CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The fact that the announcement Kirk Cousins, not fellow rookie Robert Griffin III, will start Sunday's game for the Washington Redskins against the Cleveland Browns came as early as it did indicates that the Redskins believe they have a good chance to win the game with Cousins. The Redskins could have waited until Sunday morning to announce that Cousins was starting in place of Griffin, who has started every game this year for the Redskins but injured his knee Sunday against the Ravens. Instead, they informed the team Saturday night that Cousins would start.
My initial reaction to this is that the Redskins must feel good about their chances of beating the Browns with Cousins. He's the only quarterback other than Griffin who's been among the active players for any game this season, and even though 2011 starter Rex Grossman is now likely to be active as Cousins' backup, they surely have an offense in place designed to run around Cousins on the possibility that he would have to replace Griffin mid-game. Cousins can't run like Griffin, because almost no quarterback can, but the Redskins drafted him in the fourth round thinking he was a good player who fit their system, and he's been practicing with the team since the summer. The Redskins' offense with Cousins running it isn't likely to look like the read-option stuff Griffin has run so much this year, but with top wide receiver Pierre Garcon healthy, the downfield passing game is alive and well and the Redskins obviously believe in Cousins' ability to run it. If they didn't, Grossman (who ran the offense efficiently last year when he wasn't throwing interceptions) would have been the backup to Griffin all year instead of Cousins.
The Browns rank 23rd in the league this year in yards allowed per game but ninth in the league in points allowed per game, and their defense has been a key reason they've won three in a row going into this game. Nonetheless, while the long-term health of Griffin is a significant factor for the Redskins and likely resulted in Saturday night's decision, the fact that they announced Cousins as the starter so far in advance of the game indicates to me that they believe they can win with him at quarterback.