Despite a veil of mystery and the ongoing sense he's in a season-long audition for the role, Kirk Cousins will be the Washington Redskins' quarterback of the future. Making the right move used to be a question for the Dan Snyder yes men operating the team's front office, but with adults finally in roles of power, the coronation of Cousins as Redskins QB for perpetuity (at least until he blows out his knee, gets old or becomes Jay Cutler) is coming, whether it be with another franchise tag or the long-term deal that both sides seem to want to work out.
And if you don't like it, if you think Cousins is only a marginal NFL quarterback not great enough to be one of the best in the league then, yeah, you might be right. You're probably right. Cousins is an average-to-above-average quarterback who can help his team win football games while also making just enough mistakes to lose them. But in today's NFL, with a talent void so great at the quarterback position that Derek Carr and Matt Ryan are legitimate MVP candidates, Eli Manning has two Super Bowl rings and Joe Flacco gets paid Oprah money, what else can you possibly hope to find? Of the last two sure-thing quarterbacks to hit the NFL draft, one is playing mediocre football for a team that will soon be without its head coach and general manager while the other is on his second team after having his promising career derailed by myriad injuries (oh, and he just so happened to be on your team). In the NFL, you take what you can get.
This isn't like casting a movie. If you pass on the dude from Sherlock or the new Harry Potter movie, there's still dozens of other bankable British actors out there to call. You're not getting stuck with a guy whose best IMDB credit is “Guy No. 2” from a Bud Lite commercial. In the NFL, you'd pass on Cousins for what? A stab at the draft in hopes of finding a Dak Prescott? Hoping Ryan Fitzpatrick learns how to throw the ball to players wearing the same color jersey as him? There's no other move to make.
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The entire reason for giving Cousins the franchise tag and the $19 million that comes with it was to indeed find that out. He had one of the best seasons a Redskins quarterback has put together in the last 25 years, set a passing yardage record and led the team to the playoffs with a series of gut-churning victories. This season was the Kirk Cousins referendum: Is he the guy to invest, say, $40 to $50 million guaranteed dollars in? Or is he just another ex the 'Skins will run across one day when he's playing backup for the Jets?
It's the former. All Cousins has done this season is lead a team that would be 5-3 if its kicker didn't go all Chris Waddle on a game-winning chip shot in London. (That's a pretty Inside Soccer reference that I found after 15 minutes of Googling.) While his problems are still there (he tries to squeeze too many passes into tight spots, he never looks to run even with the first-down sticks open and the red zone isn't his favorite 20 yards on the field), he's proved that last year wasn't a fluke. He's a guy who can win 11 games. He's a guy who can win six. He's a guy who commands a locker room, gets his teammates to play for him and has the Redskins in the playoff hunt for the second consecutive November since I don't know when. This, for better or worse, is the real Kirk Cousins, and the real Kirk Cousins is the past, present and future quarterback of the Washington Redskins.
Cousins deserves the job on merits alone. He's one of the 16 best quarterbacks in the NFL, meaning he's in the top half of the rankings (even though he's probably hovering just around that median). He could have been worse and still got the job.
He had to, for 19 very-specific reasons: Robert Griffin III, Colt McCoy, Rex Grossman, John Beck, Donovan McNabb, Jason Campbell, Todd Collins, Mark Brunell, Patrick Ramsey, Tim Hasselbeck, Shane Matthews, Danny Wuerffel, Tony Banks, Jeff George, Brad Johnson, Trent Green, Gus Frerotte and Jeff Hostetler. Those are the 18 other men who've played quarterback for the Washington Redskins over the past 20 seasons. The last time the franchise had a completely resolved quarterback situation was about 15 seconds before Lawrence Taylor snapped Joe Thiesmann's leg. Washington needs someone, anyone. They got Kirk Cousins. They'll take it.