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Kirk Cousins’ career path may take him elsewhere, and he’s just fine with that

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Kirk Cousins is behind RG3 now, but he has an eventual exit strategy. (Getty Images)

Everyone involved in the Washington Redskins organization is waiting to see just how quickly and well Robert Griffin III will recover from offseason knee surgery, and backup quarterback Kirk Cousins recently noted, RG3 is looking good on his insistence that he'll be ready to start the 2013 season.

"Robert looked awesome, and I'm not just saying that," Cousins recently told the NFL Network. "Obviously, he is a bit of a freak in terms of his athleticism, but he's healed very quickly. He couldn't practice with us but he was on a separate field doing drills all spring, during our OTAs and minicamp, and he looked really good. I think he'll be ready to go come Week 1, but my mindset is to be ready to go no matter what."

However, that seeming inevitability leaves Cousins in a bit of a pickle -- the Michigan State alum believes that he can be an NFL starter down the road, but unless Griffin endures more injuries, that's obviously not going to happen in D.C. Cousins now sees a possible future in the NFL similar to the paths taken by quarterbacks like Matt Hasselbeck and Matt Schaub. Hasselbeck was selected in the sixth round of the 1998 draft by the Green Bay Packers, was traded to the Seattle Seahawks before the 2001 season, and eventually worked his way into a longtime starting role with Seattle that included multiple playoff berths and an appearance in Super Bowl XL, which was better than sitting behind Brett Favre for a decade. Schaub was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the third round of the 2004 draft, but was traded to the Houston Texans before the 2007 season because the Falcons were sure they had their long-term starter in Michael Vick. (Little did they know). Now, Schaub is the quarterback of a team that threatens to head to the Super Bowl every season, and Cousins sees no reason why he can't aim at that paradigm.

"Well, hopefully, I can have a similar career path to a Hasselbeck or a Schaub," Cousins recently told Orlando Alzugaray of Miami's 640 Sports Radio. "I don't have a starting opportunity right now, and down the road, it doesn't look like I'll have that in Washington, D.C., because of how talented Robert is. So, if I were to get a starter's role, it would probably be elsewhere like Hasselbeck and Schaub have had, and they went on to great success. Certainly, I want to have a career path like them, where I can become a starter someplace and have success, but right now, I am very thankful for being in D.C. I feel like it's a great place for me and a great system to be in. I'm still learning the NFL game to some degree, so to be in a place where I'm learning from the Shanahans [head coach Mike and offensive coordinator Kyle] and am able to learn from a guy like Robert Griffin, it puts me in a great position to hopefully have success down the road. I really do view my career as a marathon, not a sprint. As much as I may not be jumping out right away, early in my career, being a starting quarterback with all kinds of success, I think it is more the long view in mind, where I'm still here several years from now. It will have been well worth it to be a Redskin."

Over the long term, I think that Cousins has a decent shot at a starting opportunity with an NFL team. He was selected in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, but I gave him a second-round grade, and thought that he could develop into a good-but-not-great pro quarterback with the ability to run an offense at an efficient (if not transcendent) level. Cousins played in four games and started one in his rookie season, completing 33 passes in 48 for 466 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. As he got more time in real games, Cousins showed better game management and efficiency, and he'll certainly be worth watching if Griffin can't stay healthy -- not only for Redskins fans, but also for other NFL teams -- most of whom are looking for the quarterback who can take them out of the hole and to the next level.

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