Only a few metro stops away, DeSean Jackson and the Washington Redskins are preparing for their NFC East divisional showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. While Jackson’s first game against his former team will grab some headlines, it will be the man throwing him the ball, Kirk Cousins, who will be under the most scrutiny.

Cousins replaces former Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, who dislocated his ankle in last week’s game. For quite some time, critics have wondered whether or not Robert Griffin III was worth the high price — three first-round picks and one second rounder that were traded to the St. Louis Rams — the Redskins paid to pick him in the NFL draft over two years ago.

Washington must ask themselves, “Is RGIII better than Kirk Cousins?”

Robert Griffin III quickly asserted himself as a Pro Bowler in his rookie year. The Baylor product’s 3,200 passing yards may have ranked just 22nd in the NFL, but his 8.1 adjusted yards per attempt, which factors in interceptions and touchdowns, as well as his 815 rush yards, were the highest among quarterbacks in the 2012-2013 NFL season. What made his rookie season even more spectacular was his ability to limit turnovers, with only five interceptions and three fumbles. As for Cousins, he only saw action three times during that regular season, which included a game-tying touchdown pass against the Baltimore Ravens and a solid start against the Cleveland Browns.

The Redskins’ 2012-2013 playoff run was a short-lived affair, as Griffin played through injury when former coach Mike Shanahan forced him to play until he physically could not continue. After Griffin was knocked out of the first post-season game against the Seattle Seahawks, Cousins tried to lead a rally, but the Seahawks’ lead was insurmountable.

The 2013-2014 season showed a different Griffin. His adjusted yards per attempt fell to 6.5 yards, good for 23rd in the NFL. Part of the reason for the decline was the more conservative offensive scheme implemented by Shanahan. Rather than have Griffin run for another 800 yards, Shanahan incorporated more passing into the Redskin’s offense. Griffin averaged 35.1 pass attempts per game in 2013, compared to just 26.2 pass attempts in his rookie year. His rushing yards also fell 326 yards, as Shanahan limited his rushing attempts in an attempt to keep Griffin healthy.

After starting the season with a dismal 3-10 record, the Redskins decided to shut down Griffin for the season and gave Cousins a chance to show his skills. Cousins looked impressive in his first start, when he shredded the Falcons defense. Still, his last two starts were miserable, failing to gain 200 yards in either game and managing only 19 completions in 49 pass attempts. Cousin’s small sample size makes it hard to evaluate how he will play as a regular starter in the NFL. Despite his poor play in the final two games of 2013, Cousins averaged 35 more passing yards per start than Griffin that season.

Total QBR, calculated by Football Outsiders and often used by ESPN, rates quarterbacks based on game situation, opponents, receivers and other variables. In Griffin’s 2012 season, he finished with a phenomenal QBR of 73.2, sixth-best in the league. Cousins, in his 48 pass attempts in 2012, finished with a QBR of 75.2 slightly besting Griffin. Even though both quarterbacks played poorly the following year, Griffin’s QBR rating of 26.5 was again lower than Cousins’ at 41.8.

There is a case for Cousins, but at this moment, Griffin is the better quarterback. Griffin’s career completion percentage is 5.7 percent better than Cousins’. Griffin’s career 7.5 adjusted yards per attempt is also significantly better than Cousins’ career AY/A of 5.6 yards, because Cousins throws interceptions more frequently than RGIII, and Cousins is a bit less accurate.

A healthy Griffin is also more dynamic and offers a rushing option to the offense. Despite his shortcomings, this is now Cousins’ time to stir conversation about who the real franchise quarterback is in Washington.

Both quarterbacks are flawed; Griffin cannot remain on the field due to injury while Cousins, in terms of performance, is unflashy and can be inconsistent. Cousins’ five starts include three great performances and two mediocre ones. Griffin’s ankle injury will likely keep him sidelined for a large portion of this season, so Washington fans will finally be able to see what Cousins can do given full control of the team for an indefinite period of time. The 2014 season will likely prove a crucial one for deciding the long-term leader of Washington’s offense.

Nick Barton is a sophomore in the McDonough School of Business.

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