The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Kirk Cousins Start
December 16, 2013 in Redskins Personnel
Kirk Cousins threw for 381 yards and 3 TD's on 29 of 45 passing. That equals a nice 64.4% completion rate and an 8.46 yards per attempt average. Though many may point to the fact that Cousins put up these numbers against a bad Atlanta Falcons Defense, Cousins went into their house and threw for more yards this year than any other quarterback against the Falcons. Cousins also had the longest pass for the Redskins all season with his 62 yard pass to Aldrick Robinson in the 2nd quarter.
The positives from Cousins game go well beyond the basic stat sheet as he looked impressive in a number of areas. The most crucial thing may perhaps be how Cousins handled the pressure. Cousins was sacked just one time, after the Redskins had given up 25 sacks in the previous 5 games. Allowing just a single sack is impressive enough, but the fact that it was in 46 drop-backs is very impressive. Though the Falcons don't have the most feared pass rush in the league, they were blitzing plenty and their pass rushers had little problem with the Redskins porous offensive line. Cousins though handled the pressure really well over all and got rid of the ball quickly and effectively.
Cousins was able to handle the pressure pretty well, in large part because he was able to effectively read the defense, both pre-snap and while his receivers were going out on their routes. This allowed him to get rid of the ball quicker, and also know where the pressure was coming from and shuffle away from it. These are the little things where Cousins experience in a pro style system really helps him. He may not have been Peyton Manning perfect in these areas, but he did a very good job scanning the field and reading the defense.
Another good thing to like with Cousins is how he managed the final drive for the Redskins. Washington was down 7 with 3:25 to go, and Cousins drove the Redskins down their efficiently, taking what the defense gave him. None of his throws were for longer than 14 yards, yet he was able to pick the Falcons Defense apart and was able to get what should have been a game tying TD. That was a high pressure situation on the road and Cousins handled it pretty well.
Perhaps the best part of Cousins game was his post game press conference. Cousins was open and honest about the game, and accepted full blame for the loss due to his mistakes. He wasn't going to worry about individual statistics or what it meant for his future, Cousins was focused on what he could do better. It's the accountability and respect you want from your quarterback and Cousins showed that he could handle that aspect of being a starting quarterback.
While Cousins did a lot of positive things in his game versus the Falcons, he wasn't perfect and had some crucial mistakes. Cousins turned the ball over three times in the game, with two interceptions and a fumble. The fumble was on the Falcons lone sack of the game and shouldn't fall too much on Cousins. The line completely collapsed and honestly there should have been two holding calls on the Redskins on that single play. Cousins didn't have a chance and he was sacked in about 2 seconds after snapping the ball. While you can maybe discount the fumble, the interceptions were clearly on Cousins.
The first one was particularly bad because it was at the one yard line after the defense just had a big defensive stand. The Redskins ran a play action play, but the defense didn't bite and Cousins was under pressure. He tried to throw to Robinson who had a step on his defender, but Cousins wasn't able to get enough zip on it and threw it behind his receiver, making it an easy interception for the Falcons. This led to the Falcons lone TD of the 2nd half, giving them the lead. Now Cousins had to throw the ball as he couldn't afford a safety, but that is one where you need to throw it away and put it at the feet of someone. Cousins 2nd interception was pretty bad as well, as he locked on to Pierre Garcon and didn't lead him, instead throwing behind him a little allowing the corner to come away with the contested ball. Cousins had a receiver open underneath, but went for the bigger play. There isn't anything wrong with that, but for the throw to work the ball placement had to be far better. It was another costly interception as the Falcons came away with a 51 yard field goal to give them a 7 point lead.
Though overall Cousins did a nice leading receivers and allowing them to pick up big chunks of yards after the catch, Cousins did throw some crucial balls behind his receivers, including those two interceptions. Now a couple of those passes still should have been caught, but the quarterback needs to try to put the ball in as good of a spot as possible and a couple of these passes stalled Redskins drives.
The worst part about Cousins overall good start, was how it divided Redskins Nation. Now instead of rooting for the name on the front of the jersey, too many fans are worried about rooting for the name on the back of the jersey when it comes to the quarterback. It's become a Hatfield and McCoy's situation in most sports bars, and on sports radio and most Redskins sites and message boards. It really shouldn't be that way, as a positive game for Cousins is a good thing for the Redskins as a whole. Whether it means his trade value is upped or that he is the better long term QB option for the team, the Redskins come out as winners with every good start that Cousins has.
That is all that should matter to Redskins fans, as the team should keep the best quarterback for the future and trade the other one to stockpile picks. It's extremely likely that RGIII will still be the quarterback wearing Burgundy and Gold next year with Cousins traded, but it is at least worth considering the alternative. The Redskins would be doing their organization and fans a disservice if they didn't try to do the best thing possible for their success. Fans should value the positives of both quarterbacks, and comparing the two shouldn't be such a zero sum game. Just because Cousins may do some things better than Griffin at this point, it doesn't mean that Griffin is a "bust" or a bad quarterback. Conversely, just because Griffin has more athletic ability, a stronger arm and greater potential, it doesn't mean he's a lock for stardom and Cousins is some cheap understudy, who can never land the starring role.
Both sides have a case for why their quarterback is the better option, but at the end of the day what matters is what's best for the Redskins organization.