. What has he done successfully in the NFL other than name HOF QB John Elway his starting QB for a couple of seasons ? Sure, he employs small offensive lines and deploys unheralded RBs behind it with great success but to what end ? 1 playoff win in 14 seasons. Great coach ? No.

37 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

Wasn't a lot of Denver's run success due to their offensive line coach, who just retired? I feel Shanahan was a decent coach but overrated until he got to Washington.
The other landing places cited in this conversation besides Philly were Seattle and New England; Belichick would probably tailor his offense to RGII's strengths if he had to play him, and might be the best spot for Griffin. The Jets might not be the worst spot for him, except for the lack of patience of the fanbase. Hell, they'd probably just be glad for somebody better than Sanchez and Geno have been, and Gailey's offense may actually work for RGIII. He probably just needs to go somewhere he doesn't have to carry the entire team.

39 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

Looked up McCoy, Cousins, and Griffin's stats last year.

Robert Griffin completed almost 69 percent of his passes for 7.9 yards per attempt, which is very good. Unfortunately, he was sacked 33 times for 227 yards and only got 214 passes off, meaning that roughly one in seven times he passed, he was sacked. Counting sacks as attempts and subtracting sack yards leaves him at under 6 yards per attempt.

McCoy was kind of similar. He completed 91 of 128 (71%) for 8.3 yards per attempt. He was sacked once every nine dropbacks or so, and counting sacks and sack yards "really" averaged about 6.5 yards per play.

This would imply that Washington was just a really terrible team with good quarterbacks but a bad offensive line. But then there is this:

Kirk Cousins only completed 61% of his passes (although they went a bit deeper downfield) for 8.4 yards per attempt. But he was sacked a Manningesque 3% of the time, as opposed to the DDR boys above ("Double Digit Rate" or "Dance Dance Revolution" as you prefer). So with sacks included he's still around 8 yards a play.

All told, this wasn't a bad passing team last year. McCoy and especially Griffin just need to stop trying to make a living on their backs.

40 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

Eh, I don't know any of these people, so I try to avoid judgements with regard to their value as human beings.

I'm fairly agnostic on Shanahan as head coach. I will say he has a lot of company in getting in a dispute with Al Davis. Of his 14 full seasons without Elway, I think he has 7 winning seasons, and 4 losing seasons, with 4 of those years with one of the worst owners in professional sports. That isn't too bad.

Like I said, I don't think he's too good on the defensive side. I was mostly just taking issue with the criticism that he put guys in the dog house. That's where guys belong when they perform poorly.

41 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

Yeah this argument about him needing Elway omits the fact that the broncos weren't a qb heavy pass offense the way say Denver in 2013 was. Elway at that point was the complimentary pieces to a strong running game.

In addition, without Elway, he managed to get to the playoffs quite often with a mix of qbs who were ok.

I mean, I spent a good portion of the hall of fame thread arguing against Dungy for the same reasons. If we're going to play this Elway makes Shanny great argument, then people need to be consistent with how they view Dungy.

46 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

I think Shanny is a lucky Jeff Fisher. Fisher has 20 years as a coach, 3 years with playoff wins, all when McNair was his QB. Shanny also has 20 years as a head coach and 3 years with playoff wins, just one playoff win with a QB other than Elway. How about Norv Turner, 15 years as a coach, 3 seasons where he won a playoff game.

Bill Cowher 15 years, 8 seasons with a playoff win. Andy Reid 16 years, 7 seasons with playoff wins. Mike Holmgren 17 seasons, 8 with playoff wins. Tony Dungy 13 season, 5 with playoff wins. Great coaches are capable of repeating their success.

As for the running game, Shanny had 14 seasons after Elway where he had strong running games, he's famous for it, yet he never found another complementary piece like Elway again. Shanahan only made the playoffs 5 times in 14 years after Elway, that's not a great record.

48 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

I disagree somewhat, the reality is that it is hard to avoid small sample sizes when dealing with NFL data but we can't just throw our hands up in the air, you make do with what you have. Also 14 years is a large sample size, how many coaches last that long ? How many last that long with so little success ? Precious few. You want a larger sample size ? 123-121 that's Shanahan's record sans John Elway. How about this 114-122 and 3 playoff wins in 15 years ? That's a pretty good comp for Shanahan without Elway is it not ? Arguably even better than Shanahan in terms of postseason success. Who is that coach ? Norv Turner. Shanahan - Elway = Norv Turner.

51 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

14 x 16 is a so-so sample size, and so-so sample sizes is almost always what we have to work with when evaluating NFL coaches. I'm very reluctant to use playoff records when evaluating coaches, because the one and done format really boosts the effect of randomness. Belichik and Landry didn't become much better coaches because referees made calls the way they did at the end of early stage razor close playoff games, and Grant and Gruden didn't become worse. John Madden was the same coach no matter how referees saw tipped passes and hits on qbs.

14 data points labeled as "made playoffs" or "missed playoffs" is a tiny, tiny, worse than worthless, sample size. Yes, you should just throw up your hands when confronted with such a sample size, because it is as likely to tell you something that is false, as it is to tell you something that is true.

I think looking at total regular season wins and losses over 14 seasons has merit. I think looking at "made playoffs" and "missed playoffs" over 14 seasons does not. I also think that almost all coaches would have their winning percentage suffer quite a bit if you take away the 33% of those games when they were coaching the most talent.

Look, I'm not a big Shanahan booster. I'm even a lesser booster of cherry picking data, however.

58 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

How many coaches have consistent deep playoff success without a great qb? WE're left with Gibbs, some Parcells, maybe Schottenheimer(I say maybe because people thumb their nose at him for playoff losses) and a whole lot of nothing else.

This is really just a bizarre standard to hold someone to. The difference between Chuck Pagano and those playoff wins and Leslie Frazer who three years later comes down to Ponder and Luck. That's why I think coaching is overrated by most people.

A word on Shanny. He's a jerk and a bit of a power freak. But in the end - even in Washington, I was impressed with what he accomplished. As Will pointed above - hes saddled with a franchise that never has draft picks or cap flexibility and an owner that's fast approaching(as already approached?) late career Al Davis.

49 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

I think a big fallacy people(*) fall into when discussing coaches is assuming coaching ability is static. And I actually think coaches themselves fall into this trap.

There's no denying that Washington-Shanahan was not as effective as Denver-Shanahan. Is this because Shanahan lost some innate skill? Possibly; I'd even say it's probable. Is it because Shanahan himself didn't acknowledge that loss in skill, or that things he did in the late 90's would work as well 10-15 years later? That's also a possibility.

We know that the best players will change their games as they age. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are good examples. Charles Woodson is a great example on the defensive side. But because coaching is a much more mental job than playing, I would guess that coaches are less likely to adjust as they age, and become less effective.

Two other examples would be Joe Gibbs and Mike Ditka, who had much less success later in their careers. Two counter examples are Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll, though they may have been more willing to change due to their being seen as disappointments at early career stops. John Fox sustained previous success when he moved to Denver (I'm thinking the Tebow year in particular, though he did at least show a willingness to be less run-and-defense-oriented when Peyton Manning was there, but that's a pretty obvious decision to make). Jon Gruden got less and less effective as he aged, as another negative example.

(*) Not necessarily saying you are, Will.

50 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

I think Joe Gibbs did a really good job his 2nd time around in Washington. He inherited a bad roster, with poor salary cap management, and perhaps the worst owner in the league. In four years, he had a 10-6 and 9-7 season. Not many, if any, would have done better.

I always argue that Parcells was the best I've seen. He entered the league in early 80s, no salary cap, no free agency, power football, in a monstrously tough division and conference, and had great success. He took over a trainwreck at the dawn of the salary cap, as the game was becoming more pass oriented, and had success. He took over another trainwreck as the game became more pass oriented, with the cap and free agency taking full effect, and had success. He took over yet aother trainwreck, now a quarter century removed from his start, at the dawn of full pass-happiness, with one of the worst owners of the league, and had success.

67 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

Here's a good stat to illustrate Gibbs's success in his second run: In the 22 years since Gibbs retired the first time, the Skins have made the playoffs 4 times. 2 of those 4 playoff appearances, the head coach was... Joe Gibbs again. So since 1993, Skins coaches other than Gibbs made the playoffs 2 out of 18 years, while Gibbs 2.0 made the playoffs 2 out of 4 years. Making the playoffs 50% of the time isn't exactly great, but compared to the other Washington coaches during that timeframe, it's not too shabby.

52 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

That's an excellent point. From a scheme perspective, we would expect a coach who doesn't adapt their schemes to lose effectiveness over time as opponents learn to adapt to their strategies. For instance, Dick Lebeau's schemes lost their muster in recent years, even accounting for worse personnel--everybody has figured out how to block that crossing-ILB blitz he loves so much. For a really successful scheme, the coach also has to adapt as well to copycat teams vacuuming up the kinds of players that fit the scheme. Tony Dungy's consistently mediocre Indy defenses certainly weren't helped by the fact that Tampa, Chicago, and Minnesota were all competing with him for guys in the Tampa 2 mold. I'm curious to see how Seattle's defense fares over the next few years as Jacksonville and Atlanta explicitly build their defenses in Seattle's image and just about every team in the league seems to be suddenly hungry for tall cornerbacks.

56 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

I think there's a lot of correlation causation mixup going on here. Nearly all of your examples of either failure or success can be tied to the qb/quality of teams they inherited. When Shanny landed in Denver - his teams were more talented and as they declined in talent - surprise - his success declined.

Are we really surprised he could not win with the likes of grossman, john beck and whatever other motley crew of qbs he had in Washington prior to Rg3?

A word on Parcells also - his cowboy teams were also big underachievers during his tenure. In fact, the best cowboy team of the 2000s came the year after Parcells left. And think about how different his legacy would be if wide right hand't happened. Parcells is then 1-1 in the sb and suddenly, he looks worse than Tom Coughlin. I'm only doing this for sake of argument - since we can play this what if game too with anyone.

The rest of your examples basically follow in toe. BB looks a lot better with Brady and as Brady went from game manager to hall of famer, surprise, BB's winning percentage got a lot better.

John Fox may be the ultimate example. His three year period with Denver ranks among the best three year coaching stretch of any coach. Of course...if he flames out in Chicago - are we really going to say he had it and then lost it?

59 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

I don't know how it can be said that Parcells underachieved in Dallas. Look at the roster he had in his 1st year there. That team had no business winning 6 games; it was worse than the 3 previous Cowboys teams that won 5. They went 10-6. Yes, they fell back in year 2, and then had two consecutive 9-7 seasons. The fact that Wade Phillips went 13-3 after Parcells left was due to the fact that Parcells had built a good roster by then, and developed talent well, even with Rubberface doing his level best to screw things up.

64 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

They were a mix of young, talented, guys and old, washed up guys. The biggest difference once 2007 rolled around was that an undrafted free agent qb had fully developed to the point where he could compensate for an o-line with old guys who couldn't pass block any longer, and the young talented guys on defense, that Parcells brought in, had fully supplanted the old washed up guys.

65 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

They were a mix of young, talented, guys and old, washed up guys. The biggest difference once 2007 rolled around was that an undrafted free agent qb had fully developed to the point where he could compensate for an o-line with old guys who couldn't pass block any longer, and the young talented guys on defense, that Parcells brought in, had fully supplanted the old washed up guys.

70 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

A couple of responses, How much credit should BB get for the fact that Brady turned into a HOF QB? Brady has been put in position to do the things he excels at and doesn't do much of the things he's not good at. Said differently, if Brady was running the Ravens offense I think he'd be retired by now and not on his way to the HOF.

As for Fox, given that he dang near won a SB and also went to an NFC Championship game with Jake Delhomme as his starting QB I think it is safe to say that he was mighty good coach before he ever coached the Peyton.

72 Re: Wheel of QB: Cousins, Taylor Now Starters

Jim Callahan also went to the superbowl. I don't think Fox is a bad coach. I was merely addressing the above fact that wins and losses are often a very poor measure for judging coaching skill, especially when context seems to drive a lot of this.

Also - I think you are selling Brady short by quite a bit. I think he's a pretty mediocre medium and deep thrower - but his pocket awareness and field vision are among the greatest of all time.

He may have been worse in Baltimore, but he'd still be appreciably better than Flacco and if teams don't build on their players strengths, then that's bad coaching.