Of the 24 starters since Mark Rypien was named MVP of Super Bowl XXVI, only Brad Johnson — who made the Pro Bowl and led the Redskins to the NFC East title in 1999 — played better for Washington than Cousins has.
It wasn’t Cousins’ fault the Redskins tied the Bengals on Sunday in London — even though detractors will point to another deep interception and continued red-zone woes rather than his two touchdown passes.
He put Washington in position for a comeback. Dustin Hopkins missed a 34-yard field goal in overtime while Cousins threw for a career-best 458 yards.
The Redskins are paying Cousins $19.95 million this year and can’t discuss a new contract until season’s end under NFL rules because Cousins is franchised on a one-year deal. When the time comes, repeating a negotiating stalemate would be pointless.
Last season, Cousins passed for a team-record 4,166 yards while leading Washington to an NFC East title. The Redskins wanted him to prove his first year as a starter wasn’t a fluke.
So far, he has done that, topping his totals from the first eight games of 2015, when he excelled in the season’s second half. Through eight games, he has 12 touchdowns compared with 10 last season. His seven interceptions are two fewer than he had at this point last year. He has posted one more game with a 100-plus passer rating and two more 300-yard passing performances.
Certainly, some of his success comes from the Redskins scaling back his pass attempts since the team’s 0-2 start. Washington returned to a more reasonable balance and threw more quick passes, relegating DeSean Jackson to more short, sideline routes.
The offense became safer during a four-game winning streak, just like it did during four straight wins at the end of the regular season last year. In the 20-17 loss at Detroit two weeks ago and the tie with Cincinnati, Cousins showed better leadership, directing dramatic rallies late in both games before costly defensive collapses.
With 2,454 yards passing, he is halfway to eclipsing last year’s total and has built chemistry with emerging receiver Jamison Crowder behind a line that’s allowed just 11 sacks.
Washington can’t do better than Cousins without great risk or expense. It’s time to stop looking for his replacement. He has earned the job.