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What Redskins Must Do Before Paying Kirk Cousins

There's plenty of talk about paying, keeping Kirk Cousins. It sounds good and Chuck Sapienza agrees but sees a higher, connected priority.

On Oct. 27th, I wrote a piece for Breaking Burgundy called, “Why it’s time to pay Kirk Cousins.” In that blog, I broke down the elite play of the Redskins' signal caller and how it was time for the front office in Ashburn to pony up and pay the man.  

Since then, Cousins’ play has elevated. Fans and media are jumping around like Dan Synder in his owner’s box and onto the No. 8 bandwagon. While channeling his inner Toby Keith, Kirk screamed, “How you like me now?” to general manager Scot McCloughan after he outplayed future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers on national television. It looks as if Cousins will get the payday he deserved after the season.

McCloughan would be wise to make the re-signing of his franchise quarterback his second top priority this offseason.

HUH?

WAIT!

WHAT?

That is correct. While signing Cousins is very important to the future of the Washington Redskins, it should not be their TOP priority. Extending the contract of head coach Jay Gruden should be No. 1. Gruden is proving to be not just a good head coach but a potentially great one. His offense is truly spectacular. Opposing defensive coordinators don’t know how to stop it. The Redskins are currently:

* second in the NFL in total offense

* fourth in the NFC in points per game

* second in the NFL in yards per play

Also, somehow, Gruden’s offense is in the top 10 in rushing. Let that sink in. The Redskins leave defenses scratching their heads as if they are Wizards fans looking at Ernie Grunfeld’s draft history. 

Putting up great numbers is the job of a coordinator. A head coach needs to be more and Gruden does that. He connects with players like few head coaches. Gruden balances tough talk with being a player’s coach as good as anyone in the league. Fans were concerned that the signing of diva superstars such as Josh Norman and DeSean Jackson would break a fragile locker room. It’s been quite the opposite. Gruden has those supposed divas buying into his team-first concept.

http://www.scout.com/nfl/redskins/story/1730410-norman-believes-in-cousi...

This is shown in how they compete. Since Gruden became head coach, the Redskins have played hard from the opening kickoff to the final gun each and every week. That has not always been the case for the Redskins since Joe Gibbs retired. The greatest evidence of the bond Gruden has with his players is the purple nurple D-Jax gave his head coach last preseason. Could you see Riggo pinching Coach Joe?

Numbers and relationships aside, head coaches are judged on one thing: wins and losses. Gruden has won a division title and is poised to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for a franchise that hasn’t accomplished that since the early '90s. Since he was allowed to choose his starting QB, Chucky’s little brother is 15-10-1. That's a .596 winning percentage. How good is a .596 winning percentage? That's better than Super Bowl-winning coaches Bill Parcells (.569), Chuck Noll (.566) and Jimmy Johnson (.556).

As the Redskins prepare to play John Wall’s favorite team on Turkey Day, it is clear Cousins deserves to be paid. He is the perfect QB to run Gruden’s scheme. To reach his maximum potential, Cousins needs his coach. Kirk and Jay should be a package deal. In order to show their support for their quarterback, the decision makers inside Redskins Park need to show a commitment to Jay Gruden by extending him BEFORE they back up the Brink's truck for their newly anointed franchise quarterback.  

For an organization that rarely learns from its mistakes, the Redskins need to extend Gruden and not wait until he reaches the final year of his contract. Waiting because they couldn't see what they have in Cousins will cost them millions. But they have what they want with their head coach. I hope they don’t make the same mistake of waiting because they need to extend Gruden first.

Chuck Sapienza is the executive producer of the Naval Academy radio network and the former VP of Programming for ESPN980. He was also a part of the Washington Redskins Radio Network from 2009 to 2015, serving as the network's executive producer. He can be reached at SapienzaChuck@gmail.com

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