As the calendar flipped to 2017, the Washington Redskins season ended with that all too familiar “déjà vu all over again” feeling. When Kirk Cousins' late fourth-quarter pass landed in the hands of New York cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie* instead of intended target Pierre Garcon, the Redskins’ hope of back-to-back playoff seasons for the first time since the early-1990's came crashing to a sudden halt. As the Giants celebrated inside FedEx Field, the faction of never-Kirkers, celebrated more than fans of the Big Blue. The play had every TV network and radio talk show plus fans from all over to ask a specific question:“Is Kirk Cousins an elite quarterback?”
(*Cromartie had the same number of catches Sunday as Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder. Explain that?),
While the “Is Cousins Elite” question seems obvious in the wake of the devastating loss, it is also the single dumbest question in all of D.C. sports. It is asinine because there is no formula that makes a quarterback elite. If you read me regularly you know I love to point to stats. I could easily use numbers to prove Kirk is an elite quarterback -- since he was named starter Cousins has a better QB rating (99.3) than Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers (98.6). Just as easily, I can use stats to prove him to be average; since he was named starter Cousins is 15th in touchdown percentage (4.70) which ties with the thoroughly mediocre Blake Bortles.
The question shouldn’t be “Is Cousins Elite." The ONLY question should be “Should Cousins be re-signed?” I find it comical that some pundits and fans believe the Redskins should re-sign Cousins but only if the figure is below a certain amount, typically $20 million. That argument is laughable. Either Cousins is your quarterback or not. The extra $3 or 4 million per season means nothing especially for a team that didn’t utilize all their cap space this season.
According to Spotrac.com, the Redskins finished the season with $15,679,777 in unused cap space. (Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle signed last offseason by the Ravens with a cap number of $3.7M this season. Do you think the Redskins secondary could have used him this season?). With nearly $16M in self-inflicted unused cap space, Giants owner John Mara must be laughing his ass off all the way to Lambeau Field for his team’s playoff game.
If you are a true Redskin fan and a never Kirk’er, I would suggest placing a long-term Cousins deal in the same bucket as the Washington Nationals deal for Jayson Werth. Yes, the Nationals overpaid for the right fielder but they were trying to establish that their franchise was no longer a laughing stock and serious about winning. While Werth has not brought a title to Half Street, he has been a part of a franchise that is a perennial contender and delivered the biggest playoff moment in franchise history. The Redskins need to do the same.
For the first time since Joe Gibbs original retirement in 1993, the Skins are not mentioned in the same breath as bumbling franchises like the Browns and Jaguars. Having the front office back their quarterback is the best way to continue moving forward. The head coach already has.
“I don’t know what Kirk has to do as a quarterback to prove that he belongs in the National Football League as a starter," Jay Gruden said moment's after the season-ending loss. "I think he had a great year. There were some tough decisions made today. ... Overall, I think the amount of times he dropped back to pass and made some unbelievable throws in some great games, I think he belongs in the NFL as a starting quarterback, that’s for sure, and hopefully it’s here.”
As for the silly question, here's the thing. No one can answer with 100% certainty if Cousins is elite or not. What Kirk has done since being named starter is deliver an overall winning record (17-14-1) and a division title, with a mediocre running game, a below average special teams and defense that hasn’t been able to get off the field in two years. The choice seems pretty simple. Pay the Man market value, between $22-24 million per season, fix the defense and continue to compete for the playoffs every season -- or let him walk and start all over with a young quarterback.
That normally means years of losing while he HOPEFULLY develops. For every one Dak Prescott or Russell Wilson -- both middle round selections -- you’ll find top-10 flops like Blaine Gabbert or Mark Sanchez. For a franchise that has won 10 games only three times in the last 25 seasons, I say stop over analyzing and pay the man. Period.