After all the talking and dissecting and debating and arguing and predicting that came along with Kirk Cousins' contract situation with the Washington Redskins, another story on the man under center may feel like overkill. But a recent article published by a former NFL scout and current writer that slighted Cousins is what's inspiring this one, because the claims made in that article aren't exactly accurate.
Matt Williamson, who once worked for the Cleveland Browns and now offers his opinion on various football matters as a freelancer, authored a post titled "Redskins' offense carried Cousins, not the other way around" on Wednesday. In it, he makes some fair points regarding the 27-year-old passer, including the fact that his hot second half in 2015 came against lackluster competition and, before that stretch, he wasn't exactly Dan Marino-ing in his first full season as a starter. Those statements, along with the conclusion that what Cousins really is and can be are still very much in question, are absolutely legitimate.
But it's the title of that piece, as well as Williamson saying things like "Cousins benefited much more from his supporting cast than the other way around" and he "needs receivers who can consistently win. He needs receivers who can bail him out" that are totally inaccurate. Those assertions make Cousins sound like an inexperienced rookie or a meager backup, and don't give him nearly enough credit for the player he's turned into.
Is No. 8's arsenal more stocked than other quarterbacks? It sure is; having targets such as Jordan Reed, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder, not to mention the incoming Josh Doctson and Vernon Davis, is a privilege that most signal callers would sign up for in an instant. But it's not like those who were a part of the roster last year dragged Cousins to the playoffs with them. Far from it.
Being healthy certainly helped, but Reed's breakout numbers didn't happen just because he suited up more often; the tight end went from a matchup issue to a matchup nightmare once the 2012 fourth-round pick started tossing him the ball. Crowder, meanwhile, doesn't make such a smooth transition to the pro level with anyone playing QB. Rookie wideouts don't usually catch 59 balls in year one.
Those are two guys who benefited just as much from a calm, collected and confident Cousins as Cousins benefited from them.
Then there's Williamson's argument that the Michigan State product needs people "who can bail him out," as well as his criticism that Cousins is "weak-armed" and not "an accurate or effective deep passer," which come across as borderline insults. Every quarterback needs to be helped out in a major way every so often, but there's no way you can say that Cousins set multiple franchise records by just throwing the ball up and waiting for one of his teammates to go up and get it for him.
Remember the game-winning touchdown to Garçon against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4? That's about as tight a window as it gets, and Cousins had no issue zipping a ball into it with the matchup on the line. How about the dime he dropped to Garçon over two defenders in Philly in Week 16 in the division clincher? No one was bailed out there.
Cousins also had no trouble lofting perfectly placed bombs to Jackson against the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys or Carolina Panthers, either. And for someone who apparently required assistance at all times, he looked very capable on more than a few carries and zone-read plays where it was him — and only him — asked to make something happen.
Again, the concerns over the limited sample size in which Cousins was productive make sense, and were likely a large factor in him being franchise tagged instead of signed to a long-term extension. But Williamson's column is over the top, and paints the Burgundy and Gold's starter as an amateur who blindly stumbled into his terrific statistics.
Small sample size notwithstanding, it's safe to say Cousins is in the top half of the NFL's quarterback rankings, and perhaps close to the top 10. He may not be the most physically gifted option and his resume isn't the longest, but his relentless work ethic, intelligence and abilities as a quarterback — yes, while Williamson would lead you to believe otherwise, he has plenty — make him someone you can win with. And he doesn't need to be carried to do so.
Follow Peter Hailey on Twitter at @barelyin.
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