So, what do the Redskins do with Kirk Cousins?
It’s the most important decision that the franchise has faced in recent memory, and so far they have fumbled it at every turn. If Cousins was a business venture, and the Skins were Donald Trump, we’d be in bankruptcy court already. The whole debacle has been so ugly and public, that I’m shocked there hasn’t been a meme about it yet.
What should have been an easy exercise has devolved into Bruce Allen attempting to solve a Rubik’s-cube, while being as drunk as he claimed Scot McCloughan to be. To say the least, the situation has become complicated. And that brings up many questions, but are there answers?
Can This Marriage Work?
Can Cousins and the Skins kiss and make up, or is this going to be another one night stand? The calmest, rational thing to do would be for both sides to come together and strike a long-term deal. Judging by various reports, a contract somewhere around 4 to 5 years with an average salary of say 23-25 million would probably do it.
If this came to pass it would open up a whole other Pandora’s box of questions like: “Why didn’t this happen last offseason?,” or, “Oh God, we gave him Joe Flacco money!!!,” to, “Why on earth did we give him Flacco money?,” to eventually, “Oh yeah, the Texans gave Osweiler 4 years for $72 million and he couldn’t hit the Ocean if it was open on the beach…”.
If you are truly a die-hard Redskins fan, then you know there is very little chance that this team would ever do the calm, smart, rational thing. It’s just not in our DNA. This is a team that thrives on chaos. This is a team that more recently is known for its debacles, not its dynasties: the Haynseworth episode, the McCloughan fiasco and the coaching adventures of Spurrier and Zorn all come to mind.
This team’s been a god-damned running joke since I hit puberty. They finally have two non-losing seasons in a row, and then this offseason happens. But let’s say, for the sake of this article, by some miracle above, the Redskins meet Cousins’ asking price….
Does Kirk Cousins Want To Sign A Long Term Deal?
Maybe the most forgotten aspect of the entire Redskins-Cousins saga is the emotions. People have feelings, and those feelings can get hurt. And I would not blame Kirk Cousins one bit if he was 100% butt-hurt at the Redskins. Because the Redskins have spent the better part of his career treating Kirk Cousins like trash. Let’s take a stroll down the burgundy and gold brick road.
It all started his rookie year: Reports came out that Cousins was out playing #2 overall pick, the franchise savior, and my own personal football-jesus: RG3. Anyone that witnessed RG3’s rookie season could easily brush this off as the usual Redskin fan phenomenon of falling in love with the teams back-up QB. You’ve had Kilmer-Jurgensen, Shuler-Frerotte, and Doug Williams-Schroeder; I mean for the love of god, even Colt Brennan had a cult following.
Over the next few seasons RG3’s injuries and stunted growth only made the voices for Cousins louder. But despite quarterback play from RG3 that bordered on Bortlesesqe levels of ineptitude, Cousins was never really given a fair shake. He was actually benched and demoted to third string at one point. The organization’s front office was so focused on fixing RG3 that it got to the point that Jay Gruden had to risk his job to give Cousins the keys to the car. If those three years of purgatory rubbed Kirk the wrong way and left a sour taste in his mouth, could you blame him?
Then the 2015 season happened. Cousins was named the started right before the season started. He would go on to break numerous team record while leading the team to an improbable 9-7 record and a NFC East title. In his first full season as a starter Cousins threw for 4,166 yards, 29 touchdowns, and completed 69.8% of his passes. Surprisingly, Cousins threw only 11 interceptions in 543 attempts. He finished 6th in the league in Total QBR, with a rating of 71.0. It was statistically the greatest regular season by a quarterback in Redskins team history. Since he was a free agent after the year the Skins slapped him with the franchise tag, and then spent the offseason low-balling him in contract negotiations. One can not imagine that this would sit well with Mr.Cousins. So he decided to play the 2016 season under the tag, and start anew the next offseason.
Much like the 2015 season, 2016 was much of the same. Despite playing a much tougher schedule, the Redskins managed to finish with a respectable 8-7-1 record. Cousins once again had a wonderful statistical season. Breaking his own team record from the season before, Cousins posted a stat line of 4,917 yards and a TD-int ratio of 25-12. He completed 67% of his passes and once again finished 6th in the league in Total QBR at 71.7.
Presently, we’re only a little less than a month from the 2017 draft and Cousins still does not have a long-term deal. Over the past 2 years, he has, by some metrics, proven to be a top 5 or 6 passer in the league. Does he feel the Redskins really want to keep him? Does he feel like they ever really wanted him in the first place?
Should The Redskins Keep Cousins?
Here is where the real fun starts! Should the Redskins invest 25 or so million dollars over the next 3 to 5 years to keep the Conversion Van Gunslinger in the fold? If you base this decision purely on statistics, this is a slam dunk no-brainer. But the NFL, like all other walks of life, is never purely black and white. So lets break the debate down:
The best thing the Redskins have done so far this offseason is extending Jay Gruden’s contract. This gives the team some possible stability and continuity it needs. With that being said, Kirk Cousins is a very precise tactician of Jay Gruden’s Offence. He has played in this system for the last 3 years and has done quite well within the framework of the offense.
From a pure continuity point, its hard to argue that another QB could step into the team right now and be more productive in the short-term than Cousins. Over the last 2 years he has thrown for over 9,000 yards, and the team is almost unstoppable outside of the red zone. At this point Kirk Cousins is a known commodity to the Redskins. If they keep Cousins, they know who they’re climbing into bed with every night.
Kirk Cousins is human, and he has flaws just like everyone else not named Aaron Rodgers. These past two years, Cousins has not only put up wonderful stat lines but also seemed to cut down on his Achilles heal: soul-crushing interceptions. Early in his career, Kirk Cousins was usually good for at least one of these a game. It had gotten so bad that Jay Gruden benched and demoted him to 3rd string early in the 2014 season.
While he managed to avoid this to the great extent in 2015, there was the Dallas game in week 2 of 2016. In many other instances opposing defenders failed to make a play or just dropped sure interceptions. Interceptions are not always a QB’s fault. Football is a team game and sometimes everything has to go right or bad things happen.
Receivers fall down or run the wrong routes, and sometimes balls get tipped at the line. Or sometimes a QB reads the coverage wrong and drills a DB right in the chest. Shit happens. The last two years, less shit has happened. Is this the new norm, or has it just been a run of good luck?
Despite the stats, Kirk Cousins is not nearly as accurate a passer as he is perceived. Many of his completions are on short, quick passes to wide open targets. This is not at all his fault, as in many cases that’s just the way the offense operates. As someone who watched every last one of Cousins 1,149 passes over the last 2 seasons, he is a below average downfield passer in terms of both accuracy and recognition.
He will routinely miss open receivers downfield. In some games this season I lost count of how many times a receiver was behind his man in the secondary, only to be ignored by Cousins. And when he did go down the field, more often than not his accuracy left a lot to be desired as well. Just ask Desean Jackson. Cousins has put up gaudy numbers, but also has left a countless number of points on the field.
Cousins operates the current Redskins Offence very well, but his play and weaknesses make your wonder how he would fair in a different system. Would the Redskins be bidding against themselves for his services?
What Are The Redskins Options?
Kirk Cousins does not seem to budging on his contract demands, and he shouldn’t. The Redskins have literally given him all the leverage in the world. This leaves the Redskins with two options: Give Cousins “Joe Flacco Money”, or trade Cousins and step into the great QB unknown.
The phrase “Joe Flacco Money” is a reference to the last contract Joe Flacco signed that severely hamstrung the franchise. It also refers to paying a quarterback who is not elite, elite money. By meeting Cousins demands, the Redskins would definitely be giving him the Joe Flacco treatment. While Cousins is likely to be solid for the duration of his mega deal, it is rather unlikely that at 29 years old he will turn into Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. A deal like this would force the Redskins to be more prudent, shrewd, and smart in free agency. That is something the current administration has not been good at, and as a Redskin fan this prospect scares me a great deal.
The Trade Route
The Redskins could try to trade Cousins now. However, it is highly unlikely they would get much for him. It would be a hard sell to get a team to surrender a ton of assets and then pay Cousins truckloads of money. This could all change come draft day; stranger things have happened.
The Redskins could somehow, inconceivably, be right back in the same predicament next offseason. Only next year the price of the franchise tag is $34.5 million. Let that sink in for a second, $34.5 Million American Dollars!!! No team in NFL history has ever tagged a player 3 times in a row. I mean who would do that, it would be crazy! What team would even entertain that idea? Oh yeah, I forgot…..
What Should The Fans Think?
As fans of a team, we like to have our voices heard. We like to believe that the teams we live and die for value or opinions and choices. They do not. The Redskins care more about negative overall fan reaction than most, purely because the owner is one of us. But more often than not they usually are just in spin-mode, trying to avert any negative attention.
Most Redskins fans will just look at the stats and want to overpay to keep Kirk Cousins. In all honesty there are worse thing the Redskins could do with that money. At this point they’ve almost left themselves with no choice. The best this fan can hope for is a speedy resolution, one way or the other. That way both parties can either move on with this bastard marriage, or start seeing other people.