Kyle Shanahan

Cousins thankful for time spent with Shanahan in Washington

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Ever since Kyle Shanahan pushed for Washington to draft Kirk Cousins back in 2012, the two have maintained a strong relationship over the years.

The two went separate ways shortly after but their paths will cross once again under the bright "Monday Night Football" lights when Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings host Shanahan's 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Ahead of the primetime matchup, Cousins reflected on his time with Shanahan.

"He was a big reason I got drafted there," Cousins recalled. "I was fortunate enough to work with him for two years. Mike Shanahan, the head coach when I was drafted there, has really been a mentor for me and somebody that I've always gone to for wisdom and counsel, and the same for Kyle and Matt LaFleur and Sean McVay, Mike McDaniel, a lot of those guys that were in that staff that I just have a lot of respect for and enjoyed working with.

"It was a positive two years for me kind of learning the league and we've all kind of followed each other ever since then and that's where it's been."

In the 2013 season, Washington finished dead last in the division with a 3-13 record. Mike Shanahan, Kyle Shanahan's father, was fired after four seasons as head coach, along with Kyle Shanahan, who was the offensive coordinator at the time.

Cousins became the starter for the 2015 season and was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 2016. In 2018, Cousins signed with Minnesota where he has called home for the past five years. Looking back at the last decade or so, Cousins is grateful for how things turned out for everyone involved.

"When [Shanahan] left, we had just gone 3-13. I played the last three games, we went 0-3," Cousins said. "We were all in disbelief with where we were so it's been amazing to see where everybody's paths have gone since then. And it's been a great lesson to me that tough times don't last, tough people do. And that was something Coach Mike Shanahan always said and I've learned to believe it strongly.

"We didn't know what to expect back then, but you believe the cream rises to the top in time and I think that's proven true in the case of a lot of those coaches."

After Thursday's 49ers practice, Shanahan, too, got an opportunity to take a trip down memory lane and reflect on the short but memorable stint with Cousins.

“I mean, he just came in such a weird situation," Shanahan said. "We traded up, we got another quarterback with the second pick in the draft. It was a good story that, I remember we had the sixth pick and I knew if we were going at six, my dad wanted to take [Tennessee Titans QB Ryan] Tannehill. I was hoping to get Kirk in the second round and go a different direction and we traded up to two and went with [former NFL QB] Robert [Griffin III] and I remember him telling me that, my dad really liked [Denver Broncos QB] Russell Wilson and he said, ‘We're going to take Russell Wilson in the fourth and get two quarterbacks in there that year.’ And then we got to the fourth and Russell was gone, and I remember him coming to my room. He was like, ‘Hey, do you still want your guy Kirk?’ I was like, ‘I don't know about that dad, we've gone another direction.’

"He was like, ‘No, the plan was we’re going to take two, we're still taking two.’ Then we ended up taking Kirk, which I was pumped about because that's who I wanted originally. Then to be able to get both of them. I know it was a weird situation for Kirk to go into a place where you know you're not going to have that opportunity, but he just kind of sat there and soaked everything in and learned a lot. It was a fun two years just working with him every day. But, didn’t get to coach him much in games, I think we had three games with him. But he was awesome in the office.”

Even though the two will be on opposite sides of the field on Monday, the respect that Cousins and Shanahan have for one another is something that won't ever fade away.

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