Robert Griffin III's injury leaves door open for Redskins QB Kirk Cousins

STERLING, Va. -- The assumption had been all along that Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III would get a certain number of games to prove himself. One report even suggested he’d get the entire season, no matter what.

Now you have to wonder if he’ll get any games at all this season. It’s a big leap to go from a quarterback not being cleared for the third preseason game because of a possible concussion to the notion that he could be replaced permanently. But all things are possible in Washington, and when it comes to Griffin and the Redskins, everything is on the table. So let the speculation and conspiracy theories begin.

Earlier Friday night, after dedicating a local high school football field the Redskins helped fund, team president Bruce Allen made it clear there was no mandate to play Griffin if he struggled.

“That’s coach [Jay] Gruden’s decision,” Allen said. “The coach will decide who’s going to play. Obviously, Coach Gruden, along with his assistant coaches, will decide who is the running back and the quarterback and the defensive lineman. They make those decisions.”

If it’s indeed up to Gruden, then any opening Griffin leaves could pave the way for a longer change than just the one or two weeks he might miss. In a statement released by the team, the independent neurologist said Griffin would need one to two weeks of rest before being tested again. If that’s the case, Kirk Cousins almost assuredly would start the season. He’ll start Saturday vs. Baltimore, and if he plays well, then it’s hard to imagine the team going back to Griffin -- what would be the grounds? This being Washington, a new twist is always a week or two away.

Still, know this: Cousins always had strong fans among the coaching staff, even after he was benched last season. Those feelings only increased this summer with the more he's played. Last year, one coach said he felt Cousins had been given a “raw deal” in being benched and then never returning. Another coach's eyes lit up talking about Cousins' preseason.

And also know this: When Gruden talks about Cousins in his pressers, there’s a different tone in his voice than when he talks about Griffin. With Griffin on some days, Gruden searches hard to stay positive. His body language suggests discomfort; yes, you can’t read into everything, but when a man looks pained, you notice. Gruden should not play poker. When it comes to Cousins and even Colt McCoy, Gruden's tone is different. I'm just telling you what I see and hear.

The tricky part remains for Cousins. He must go out and play well to keep the job. He must respond better to interceptions. He must show that the nine starts he made were just full of growing pains and not an indication that he's an up-and-down quarterback destined to be a solid backup. Just like nothing was guaranteed for Griffin entering camp, other than he had first shot, nothing should be handed to Cousins. With Cousins, there is no drama. There is no worrying about what he’ll say or how he’s perceived in the locker room. That's what Gruden has wanted: a focus on 53, not one plus 52. You can’t blame Griffin for always being the focal point, but you also can’t ignore the role he’s played.

You don’t want to go overboard speculating on what this means. For Griffin, it’s a health issue and one that concerns his future -- he’s had two previous concussions. Any knock to the head a couple of years later can cause issues that might not occur for someone who had never had one.

But I also wonder what this means for his time in Washington. He did not play well enough in the games to support the idea that he should be the starter. He did not progress to the coach’s liking, with questions about his instincts in the pocket among other issues. Whether or not players liked or loved him doesn't matter if he's playing well and producing. But that's the problem: Griffin stopped producing.

This reversal by the neurologist leads to all sorts of questions. It might not be Griffin who provides the answers.