The NFC East has been arguably football’s worst division this season, but through the rubble, the Washington Redskins have emerged, climbing to 7-7 on the season to make a last-ditch effort to make the playoffs.
Behind that push has been the play of Kirk Cousins, who, like his team, emerged through the rubble of a positional mess to become the team’s best quarterback.
While it seems like forever ago, in training camp and preseason in August, Cousins was slotted behind Robert Griffin III for the starting job. While coach Jay Gruden clearly did not prefer Griffin, reports indicated that ownership wanted to give Griffin another chance to prove himself a viable starter.
Instead, after a lacklustre preseason, Washington made the change, putting Cousins — who had started five games last year before eventually getting benched — in charge.
Through 14 games, Cousins has had a solid season, but a strong recent stretch has secured his future. In his last six games, Cousins has thrown for over 300 yards four different times, while posting efficient numbers — an average 75% completion rate, 12 touchdowns, two interceptions, and a passer rating of 122.6.
According to CBS’ Jason La Canfora, Washington isn’t letting Cousins go:
His rookie contract expires after the season, and Washington wants to sign him to an extension, sources said, and would franchise him if need be, even at the cost of $19 million. That would give the franchise until July to enter into a multi-year deal with him, which is the desire.
The organisation is sold on Cousins’ overall ability, loves his character and leadership skills and has been impressed with how his teammates have rallied around him, uniting a locker room that was often divided during the stint of Robert Griffin III under center.
La Canfora quotes another NFL official, who said teams looking for a quarterback this offseason have already written Cousins off. “He isn’t leaving there; absolutely no way (general manager) Scot (McCloughan) is letting him walk,” the source told La Canfora.
Cousins’ potential payday could rival Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Alex Smith’s, according to La Canfora. Smith makes about $15 million per year and had $45 million guaranteed when he signed a four-year, $68 million extension. However, as seen in the past, teams have broken the bank for quarterbacks they view as long-term options, and for a team like Washington that’s been a carousel in recent years, they may pay Cousins to ensure he sticks around.
Cousins has rejuvenated his team and the fan-base. In Week 15, Washington fans chanted “You like that! You like that!” after Cousins’ infamous postgame declaration after a big Week 7 win.
Redskins defensive end Jason Hatcher said after Washington’s Week 15 win over the Bills:
He’s just a special guy. He has this spirit on him, this calm, confident spirit. He’s where he’s supposed to be all the time, he’s working hard. Last person to leave, first person in the building. When you see stuff like that, you gain respect for a guy.
Receiver DeSean Jackson noted a similar quality and the fans’ love for Cousins, too, saying, “We’re just doing what we can to get behind him, to stand by him. … ‘You like that?’ Everybody is rolling with it.”
Cousins currently leads the NFL in completion percentage, and Washington, thought to be the worst team in the NFC East, is suddenly looking like a playoff team. Cousins has played a big part in that turnaround, and the team is going to reward him for it.
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