In Redskinsland, the talk is of losing (13 of 14, the team’s worst streak since 1963-64) and all the interceptions Kirk Cousins has been throwing — four in the embarrassing 45-14 loss to the Giants and three more in Sunday’s 30-20 defeat at the hands of the Cardinals. We’ll get to the picks in a moment. First, let’s talk about something that hasn’t been getting much attention: the drop-off in Alfred Morris’ performance when Cousins is the quarterback.
My son Danny, the math whiz, crunched some numbers for me. They show a stark difference in Morris’ rushing production when RG3 is under center as opposed to Cousins.
|In RG3’s Starts||In Cousins'|
|Yards Per Game||90.8||70|
*I also included the game vs. the Jaguars in Week 2 because Kirk played more than three quarters after Griffin got hurt.
See what I mean? The yards per game, to me, aren’t as important. That can be more a reflection of winning and losing, and RG3’s 12-18 record is better than Cousins’ 2-7 (again, putting the Jacksonville game in Kirk’s column).
But yards per carry is another matter — and Morris is averaging 1.15 more per attempt with Griffin at quarterback. How do we explain this? This way: When RG3 is under center, the offense is playing 11-on-11. In other words, the defense has to account for him both as a passer and as a potential runner. That gives Morris more room to operate, and we all know how crucial space is to an offense.
The read-option is obviously part of the equation — and Griffin is far more dangerous running it than Cousins is. But beyond that, the defense simply can’t focus as much on the running back when the quarterback is as fast and elusive as Griffin. If it puts too many people on the line of scrimmage, RG3 can burn it not just with a play-action pass but with a run fake and keeper. Kirk isn’t slow by any means, but he doesn’t command quite the same respect from the defense that Robert does. (I mean, the guy has 56 career rushing yards — fewer than Griffin had on one run against the Vikings as a rookie).
Only twice in Cousins’ nine games at QB has Morris averaged more than 3.88 yards per attempt. An average like that isn’t going to make any defense blink. Or to put it another way, Morris has averaged 5 yards a carry or better 15 times in RG3’s 30 games — exactly half. With Cousins he’s done it only twice in nine games — less than a quarter.
So the question with Kirk Cousins isn’t just: What can he bring to the passing game (that Griffin doesn’t)? It’s: What does he take away from the running game? And clearly, the Redskins need more offensive balance if they ever hope to pull out of this downward spiral. They had it with RG3; with Cousins, they’re much more one-dimensional. And let’s face it, with a defense as suspect as Washington’s, it helps to have some ball control by running Morris Right, Morris Left, Morris Up the Middle — if only to keep the D off the field.
As for the interceptions, Cousins has had 13 in his last seven starts — way too many. In fact, only a dozen quarterbacks in the 2000s have had a worse seven-game stretch during a season. (Cousins’ last seven starts, of course, are across two seasons.) The worst of the worst:
MOST INTERCEPTIONS IN A 7-GAME STRETCH OF A SEASON SINCE 2000
|2009||Josh Freeman, Bucs||10-16||16|
|2001||Aaron Brooks, Saints||10-16||16|
|2013||Eli Manning, Giants||1-7||15|
|2009||Jay Cutler, Bears||3-9||15|
Between the neutralization of Morris and the picks, it isn’t a pretty picture for the Cousins-led offense. Which is why Colt McCoy’s name actually came up during coach Jay Gruden’s Monday news conference. What a mess.