During the downtime following the NFL Draft and certainly after offseason practices, various media outlets have attacked this story from all angles. Cousins is asking for too much, says one faction, with another skeptical subset thinking he doesn't deserve the franchise tag -- and the nearly $20 million yearly salary -- he's already on. Some on the other side want the Redskins to sign him now because they fear one more good year means a contract that matches or exceeds those of the highest-paid quarterbacks.
It's all about perspective. They're all different, which makes determining "fair market value" when no one can agree on what that means for a one-year starter entering his fifth NFL season. Reviewing Cousins' 2015 film shows evidence for all perspectives.
1. Cousins grew a tremendous amount last year. There were many times when he looked worth a long-term deal. On the play above during Washington's playoff loss to Green Bay, the Redskins just had a touchdown called back and were forced to kick a field goal. Like a true leader, Cousins ended up marching them down the field again. He is expecting man coverage on this play. Cousins has a middle seam with tight end Jordan Reed and a corner route with receiver Jamison Crowder. The Packers' defense is in a Cover 1, so Cousins only has to read which deep route the safety provides support on.
Reed plants his foot in the ground and shakes his man coverage. Meanwhile, the safety goes toward Crowder's corner route.
Cousins delivers a strike to Reed for the touchdown, giving the Redskins an 11-0 lead. Game on.
2. Alas, the Packers closed the first half by scoring 17 unanswered points. Upon returning after halftime, Cousins quickly countered. On Washington's first offensive snap, they went play-action pass with "Scissors" from the twins side.
Cousins is already firing even though Pierre Garcon isn't open yet. This shows anticipation and trust that his receiver will get to the spot.
Cousins hits Garcon right between the numbers for a 21-yard gain. This play started the drive, which Cousins capped with a 3-yard touchdown run. Redskins 18, Packers 17. In a duel with Super Bowl-winning quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Cousins was keeping up.
3. Rodgers leads another touchdown-scoring drive and the Packers go up, 24-18. It was getting late in the game and every down was becoming more crucial. The Redskins have a play-action pass called here with Reed as the target on the deep crosser.
Reed is pulling away from his guy in man coverage as Cousins begins to release the ball. Reed does have Clay Matthews trying to get back and float underneath him, but Cousins has room to fit the ball in.
Unfortunately, Cousins airmails this ball and the Redskins miss out on a big gain.
4. Whether Cousins is telling Ryan Grant the play or the route, there is definitely communication going on before this play. This is on the same drive as the Reed incompletion. Again, the Redskins need a score because the Packers are taking control.
The Redskins are running what's called a "999," which is basically all fly routes but one side has three receivers. On the other side, they have a corner route called.
The safety bites on the corner route, which opens up the middle of the field. Grant is streaking open.
Grant keeps running his "bent" fly route as the "999" is supposed to spread out as it gets deeper. Cousins throws it straight down the hash mark, but Grant's route was taking him past that point.
Grant tries to re-adjust to the ball but falls in the process. The pass is incomplete and the Redskins have to punt.
5. The Packers scored on their next drive, bringing their lead to 32-18. Cousins loses his composure a little bit. It's 2nd and 19. The Redskins have "four verts" called.
Cousins does a pump fake and no one bites. He's going to force the ball to DeSean Jackson here.
The only reason this wasn't an interception is because the two Packers who were closer to the ball than Jackson collided trying to pull in the pick.
Reviewing this game makes it understandable why the Redskins want to see another year of production and growth from Cousins before committing a long-term deal to him. Against a legitimate franchise quarterback in the playoffs, Cousins came up short. One result isn't everything, but he still has more to prove to fans and the organization.
The time when $20 million-per-year contracts were handed out to only elite quarterbacks is over. For some, that concept isn't easy to swallow, though the contract's percentage of the salary cap is a much more important number than the per-year number.
As for the "franchise" quarterback label, that's another concept that some assume comes with the money. Cousins isn't a superstar, but he gets the ball to the superstars on his team. He may not be able to win a game himself, but he gets the ball to players who can. In a quarterback-starved league, is that enough?
It's one thing to have a great year, it's another thing to have sustained success. The Redskins will give Cousins the opportunity to prove he's the man and therefore earn that massive payday. Whether he has a terrific season, proving to be the franchise QB Washington has lacked for decades or is exposed as a one-year wonder, the Redskins win in both scenarios.
Paul Conner is the Film Analyst and Draft Evaluator at Breaking Burgundy. You can follow him on Twitter @P_ConnerJr
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