Redskins QB Comparison: RG3 vs Cousins vs McCoy

After the 2014 season, the Washington Redskins were still left with question marks on who will be the starting quarterback of the 2015 season. RG3 performed well to start the season, but a dislocated ankle in the second week of the season opened the door to controversy for backup quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy. This breakdown will analyze RG3’s, Kirk Cousins’, and Colt McCoy’s 2014 season performances individually and then it will compare all three quarterbacks based on the characteristics that encompass a franchise quarterback in the NFL such as arm strength, accuracy and decision-making.


  • RG3 – 147/214 (68.4%), 1694 yards, 7.92 ypa, 4 TDs, 6 INTs, 38 rushes, 176 yards, 1 TD in 9 games. Source
  • Kirk Cousins – 126/204 (61.8%), 1710 yards, 8.38 ypa, 10 TDs, 9 INTs, 7 rushes, 20 yards in 6 games. Source
  • Colt McCoy – 91/128 (71.1%), 1057 yards, 8.26 ypa, 4 TDs, 3 INTs, 16 rushes, 66 yards, 1 TD in 5 games. Source


Articles that were written about RG3 on a weekly basis:

In the beginning of the season, Redskins’ head coach Jay Gruden called a lot of quick passing plays and play-action bootleg rollouts similar to the play-calling of former Redskins’ offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Like in previous years, this allowed RG3 to make quick reads and use his legs to escape the pocket to find receivers down the field.

Against the Texans and Jaguars, RG3 was very accurate with the football. He consistently made the correct read and throw on the play. This was expected as a lot of these plays were similar to Shanahan’s playbook. When asked to move past his first read, however RG3 struggled at times. He stared down the first receiver and then hesitated with the football not trusting his read or receiver to make the correct route. Additionally, RG3 lacked throwing with anticipation meaning he would wait for his receiver to fully make his cut and had clear separation before releasing the ball. This is a major problem seeing as the windows in the NFL are much smaller than they were at Baylor and would lead to missed opportunities even on routine throws like out routes.

RG3 also had a problem with taking too many sacks. In 214 passing attempts, RG3 was sacked 33 times which corresponds to 6.5 passes per sack. This is unacceptable. One might instantly blame the offensive line for these awful numbers, but many of the sacks were caused by RG3’s inability to progress past his first read and hesitation with the football. For comparison, Colt McCoy was sacked 17 times in 128 passes (7.5 passes per sack), while Kirk Cousins was sacked 8 times in 208 passes (26 passes per sack), while the offensive line remained mostly constant.

RG3 dislocated his ankle against the Jaguars in Week 2 after an impressive start to the season and didn’t return until he was healthy against the Vikings in Week 9. Versus the Vikings, RG3 showed continued improvement in the passing game going through his progressions which was a very good sign against a top defense. The Redskins ended up losing that game, but it was not RG3’s fault as the Redskins’ defense allowed the Vikings rookie quarterback and a suspect offense to score 29 points and a game-winning drive to seal the victory, while RG3 helped the Redskins score 26 points against their top defense. RG3 started against the Buccaneers in Week 11 and 49ers in Week 12 and performed miserably. Any sign of progression from the Vikings game was lost, as RG3 started taking more and more sacks with a lot of them being his fault due to his inability to progress through his reads and throw the football. Due to these performances, RG3 was benched in favor of Colt McCoy and only returned after McCoy was sent to the injury reserve with a neck injury.

After RG3 returned, he didn’t show the same mental ability like he did in the beginning of the season to diagnose coverages and throw to the correct receiver, because Gruden’s play-calling became more tradional as the season progressed. Nobody can honestly expect RG3 to suddenly become a great pocket passer overnight, but the end of the season was very disconcerting as you would have expected a 3rd year quarterback to be much futher in his development. RG3 has a lot to fix this off-season in order for him to be able to secure the starting quarterback position of the Washington Redskins in 2015 and the future.

Let’s take a look at some of RG3’s throws to illustrate a few points about his game:

1. Accuracy (Short/Medium/Deep)

a. Short-Medium Accuracy – Rank: #1/3

Play 8 – Tight window throw to hitch route. Great step into pocket and throw with accuracy to Garcon.

Play 10 – Great seam-route throw to Paul. Pefect placement.

Play 19 – RG3 throws the ball too far inside of his receiver for an interception.

b. Deep Accuracy – Rank: #3/3

Play 2 – RG3 scrambles to the outside and throws to Roberts running up the sideline. He needs to keep the ball in-bounds but throws it just outside for an incompletion.

Play 11 – Great deep ball throw to Jackson on the sideline. Could have been thrown slightly longer but still a good throw.

Play 15 – RG3 throws a beautiful long pass to Jackson on a post route. Amazing throw and he steps up into the pocket.

2. Vision and Decision-Making – Rank: #3/3

Play 21 – RG3 holds onto the ball way too long and scrambles backwards. Play resulted in positive gain, but not a good overall way to play the game in a west coast offense.

Play 32 – RG3 scrambling with three wide open receivers versus the Buccaneers.

Once RG3 escapes the pocket, he has a few options. Jackson is wide open on the left sideline. Roberts over the middle has a significant speed advantage over the LB who is covering him. Also, Garcon is wide-open over the middle. Instead, RG3 decides to keep it and rushes up the middle for a 10 yard gain.

RG3 holds onto ball too long and is indecisive. Gets hit in the process.

Play 34 – This was an infuriating play. RG3 has a perfectly clean pocket and can’t make the most of it. Jackson and Garcon BOTH get wide open yet RG3 doesn’t see them and he decides to scramble to the outside. This play should have been a 25 yard gain by any competent college QB, but RG3 decides to hold onto the ball too long causing the incompletion and gets destroyed in the process.

Play 45 – RG3 stares down his receivers and takes a sack. Awful vision and progressions on this play. Needs to continue through them.

3. Pocket Presence – Rank: #3/3

Play 3 – RG3 uses his mobility and pocket awareness to make a play using his feet to get outside to find a checkdown receiver. Great decision.

Play 37 – Great pocket presence to avoid the sack and move around the pocket for a completion over the middle underneath zone coverage.

4. Arm Strength – Rank: #1/3

Play 22 – Perfect sideline pass in-stride to Jackson on a go-route. Beautiful ball placement and great for looking off safety.

Play 29 – RG3 clearly shows arm strength in a 60 yard pass to the endzone. Just misses his target slightly in front of him.

Play 35 – Deep pass to Jackson just too far in front. This could have been a TD.

5. Anticipation – Rank: #3/3

Play 4 – RG3 throws a hitch route to Garcon with almost zero anticipation.

Play 91 – This is RG3’s weakest trait by far. He hesitates with the ball and rarely throws the ball before the receiver makes his cut. Only on design first-read passes does RG3 make his throw before the wide receiver cuts and even then it is still rare. Watch this play:

This was a snippet from my Week 17 RG3 versus the Cowboys analysis.

“In this play RG3 finds WR11 Jackson on the comeback route and hesitates throwing the ball. A brief moment later RG3 is taken down for a sack. This is the view of RG3 finding Jackson the sideline. This is literally the perfect moment where Jackson is starting to turn his hips to break free from his defender.

All RG3 has to do is release the football, but he hesitates and doesn’t trust his wide receiver. This is exactly what it is meant to “throw or not throw with anticipation.” RG3 SHOULD have released the ball, but he hesitates. If he threw threw it, this would have been a perfect decision. Instead he wants to wait for Jackson to fully break from his route. What a shame.”

RG3 NEEDS to fix this over the off-season. With windows getting smaller and smaller, RG3 has to improve on this in order to maximize his opportunities.

As you can see from the above plays, RG3 clearly has potential and the natural ability to be a great quarterback. He just is extremely raw in being a pocket passer. One thing that would help him tremendously is if he threw with more anticipation and just was more confident with his reads. He needs to trust his receviers to maximize opportunities.

On the next page we will look at Kirk Cousins.

Samuel Gold

Sam founded NFL Breakdowns after working his way through the journalist farm system and is enjoying life in the big league. Growing up outside of Washington, D.C., Sam didn’t choose the Redskins, the Redskins chose him. Out of a love for the game and an insatiable curiosity to determine why his beloved team was underperforming, Sam turned to studying film in NFL Breakdowns.