Kirk Cousins journey to be paid the highest-paid quarterback is something one would have laughed at two years ago. In 2015, Cousins was considered a disturbed and highly flawed quarterback. Mental mistakes were compounded upon one another, which called into question Cousins’ decision-making skills. Head coach Jay Gruden essentially buried the quarterback on the depth chart. Today Cousins holds an entirely different mindset, providing stability and competence to an offense that has been consistently inefficient for years before 2015. The range of opinions on Cousins’ Redskins tenure is sometimes skewed for a multitude of reasons. However, let’s try to put it all on the table right now, and just be real for once.
Whether you want to believe it or not, there are factions inside the Redskins fan base, which range from a belief that Cousins can do no wrong or that he has not done enough to prove the price tag he will command in the open market. These factions stemmed from the 2014 season up until the 2015 pre-season. The public dismantling of Robert Griffin III, to the method of his benching heading into the 2015 regular season. Those two moments in Cousins’ tenure were the beginning of a rift created by Jay Gruden, creating discord amongst the fan base and drove inflated sentiments regarding the view of Cousins. From fans determined to prove Cousins is a turnover machine after every interception, regardless of context to the specific turnover, to another section of fans insisting that Cousins can run the offense more efficiently than any quarterback on the roster, using stats as the driving argument. Especially if Cousins were able to cut out the boneheaded turnovers, fans would finally start to believe Washington will have a good quarterback. It has driven a wedge in the fanbase, creating a pro-Kirk side and an anti-Kirk side.
From both sides of the fence, there were plenty of contradictions made and irrational viewpoints attempting to analyze the Redskins’ signal caller. If you were anti-Cousins, when the team won, Kirk did not do much as the players surrounding him and the defense to contribute to success. When they lost, it was Cousins mistakes that single-handedly sunk Washington’s chances of winning the football game. If you were pro-Kirk, Cousins was the hero who did just enough to secure the victory. If the Redskins lost, you stood up for the quarterback at all cost, asserting that Washington’s defense had let him down. There is more to the Cousins conversations; as the negotiations in the off-season with Washington ramp up, those discussions are for a different time. We will stick with on the field for this piece.
I am sure now you get the gist of the factions and how they play a part in the way people view Kirk Cousins. However, what both sides fail to realize due to a distorted view of Washington’s quarterback is that there is a fair way of assessing Cousins, and whether you emotionally like him or not, he was never as bad as one believed he was nor as good as one propped Kirk up to be.
Let me explain.
The fact of the matter is that statistics offer a way to evaluate quarterback production critically. So, when one complains about throwing stats in an argument, some stats just cannot be discounted because of the player in consideration. Just a couple of examples: Cousins divisional record, it is 8-13 over a 21-game span. Divisional games are what teams must take control of to have a good chance at the post-season, and it is also where a quarterback makes their mark. It is accurate to say that, outside of Philadelphia for the most part, Cousins struggled against his divisional foes. It is also inaccurate to state the assertion that Cousins is a “choker”. For all of the times Cousins had a chance to win a game but failed, Kirk had chances to win a game and pulled through. Since taking over in 2015, Kirk Cousins has seven fourth-quarter comebacks and 11 game-winning drives. There are also times where Washington won games, and it had little to do with how Cousins played, but more about effectiveness in the running game and the defense making plays to contribute to the victory. However, there is truth that Cousins sometimes does not have his best games in critical moments of the season, or that he played outstanding for 58 minutes of the game, and that one mistake made was critical to the outcome of the game.
It is also inaccurate to say the ceiling on Cousins is eight or nine wins, and it is also factual that Kirk (along with many other good quarterbacks) needs a solid supporting cast surrounding him to succeed. Quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Russell Wilson do not grow on trees, that needs to be acknowledged when the expectations of Cousins are being discussed.
Cousins is a limited quarterback, and that is not a disrespectful comment or viewpoint towards him. Although he has a high completion percentage, he is sometimes spotty with his accuracy. When he is hot though, Cousins is “hot.” He can operate Gruden's offense at a high-level, lead and guide the younger weapons, and has become more comfortable with taking risk. Cousins is also an awkward scrambler whose more comfortable staying in the pocket, and too quick to give up on a play when he knows a check-down option is available. That hurts the offense's chances on a given drive, or in situations when Cousins is needed to elevate his play. The ability to elevate his play is a critical factor in whether he is worth the price being demanded.
If the Giants is indeed his last game as a Redskin, if you ask me, the opinion of Kirk Cousins should be: “He was a good quarterback who had his flaws, he cannot elevate a team alone but if given the help Cousins will give you a great opportunity to win games and possibly multiple division titles. Maybe even a Super Bowl appearance.”