He also knows that Robert Griffin III remains the future in Washington.
"I've said it since I've been here and I'll say it again, I do believe that Robert is the franchise quarterback here in Washington," Cousins said on the day he was named the starter for the final three games. "He was drafted No. 2 overall. A lot of picks were traded to get him. Common sense would say that this is his team, and I've never wanted to take that away from him or do anything to undermine his role. And I'll say it again even as I start this week, I believe that, at the end of the day, this is Robert's team going forward into next season.
"The reason they are resting Robert is because this is Robert's team and he is the franchise quarterback. You wouldn't rest him if that wasn't the case."
Which is why, after the season, Cousins knows the role he'll once again assume.
"I'm going to continue to try to excel in my role as the backup quarterback to Robert," Cousins said.
And that's why Cousins is a good player to pair with Griffin at this position. There's no doubt Cousins wants a chance to start in the NFL, but he's also a believer in the process. That means as a young player he just wants to work and get better. He did not arrive at Michigan State with trumpets blaring and he wasn't an instant success.
Griffin is used to the spotlight; Cousins doesn't need it. That's not to say Griffin's approach is wrong, but it is to say that Cousins is a good complement to him. Cousins knew all offseason that he was keeping the spot warm for Griffin. You don't hear complaints from him. This isn't about what the next coach (assuming Mike Shanahan is not back) would decide because it's obvious. I can't imagine a new coach telling owner Dan Snyder he wants anyone other than Griffin. But this is about the dynamics in the meeting rooms and locker rooms. Some backup quarterbacks, if wired differently, could cause issues there. Cousins is not that sort.
Both players said all the right things Wednesday.
"Robert is a competitor and I think it is tough for him to have to sit down because what makes him great is that he wants to be out there," Cousins said. "That's one of the things that I admire about Robert and I've learned a lot from him in my role as a backup is that he doesn't back down to a challenge.
"He never flinched as a rookie, which I was amazed at that going into the Superdome against New Orleans Week 1, he didn't seem nervous. He didn't seem like he was afraid in any way, and it showed in his play, and I have admired that and taken that from him and tried to apply it to my game, that I shouldn't flinch either. He wants to be out there but I think he's handling it with a lot of maturity and he's still out there throwing right now because he wants to get better."
It had to be weird for Griffin to stand in practice and watch Cousins take the first-team reps. Cousins knows this and pointed out what he saw from Griffin.
"His demeanor has been positive, in the sense that he's taking the high road," Cousins said. "I think that at the same time it's tough for him, so I don't want to come across like he doesn't care that he's sitting. It matters to him, but he's also going to take the high road and stay positive too, so he's been positive in meetings and affirming of me and my opportunity. I feel like our relationship has always been strong and I think it's gotten stronger since we've gotten to know each other more over the last couple of years."
If Cousins plays well in the next three games it'll make life interesting for everyone in the offseason. Griffin has the higher ceiling. He's the more talented player. But it's human nature if another guy plays well for others to wonder. What will help Griffin is that Cousins won't be the one wondering.