It’s bad enough that sports journalists around the country are shredding the Washington Nationals for the Shutdown Stephen Strasburg project. Most local media, however, seem to agree with the decision, probably due to our proximity and our inherent interest in the team’s long-term planning.
But there’s nothing like a good debate in sports, and Strasburg’s countdown is fresh and different — qualities that often are in limited supply for sports squawkers.
However, quarterback controversies are old, familiar and comfortable topics, predating the tussle between Oakland’s George Blanda and Daryle Lamonica. That’s probably why some folks in the media are trying to engender a competition between Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins.
Never mind that the Washington Redskins mortgaged their future and half of the practice bubble to obtain RG3. Never mind that coach Mike Shanahan emphatically named him the starter right after RG3 shook hands with the commissioner. Never mind that RG3’s name, image and jersey are plastered around D.C. like campaign stickers in a seven-way City Council race.
None of those facts was enough to convince Jim Miller. He’s a TV analyst for the Bears (and not coincidentally, an announcer for Cousin’s alma mater, Michigan State). Miller was thoroughly impressed by the second-half performance Saturday against Chicago’s scrubs, when Washington’s other rookie QB completed 18 of 23 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns.
That was enough for Miller, who reportedly claimed there’s a quarterback controversy in D.C. and he hates such things.
I don’t know if the people who man the NFL’s official Twitter account were listening, or simply smoked some of the same weed. Whatever the case, this tweet hit cyberspace right after the game: “RGIII might have some competition. Rookie QB Kirk Cousins: 15/19 216yds 3TDs.”
Besides getting Cousins‘ stats wrong, they got his status wrong. He is not competing with Griffin for the starting job. He is competing with Rex Grossman for the No. 2 job. Miller and the NFL twits didn’t get the memo, but Cousins knows the deal.
“This is Robert’s team,” he told reporters Monday. “This is Robert’s opportunity, and the coaches have made that very clear. It’s my job to be the best I can in my situation and in my opportunities, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
ESPN’s Skip Bayless also is trying to do the best he can in his situation. Unfortunately, it often brings out the worst in him. Bayless took the contrived QB controversy a couple of steps further (backward?) by injecting race into the discussion.
On Monday, Bayless said “some foolish Redskins fans” are going to say “‘Maybe Kirk Cousins is better right now. Maybe we should go with Kirk.’” After claiming he’s not in that camp, Bayless threw his match:
“You also have the black/white dynamic and the majority of Redskins fans are white,” he said. “And it’s just human nature if you’re white to root for the white guy. It just happens in sports. Just like the black community will root for the black quarterback. I’m for the black guy. I’m just saying I don’t like the dynamic for RG3. It could stunt his growth in the NFL.”
We do have a history of black/white dynamics in this country, and sports are no exception. But it doesn’t pertain to the Redskins‘ QB in 2012. There will always be a segment of folks who root (or vote) solely based on skin color, but most fans favor victories first and foremost.
Granted, backup quarterbacks can be pretty popular, especially if the starter is average or struggling. Or they can be like Peyton Manning’s backup in Indianapolis the last 15 years, good ol’ whatshisname.
Cousins might get some love as the underdog or as a Big Ten guy. But he won’t get any against-all-odds love like New England’s Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead. They stand out at their positions (receiver and halfback) like marshmallows in chocolate, just as the RG3s of the NFL once stood out at quarterback like raisins in milk.
Not anymore. There is no QB controversy in D.C., not based on completion percentage, melanin percentage or anything else. RG3 is No. 1, and only an injury can change that anytime soon.
But don’t let that get in the way of a contrived sports debate.