Walking off the field Sunday night after one of the best performances of his NFL career, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins rather loudly and energetically asked General Manager Scot McCloughan a question: “How you like me now?”
There are at least two interpretations of that brief moment. There’s the “You like that?” interpretation: that this was just a happy, spontaneous release of emotion, moments after an exhausting and important win. And then there’s the You like that!” interpretation: that this was Cousins pointedly delivering a message to a man we assume is not yet convinced about his signal caller: Heck yeah, he already has a franchise quarterback on his roster. And heck yeah, he’d be crazy to let that man walk, no matter the cost.
Cousins discussed the moment in some depth during his weekly morning-after appearance on 106.7 The Fan. And I’d say that both readings might, in fact, be correct.
First, the happy and spontaneous version.
“I mean, first of all, you’ve got to realize that in a perfect world that doesn’t get caught on camera and it’s just between me and him in a backroom somewhere,” Cousins told Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier. “But for whatever reason, it was on the field. And yeah, it’s just organic, it’s natural out of the emotion coming off of a big win. That’s what comes out, just like ‘You like that?’ or any of the other stuff that’s been put out there.
“But again, I can’t say enough good things about Scot,” Cousins went on. “I think he’s done a phenomenal job. I mean, Scot was the reason I even had an opportunity to play last season, so I owe Scot a great deal. And he’s done a really good job evaluating talent from the day he was brought in. You know, I have the utmost respect for him, and part of the reason we’ve had the [11-4-1 record over 16 games] is because of Scot and what he’s done. So I’m really happy with him and just in a moment, coming out of a big game and a big win, that’s what comes out. We invest a lot in these games, and there’s a lot on the line, and I was pleased with the result.”
That’s all very innocent-sounding and pure. But then Paulsen asked Cousins how regularly the two men speak, and Cousins revealed that a few weeks ago, he initiated a meeting with the GM, telling him “can you just kind of give me an update on what your thoughts are and what you’re seeing.”
And knowing that, and knowing The Post’s reporting that not everyone in Redskins Park is convinced Cousins deserves an offseason megadeal, and knowing that Cousins has now had three monster games in a row — 1,095 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception — it’s hard not to see the quarterback’s postgame moment as a pointed response to that meeting.
“I remember each of the conversations we’ve had,” Cousins said. “I remember last year after the New England game [in 2015], I hadn’t really had a state-of-the-team conversation with him at any point during the season. After the New England game he called me in and we just sat down and he just really wanted to affirm me and my play, and say even though we’re 3-5, and haven’t been perfect, he said ‘I think you’re doing a lot of good things, you’re playing really well, just stay the course.’
“And then it was after that we really went on a run there, from the Saints game on,” Cousins said. “And so I think his belief in me, the way he communicated belief in me at a time when we were 3-5 and maybe it wasn’t that popular, says a lot about him and his ability to see potential when it’s only potential and when it’s not materialized into something.
“And then just a couple weeks ago I wanted to go meet with him and just say can you just kind of give me an update on what your thoughts are and what you’re seeing,” Cousins went on. “But really other than that, unless one of us is trying to do that, we really just say hi to each other in the hallway. He lets me do my job, and I let him do his, and we both know that the door’s always open and there could be open communication at any point.”
Finally Cousins was asked how it feels to have proven himself as Washington’s starter for the second year in a row. Here he reverted to Humble Kirk, rather than How You Like Me Kirk.
“I’ve learned that you’re only as good as your last game,” he said. “People like to overreact one way or the other every single week, and the key is to just not ride the roller coaster and just stay the course and see where you are after it’s all said and done and the dust settles. So there’s no doubt that you want to be able to string together back to back to back seasons, where you have a sustained level of excellence. Those are the players and the teams that people can get behind: when they know what they’re gonna get year in and year out. So we’re on that path, but by no means have we earned the right to be called that kind of a team yet. But that’s the goal, and that’s what we’re chasing. And it’s going to take some time to see if we can get there.”