The curious case of Kirk Cousins

John Errico (@MikeZimmersEars) Blogger, Podcaster, Author

By John Errico //@MikeZimmersEars

**Disclaimer:  This article was written prior to the Vikings/Cowboys game on Sunday Night Football**

In the 2012 NFL draft, the Washington Redskins chose Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick. “RG3” was a dual-threat QB out of Baylor and was pegged to be the team’s franchise leader for years to come. Then in the fourth round of the same draft, Washington made an interesting pick, taking Kirk Cousins, a quarterback out of Michigan State.

Cousins threw for over 9,000 yards with 66 touchdowns against 30 interceptions in his college career. Maybe the Redskins were just covering their bases in case RG3’s style didn’t work well in the NFL. The Cousins pick turned out to be a prudent one. In 2015 after RG3’s three injury-marred seasons, Jay Gruden made Cousins his starting quarterback. Up to that point Cousins was 2-7 in his limited starts. Once installed as the regular starter, Cousins put up solid passing numbers. He completed 67% of his throws amassing over 13,000 yards with 81 touchdowns against 36 interceptions. Despite his numbers, the Redskins managed just a 24-23-1 record and Cousins got the reputation for being unable to win the big games.

Here’s the thing:  It’s not like Cousins was given a championship roster. His top offensive performers by season:

YearLeading RusherLeading Receiver
2015Alfred Morris--751 yardsJordan Reed--952 yards
2016Robert Kelly--704 yardsPierre Garcon--1,051 yards
Desean Jackson--1,005 yards
2017Samaje Perine--603 yardsVernon Davis--641 yards

 

Not exactly a Hall of Fame list of talent.

As for his defenses, they ranked 17th, 19th, and 27th in points allowed. There were 26 games during those three years when the Redskins allowed 23 or more points. The team went 7-18-1 in those contests.

On the flip side, Cousins and company scored at least 23 points in 26 games and posted a 19-6-1 record. In comparison, Dak Prescott’s Cowboys scored 23 or more points in 27 of his first 48 starts, going 25-2 in those games. In contrast, his teams allowed 23 or more points in only 18 contests with the team compiling an 8-10 record. Oh, by the way, he’s had the benefit of Zeke Elliott running behind him.

Last season Kirk signed a three-year, $84 million fully-guaranteed contract with the Minnesota Vikings. Fans expected miracles for that kind of money and when they didn’t get it, the Kirk criticisms began to fly. “Typical Kirk. Can’t win when it counts,” was the general consensus.

Let’s dig into it though. Kirk completed 70.1% of his passes last season. A career-high. He threw 30 touchdown passes, also a career-high. He threw just 10 interceptions, a career-low for a full season. Despite the numbers, the Vikings finished 8-7-1. All Kirk’s fault? Really?

In Week 2 Daniel Carlson missed three field goals in a tie with the Packers. In their Week 4 Thursday night matchup against the Rams, Kirk threw for 422 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-31 loss. Explain to me what more he could have done to win that one.

Finally, I’ll take you to the Sunday night matchup against the Saints. With a 14-10 lead and driving, the normally sure-handed Adam Thielen fumbles on the Saints 18-yard line where it is scooped up and returned 54 yards. The Saints scored a TD and took a 17-10 lead. Later in the third quarter, Stefon Diggs cut off his route and it turned into a pick-six to put the game away. What could Kirk have done?

It’s lazy to blame Kirk Cousins for the woes of his teams. Maybe it’s time we all gave it a rest and distribute the blame evenly.

Oh, and hey, has anyone seen what’s happening in Washington lately? Guess that’s Kirk’s fault too.

 

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