Griffin benched, Cousins to start for Redskins

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Ashburn, VA ( - Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has made a change at quarterback and will start Kirk Cousins instead of Robert Griffin III for Sunday's game against Atlanta.

In fact, Griffin won't play again this season.

Shanahan gave an indication that he might make the switch on Monday, saying such a move would be to keep Griffin healthy heading into the offseason. The second-year quarterback made a quick recovery from major knee surgery performed last January, but has struggled for most of the 2013 campaign and Shanahan said Wednesday the quarterback has taken far too many hits recently.

After conferring with owner Daniel Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen, Shanahan said Wednesday the decision to sit Griffin was made in the best interests of the player.

"At the end of the day we felt the best thing to do for Robert was to not play him, so he can go into an offseason healthy," said Shanahan on Wednesday. "Any time you miss time in the offseason, it sets you back. A quarterback needs an offseason program, it's important to him."

Griffin appeared disappointed by the move, but said the decision was out of his hands.

"Coach decided to shut me down for the rest of the season," said a dour Griffin on Wednesday. "I expressed my desire to play, but he explained his reasoning and I have to do whatever I can to help Kirk and the team.

"(Shanahan) just wanted to make sure I got to the offseason free of injury so I could have a really good offseason."

The Redskins have followed a surprising division title from 2012 with a likely last-place finish this year. They've lost five straight games and are just 3-10 heading down the stretch.

Griffin was the NFL's top offensive rookie last year when the Redskins won their final seven games and captured the NFC East title, but he suffered a significant knee injury during the team's first-round playoff loss to Seattle in January.

The former Heisman Trophy winner's rehab process during the offseason was the biggest story for the Redskins heading into training camp. There had been speculation that he may have come back too soon, but all indications are that he is now healthy with three games left.

"Every player wants to play," Griffin added. "Any quarterback wants to finish out the season with his team. It's coach's decision and you have to respect that authority. In this instance, he's telling me to shut it down and I can't fight that."

Griffin has completed 60.1 percent of his passes for 3,230 yards with 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions this season. His rushing numbers have plummeted greatly from a year ago, with just 489 this season compared to 815 in 2012.

"I think it was tough enough, coming off (the injuries)," Shanahan added, emphasizing that he had the support of Snyder and Allen in the decision. "At the end of the day, if you miss the whole offseason again, the chances of coming back again would be very, very tough and I didn't want to put him in that situation again. I don't think it's worth the risk for this organization."

Cousins, a fourth-round pick by the Redskins a year ago, made one start last season in place of an injured Griffin and this year has appeared in two games. He has completed 12-of-25 passes for 107 yards with two interceptions in his limited action this season.

"I think it's a great opportunity to show what I'm capable of," said Cousins on Wednesday. "Football's a team game and you're only as good as the guys around you. The guys are going to help me and I'm going to help them. We're going to do our best to get a win against the Atlanta Falcons."

Cousins said he doesn't believe he is auditioning to be the quarterback for next season.

"Even as I start this week, I believe this is Robert's team," Cousins said. "He is the franchise quarterback."

Griffin will be the third quarterback on Sunday and Rex Grossman will be the backup to Cousins.

The Redskins, following Sunday's tilt, will close the year against division rivals Dallas and the New York Giants.