You’ve already seen the Vine of Kirk Cousins expressing his extreme happiness after leading the Redskins to their greatest comeback win in franchise history. Now, through these never-before-published interviews, you can experience the inside, behind-the-scenes, secret and shocking back story behind that magical moment.
As the Redskins began their final, game-winning drive, there was already action at Comcast SportsNet’s Bethesda office, where staffers scrambled to prepare for the network’s post-game show.
CSN Manager of Content Integration JP Finlay: We’ve seen in the past that Kirk gets pretty excited coming off the field, after the Philly game and after another game last year. I just made sure we were set up to roll on that hallway feed. I said, “There’s a chance they win, and if they do, it could get pretty exciting afterwards.”
CSN digital media producer Daniel Shiferaw: At the start of that drive, JP made a big call. He said, “Roll on the tunnel, make sure we get our ingest station rolling on the tunnel, we think someone might have an interesting reaction.” The funny thing is we thought Chris Baker or Jay Gruden might have a crazy reaction; we didn’t really think it would be Cousins.
CSN digital media producer Daniel Martin: We’re looking for one clip that we can put on Facebook as a tease for the post-game show, and Chris Baker came into the view and screamed into the camera. We were like, “Good, perfect.”
Finlay: We were pretty excited for that, because we knew that would do pretty well online.
On the field, Redskins Director of Communications Ross Taylor shepherded Cousins through his post-game interview with Fox’s Laura Okmin. Then they headed to the tunnel.
Taylor: He was still cool calm and collected for the whole post-game interview process, and was talking to guys from the Buccaneers. Then he stopped and talked to some fans in the stands.
In the tunnel, reporter and CSN post-game point man Tarik El-Bashir announced that all Redskins players were off the field. That’s the cue for staffers to put down the post-game show’s CSN backdrop, which covers up most of the view down the hallway.
El-Bashir: Then more players came, and I was like, “I messed up. Sorry, guys.” Once the curtain goes up, I would usually get on the other side of the camera. There are only a couple spaces to stand and not be on camera.
With El-Bashir attempting to stay out of the shot and the curtain blocking part of the view down the tunnel, Cousins and Taylor approached. Loud noises commenced.
El-Bashir: Sometimes the players give you a fist pound or say something. When they win, it’s, “Y’all didn’t believe in us” or whatever, something like that. So I’m just standing there, minding my own business, gathering my thoughts for a post-game spot, and Cousins is walking along, and then he just goes berserk.
Taylor: That was really the first show of emotion I saw from him.
Cousins: There really isn’t much of a story. I was just fired up. For whatever reason that’s what came to my mind. Obviously, after the way we played and the way we came back, a lot of adrenaline pumping. Nothing directed specifically at Tarik; it was more just general, to everybody — that you’ve got to like that.
El-Bashir: Usually when someone yells at you, the hair goes up on the back of your neck, but I just kind of smiled and giggled because I’ve seen this before. I’ve seen this from him in the tunnel at least twice before, and everyone who’s watched Cousins in practice, he does this to his teammates. He’ll throw a touchdown on a 7-on-7 drill and he loses his mind. That’s what he does, that’s his shtick. So he said it to me and then takes a turn into the locker room. I laughed and said something back, something like, “Yeah, I did like it, actually.”
Cousins: That was a big comeback win, put us back with a chance, and it’s hard not to like it if you’re a Redskins fan. So that was pretty much where it was coming from, and yeah, the intensity is something I think you’ve got to bring to the table.
Taylor, the Redskins PR guy, cracked the world’s tiniest grin.
Taylor: You know me; I try to stay as far behind the scenes as possible. I keep my eyes straight ahead. I was just trying to get in the locker room. That was my sole focus. I just wanted to get back there in time so Coach could give his speech.
Down the hallway, a few reporters were waiting to enter the Redskins locker room.
106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen: I was next to you.
The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg: I was checking my Draft Kings lineups, and worrying about the angle for my column, and generally miserable about something or other, when suddenly we all heard full-on screaming. The sound was almost shocking. So we all hurried to tweet out the quote.
Paulsen: I’m standing outside the locker room and I see the guys coming off and high-fiving, and then the loudest most animated person of all was definitely Cousins. I just hear him screaming at the top of his lungs.
Back in CSN’s newsroom, Cousins had quickly replaced Baker as the tunnel clip of the moment, thanks to strong work from cameraman Dan Petrilli, who got the tight shot perfectly despite the presence of the backdrop.
Finlay: We saw “You like that!” and we all just looked at each other, knowing this was gonna go nuts.
Shiferaw: Everyone burst into laughter. We knew, oh my God, this is probably going to be pretty big. You knew it was hilarious, you knew it was going to spread.
Martin: We looked at that like, wow, that’s going to go crazy.
CSN’s crew, including social media guru Kevin Kestler, scurried to get the clip onto social media platforms.
Finlay: That was blog fire.
Martin: I put Kirk up on our Facebook page at 4:40, and I checked it three minutes after, and it had already been shared a hundred times. I was like, wow, this is going to be huge.
Finlay: Something like that is just so much fun, you just kind of want to get it out there. You can’t put a three-second video into a player that’s going to require a 15-second ad to watch. It’s not the right format for that.
El-Bashir: I knew that we had him yelling on camera. I didn’t think anyone was going to care that it was me. That didn’t cross my mind. Honestly if that had been anybody there, he would have said the same thing.
What happened next? Well, the clip went viral. As of this writing, the Vine has been viewed more than 11 million times, and the Facebook clip has 600,000 views. Those numbers will rise, but that only dawned gradually on the participants.
El-Bashir: There’s so much going on after the game. It was probably 6:30 when I finished taping my last hit, and I come back into the hallway to thank the camera guys and the utilities, and someone told me, “Dude, this is going crazy.” I’m like, “What’s going crazy?”
Taylor: I’ll tell you what, if you want to hear from people you haven’t heard from in 10 years, wind up in the background of something that goes viral. It’s not until I get back upstairs after open locker room that I have any sense of where the Internet has taken things. Needless to say, the texts and tweets were already starting to pile up, and I knew they weren’t congratulations texts.
Paulsen: My girlfriend called me about it, my mom called me about it, a relative in another state called me about it, asking what’s the deal with this quarterback. I don’t know why it resonated with people the way it did. I think there’s a belief that he’s an understated guy who doesn’t really show emotion, especially positive emotion. The record-breaking comeback, he played a career game, it all adds up to people sending it to everyone they know. I got to work today and three people have yelled “You like that!” For some reason, it caught on.
Cousins: You know, as a quarterback, I think it’s important to bring energy. You’ve got to be you and be true to who you are, but sometimes I’m able to play my best and help our offense play best when I’m bringing energy and having some fire. Sometimes I don’t do that enough. When you bring that fire, you can kind of inspire guys and get them going. And that’s certainly something in the second half of the season that I think will be important to continue to bring.
El-Bashir: As soon as I walked in last night, my daughter said, “That Vine of the quarterback yelling at you has like four million loops already, Daddy.”
Shiferaw: This is easily the biggest Vine we’ve ever had. It’s not even close. I sent JP a text late last night: “We contributed to Sports Internet today.”
El-Bashir: I’ll spend four hours today wracking my head on a thoughtful column about where Cousins goes from here, and this thing is going to dwarf anything I’ve written for a month. It’s just funny how certain things take off.
Cousins: I mean, I just get really fired up after we win. That’s all it is. Just fired up.
(Note: Some of the Cousins quotes came from a Monday appearance on 106.7 The Fan. Some answers have been edited for length.)