ASHBURN — Kirk Cousins confessed Wednesday he didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about making Pro Bowls or the Hall of Fame when he entered the league as a 2012 fourth-rounder.
His focus was on making the roster.
But Kyle Shanahan saw something more in the rookie from Michigan State.
“We could see it on tape,” Shanahan said. “We were excited what we saw in his college film. That’s what we liked the most about him. That’s why we wanted him. What we saw on tape, he was everything the same in practice.”
Cousins is playing again this season on a one-year deal, and Shanahan, hired by the 49ers in the offseason, doesn’t appear to have a long-term solution at quarterback on his roster (apologies to starter Brian Hoyer).
“This league is so challenging,” Cousins told San Francisco media on a Wednesday conference call. “It’s about right now. And it’s about doing all I can right now to hopefully be in a position to where Washington won’t let me leave, or doesn’t want to leave because I’ve done my job. So that’s where my focus lies. We’ll see how it all shakes out.”
But Cousins clearly feels a connection with his former coach. The 29-year-old quarteback talked this week about how Shanahan initially told him that his goal was to develop Cousins to the point where they could trade him.
Cousins has played in games where he’s gone against Shanahan before. Since leaving the Redskins, Shanahan has had stops in Cleveland and Atlanta. But with the 49ers a potential landing spot for Cousins, Sunday’s game will take on some extra meaning.
In Shanahan’s absence, Cousins has become — at least statistically — one of the league’s top quarterbacks. After completing 25 of 30 for 365 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions on Sept. 24 against the Oakland Raiders, Cousins was named the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Week.
And Cousins continues to evolve, recognizing different coverages and adapting, coach Jay Gruden said.
“Playing quarterback is all about experiences, learning from your mistakes, moving forward and continuing to compete at a high level — on a consistent high level,” Gruden said. “And that’s what he’s doing so far.”
The Redskins coach weighed in on the “Cousins-to-the 49ers” narrative with San Francisco reporters Wednesday, predicting that Cousins would be in “high demand” after this season.
For Cousins to test the open market, the Redskins would have to again fail to sign him to a long-term contract and pass on giving Cousins a third-straight franchise tag — estimated to be worth about $34 million next year.
On Wednesday, Shanahan was reluctant to share too many details about what he considers Cousins’ strengths.
“I have to be careful talking too much,” he said — a subtle nod to the Redskins being both this weekend’s opponent and a potential off-season rival for the quarterback’s services.
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