Democracy Dies in Darkness

D.C. Sports Bog | Perspective

'Tis the season for anonymously sourced reports about how the Redskins don't like each other

By Dan Steinberg

December 7, 2017 at 7:16 AM

Kirk Cousins watches from the sidelines during the final possession of the Redskins’ loss to the Cowboys. (Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Meaningless games in December are a bad thing for the Redskins.

Meaningless games in December are probably a bad thing for most NFL organizations, and you don’t have to convince me that this season’s Redskins were done in by roster carnage above all. But meaningful games in December can at least, sometimes, for a little bit, put off the sort of stories the Redskins once specialized in. When the games stop mattering, non-helpful headlines sprout like nasty weeds, and Ashburn boasts some of the league’s most fertile soil. Idle time is the devil’s WordPress, or whatever.

I was thinking that earlier this week when I listened to Dan Patrick segue from a bit of jocularity with his Danettes into a joke about Kirk Cousins, and then into this.

You know, I did a little research about the whole Kirk Cousins situation, and what Marshall Faulk and Steve Smith Sr. were saying about Kirk Cousins,” Patrick said, referencing that truly odd postgame Cousins rip-fest on NFL Network.

“Kirk Cousins is not well-liked by his wide receivers,” Patrick went on, although he sure seemed to be calling him Kurt. “Not at all. So the behind-the-scenes intel is they’re not big Kirk Cousins fans. I don’t know what that means for Kirk Cousins staying in Washington, but I get the feeling now with the season over, that Kirk Cousins is probably surveying the landscape, saying, ‘You know, Jacksonville might be a good place for me to go.'”

Am I laundering these comments through a blog post about idle time just because I’m not quite sure how to deal with such an explosive claim being launched by a national podcast host without a single other suggestions of such locker-room issues? Yeah, probably. Cousins was asked specifically about his relationship with his receivers this week during his appearance on 106.7 The Fan’s Grant and Danny program, and he was almost effusive.

“I’ve said all season long that I really like our locker room and I really like our team chemistry and I like the character of the guys,” he said. “You play with guys at times who want to blame everybody but themselves, and they never want to take ownership, and that’s where a season can get really long, and it’s just not enjoyable to play. But you look at Ryan Grant, Josh Doctson, Maurice Harris, Brian Quick, Jamison Crowder: These are classy guys. When they face adversity, they just keep going. And they’re fun to play with.”

And three days later, Dan Patrick is gonna say this?

“Granted, Kirk Cousins is more valuable than these guys, but I was told [about the tension] over the weekend,” he said. “Because I was like, what’s the deal? … I think that they’re talking behind Kirk Cousins’s back, big-time, with members of the media. … But yeah, that was just some intel that I had over the weekend.”

Maybe this isn’t valuable intel. You’d hope a report like this would include Patrick calling Cousins by his actual first name, Kirk, rather than his not-first name, Kurt. And one wonders just how close Patrick is to Ryan Grant and Maurice Harris and Josh Doctson and Brian Quick, since these are the team’s actual wide receivers in 2017.

But weirdness such as this has cropped up during idle Decembers in Ashburn, and the Redskins aren’t always proficient at sweeping it away. Donovan McNabb’s public feud with Washington’s leadership happened in December. So did all those reports about whether or not Mike Shanahan had cleared out his office, and whether or not he was feuding with the father of Robert Griffin III. So did London Fletcher’s broadside against Jim Haslett.

And this all made me think of the recent NFL Network piece suggesting that the team was using the end of this season as an audition for Cousins. Two entire seasons as one of the league’s most productive quarterbacks haven’t been decisive one way or the other, but a few meaningless late-season games played with a pieced-together roster apparently will be.

“I let it stew a little bit and then I read it like three more times,” NFL analyst Ross Tucker said of that piece during an appearance on ESPN 980 this week. “It drives me crazy. It drives me absolutely [crazy]. The guy started and played, I would argue, at a top-10 level. …  I mean, they’ve got guys starting on the offensive line who have no business starting on the offensive line. … This notion that how he plays down the stretch is going to determine his future in Washington is laughable. And oh by the way, or else what? Or else what? You don’t sign him and he gets $30 million a year from one of a handful of teams? Or else what was my question to that story.”

It’s been popular to say of Cousins in recent years that he bet on himself. It takes two parties to make a bet, though. So the implication is that the front office is servicing his bet. The NFL Network piece reinforced that implication. Which in turn would suggest that Cousins struggling down the stretch, over these four weird games, would somehow … help the Redskins?

Maybe the team thinks that would lower his price? Or maybe a poor final record would make it easier to sell a clean break to the fanbase? And if the team doesn’t believe it’s still engaged in such a wager with Cousins, why not come out publicly after the NFL Network piece and say, “This is ridiculous and untrue; Kirk doesn’t need to prove anything else to us, and no one from our organization is suggesting otherwise.” Maybe that wouldn’t help. But it couldn’t hurt.

“If I was Kirk Cousins, in all sincerity, and I believed that [story] came from the Redskins — and I think it did — I wouldn’t even entertain a long-term deal,” Tucker said. “Give me the $34 million for one year. I mean, I’m leaving next season. I’m going somewhere where I’m appreciated. I’m sick of this stuff.” 

“I don’t think Kirk Cousins is there next year,” Patrick said. “Washington will move on, and then go ‘Gah, we really miss Kirk Cousins.’ …  Washington put him in a corner, where he’s a fourth-round draft pick — how good can he be, he’s a fourth-round draft pick? And they kept franchising him every year, as if to say ‘I don’t know, let’s try one more year; I don’t know, let’s try one more year. ‘And then they’re going to get to the point where there won’t be another year.”

I’m not making any definitive statements, because I don’t know what will happen. But I feel pretty good about this one: Four weeks is plenty long enough for more bad headlines to sprout. And that’s a dangerous situation for a franchise that should crave peace and quiet.

Read more Redskins coverage:

Mailbag: Is there any reason to be hopeful in 2018?

Analysis: Can Josh Doctson be the team’s No. 1 receiver in 2018?

Perspective: Larry Michael should not be a Pro Football Hall of Fame voter

D.C. Sports Bog: Clinton Portis and Santana Moss lost more than a friend in Sean Taylor


Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog and is a columnist for Sports.

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