The Washington Redskins’ season is over after posting a 7-9 record in 2017. It’s yet another disappointing end to a season in Washington that has been yearning to relive the excitement and winning of yesteryear. Looming this off-season are big questions about some of their high-profile players, including what to do with QB Kirk Cousins.
Cousins is coming off his second consecutive franchise tag, throwing for 4,093 yards. It’s the third straight season Cousins has gone over 4,000 yards. He already was the only Redskins’ quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards twice. Considering the lengthy list of injuries across the Redskins roster especially on offense, throwing for 4,000 yards should be applauded. However, at the end of the day, the results of the season are what matters most.
So, when Redskins head coach Jay Gruden was asked to evaluate Cousins’ performance in 2017, he paused and then gave an honest answer. However, it’s your interpretation of that honest answer that will lead to another round of debate among other Redskins and NFL fans.
“When you’re 7-9, you know it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding,’” Gruden said. “Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know we’re 7-9.
“He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns,” Gruden continued. “I think he’s a very, very good quarterback without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning a division with all the injuries that we had, I think he competed and did some good things.”
Again, Gruden’s response was from the hip and honest. That’s been Gruden ever since he became the Redskins head coach in 2014. Now his words were not overly endorsing of Cousins. Yet, they were not overly critical. But, when the subject of his comments is seeking to get a long-term deal that may come at the price of being the highest-paid player in NFL history, those words are going to get dissected.
Gruden will be back as the head coach in 2018 as the Redskins brass has a “deep understanding” of the injuries the Redskins battled through the season.
One wonders how Cousins does not get the same afforded excuse?
.@KirkCousins8 now has 13 rushing TD in the last three seasons.
Cam Newton and Tyrod Taylor are the only quarterbacks with more. pic.twitter.com/7wnCz1rERk
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 31, 2017
Critics can argue, Gruden isn’t asking for $25 to $34 million per season. And that’s fair. Yet, regardless of the asking price, Cousins’ performance was just as much if not more affected by the list of injuries. Losing your top three targets to season-ending injuries will negatively impact your performance. So will losing an all-pro caliber left tackle, starting center, and starting left guard.
Nevertheless, Gruden’s comments on Tuesday can tip the hand of at least some influential figures’ thinking within Redskins Park. Cousins showed “flashes” as Gruden suggested. There was Week 3 against the Oakland Raiders in which he completed 25-of-30 passes for 365 yards and three touchdowns. He also went over 300 yards against San Francisco, Philadelphia, Minnesota, and New Orleans. Three of those games still ended in losses.
He threw for 299 yards and three scores against the then-No. 1 ranked defense Denver Broncos in a Week
15 16 win. He played mistake-free football in a win at Seattle. Washington was a Josh Doctson dropped touchdown from beating Kansas City — a pass perfectly placed by Cousins.
But, the Redskins were 7-9, in large due to injuries. Yet, Cousins’ performances were nothing to rave about. There were both Dallas games — both losses — in which he was subpar. Then, down the stretch he failed to reach 200 passing yards in three of Washington’s last four games, including Sunday’s debacle at the New York Giants to end the season. That game Cousins threw three interceptions, including his last pass.
Moving into the off-season all will be considered in deciding to bring Cousins back on a long-term deal, franchise or transition tag. In that determination, whether Washington feels confident Cousins is the answer to “getting us over the hump” from 7-9 to winning a division and returning to the postseason may be a difficult question to answer.