Over the last month or so, Kirk Cousins has been electric for the first place Washington Redskins. Super Bowl XXVI MVP Mark Rypien has enjoyed watching him take over as he becomes a better quarterback.
Before leading the Washington Redskins to their best regular season record ever – a 14-2 record in 1991 – and before being Super Bowl XXVI MVP, Mark Rypien had to wait his turn.
Drafted by the Redskins in the sixth round of the 1986 NFL Draft out of Washington State, Rypien wouldn't appear in any regular season action until 1988.
And in his first season, Rypien, replacing Doug Williams, would have mixed results, throwing 18 touchdowns to 13 interceptions while compiling a 3-3 record as a starter.
But as the years went on, and Rypien got more comfortable manning the offense.
That progression, the trajectory of being a backup to leading a contending team, is the same path Kirk Cousins is currently on.
"That's hard, when you come out. I did that for a year and a half with Doug Williams and I had a lot of success the first year I started, and then when Doug had an appendectomy," Rypien told Redskins.com. "I had a couple years under Jay Schroeder and Doug that I got to watch and learn the system. I don't think he had the opportunity and unfortunately in the NFL now, you don't have that luxury of getting a chance to sit back and bide your time. When things are ready and when they feel you're ready they put you in. You're kind of thrown in the fire, you have to learn sometimes is you don't and I think Kirk's had a little bit to do with that."
When Cousins got his chances at first, spot starting for Robert Griffin III, he was plagued by mistakes, especially when it came to throwing interceptions.
But as time has gone on, those mistakes have become less frequent, and even when they happen, they aren't as ghastly.
"A lot of the things he said early on was, 'I've got to learn from these mistakes, I've got to learn from these mistakes, I got to learn from these mistakes,'" Rypien said. "And eventually I think he's got to the point now where he's learned from these mistakes. …And the team's reaping from the benefits of that, and I actually think that's where he's at right now and I think as the weeks go on and they kind of hung their hat and said this is our guy. Jay [Gruden] kind of hung his hat and said, 'This is our guy.' He took ownership of that, and I think he felt more comfortable and I could see that in his play and I think everyone can."
What's also been noticeable in Cousins' maturation has been his in-game approach to good and bad plays.
During a tumultuous season for the Michigan State product last season, Cousins, plagued by interceptions, was clearly shaken up on the sideline by his less-than-ideal performances.
But even when he threw eight interceptions in the first six weeks this season, Cousins looked more poised.
"I don't think he's ever doubted that he could play in this league, and I think now that he's at a point where he's playing, has confidence, and that he's taking ownership and saying, 'This is my team. We're going to go as far as I go,'" Rypien said. "He's playing at a level that tells me that they have a chance to go pretty far if he keeps doing what he's doing. DeSean Jackson has really helped spread the field, Jordan Reed has made plays, and, of course, Pierre Garçon is the possession type guy that will always make plays. … Not only is he taking ownership of that but he's making plays. It's fun to watch."