Redskins Robert Griffin III benched; Kirk Cousins to start against Atlanta Falcons

9:36 AM, Dec 11, 2013   |    comments
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Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (12) throws for a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans during the first half at LP Field (Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)

ASHBURN, Va. - What Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan hinted Monday is about to become reality - star quarterback Robert Griffin III has been benched, and backup Kirk Cousins will start for the remainder of the season, a person familiar with the move told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday.

The person, who also told USA TODAY Sports that Griffin will be inactive the rest of the way while veteran Rex Grossman backs up Cousins, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the move has yet to be announced by the team.

Talk about an exit strategy. Benching RG3 appears like Shanahan's way of going out on his terms with an extremely provocative move. Could it incite owner Daniel Snyder to fire the coach? Shanahan has one season remaining on his contract and seems to be pouring gasoline on a raging Redskins tire fire by inviting a full-blown quarterback controversy.

Still, a source familiar with the move told USA TODAY Sports that Snyder would not overrule Shanahan's decision to shelve RG3. The person requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the decision.

Shanahan came to Washington with two Super Bowl rings as the Denver Broncos head coach and a reputation as an offensive mastermind. But he's looking at a third last-place finish in four seasons with the Redskins. He's 24-38 with the Redskins, including one playoff loss after the team won the NFC East in 2012. Shanahan's five-year contract is worth $35 million.

Coming back from reconstructive knee surgery, Griffin has not been the same player who won offensive rookie of the year honors last season. Shanahan repeatedly mentioned Monday that the quarterback has been sacked 24 times in the team's last five losses.

Yet it is the Shanahans, Mike and his son Kyle, the team's offensive coordinator, who have had Griffin throwing 35 times a game this season compared to 24.5 times per game last year.

Despite saying that RG3 is "100% healthy," Shanahan hinted Monday he would bench Griffin in order to preserve his health. The quarterback has not yet had a full offseason to master the team's offense after being forced to rehabilitate his knee this year after he tore knee ligaments in January's playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

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