Some Redskins fans this offseason have worried that Kirk Cousins has no interest in signing a long-term deal with the Redskins. They’ve studied his words for any clue that he’d like to spend the bulk of his career in this town, and they’ve criticized him for his indifference. Still, Cousins — who has admitted that he attempts to be bland and noncontroversial in his media appearances — has seemed to remain noncommittal, stressing that the decision about his future is not his, and that every NFL player is essentially on a year-to-year deal.
Well, if Redskins fans wanted more, they finally got it, via a lengthy interview with MMQB’s Peter King. In a podcast posted this week, King flat-out asked Cousins whether he wants to stay in Washington. And while Cousins repeated many of his typical talking points, he also tossed a juicy bone to frustrated Redskins fans.
“I want to be where I’m wanted, and that’s what I’ve said all along,” Cousins told King. “When a team is willing to step up and commit to me fully for the long haul, then why would I want to be anywhere else? I mean, this is an incredible fan base. It’s one of the top five fan bases in the history of the NFL. It goes all the way back to the early 1930s. There’s three Super Bowl trophies, there’s multiple Hall of Famers, there’s high character players still living in the area — Darrell Green, Art Monk, guys that we can learn from.
“I love this organization and want to see us get back to those glory days that they had with Coach [Joe] Gibbs in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. And I want to add to that great history. There’s really no reason to want to look elsewhere. It’s a matter of wanting to be where you’re wanted, and I think that’s what all of us want — not just in football but in any walk of life.”
Of course, Cousins and the team (and his agent) might still have different ideas about the sort of deal that would indicate he is wanted in Washington. Which means rhetoric isn’t close to enough to make a long-term deal happen. But in the battle to win over the hearts of Redskins fans, that quote can do an awful lot of work.
King also asked Cousins whether he is bothered by the lack of a long-term deal, an almost unimaginable situation for an accomplished NFL quarterback in the prime of his career.
“When you know my story, this has sort of been the narrative for me,” Cousins said, then repeating things he has often said about his football life: having zero scholarship offers as a high school senior, feeling like he was recruiting Division I programs rather than the other way around, having to compete for a spot throughout his time at Michigan State
“That has been a part of my story,” Cousins said. “So to say does it bother you, does it gnaw at you? You know what, I’ve learned to accept it as part of my life and the way things have gone for a long time. This isn’t Chapter One for me, this is Chapter 10 or 11, where I’ve said ‘here we go again, this isn’t brand new.’ “
“Whatever happens, happens, and I think for me, I play better when I feel like I’m still ascending the mountain,” he went on. “I think I play better when people say keep showing us what you’ve got, keep showing us. And whatever’s going to get me to play at a high level is what I want to do. So I’m okay with it, and we’re just gonna keep going year by year.”
Which is why Cousins said that he will look at his situation this season “the way I’ve looked at every year”: as a week-to-week and year-to-year endeavor.
“It doesn’t feel like I can map anything out,” he said. “I’ve never felt that way. I’ve never felt comfortable, and I think that’s a good thing to have. You don’t have any entitlement. And so I’ll just play it out and see where I’m at. I know that every week it feels like a proving of myself, and that’s okay.”
Deep down, is it really okay? King asked Cousins that, and he stuck with his message.
“The nature of this league is such that it’s gonna have to be okay,” Cousins said. “Many players are told, you’re gonna need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s the way this league operates. … And believe me, there are far greater challenges in this league than the situation I’m in. I mean, there are guys getting cut, not knowing where they’re going to have move their families, not knowing where their next job’s going to be. That’s a much tougher situation than where I am. So I feel very fortunate and look forward to the opportunity that I have in Washington.”
Cousins also offered his first public comments on the removal of Scot McCloughan as the team’s general manager, a fact that would seem to impact his negotiations.
“I’m still reacting to it in the sense that I don’t fully understand the situation,” Cousins told King. “I don’t know what took place, I don’t know why it happened. And some of the things I do think I know, I don’t even know if they’re true or not.”
King mentioned the rumors of McCloughan having an issue with alcohol.
“Yeah, again, it’s rumors,” Cousins said. “I have no way of proving that or disproving that or saying what’s true or not true. I don’t know. But what I do know is regardless of who the GM is, who the owner is, who the head coach is, the president, and the decisions they make, they’ve given me an opportunity to be the starting quarterback. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime. And I want to make the best of that situation and hopefully prove them right and have a great season this year and give them reason to want me around for the next decade. But I’ve got enough in that role to keep me preoccupied. I’ll let the other decisions get made by the people above me, and do the best I can to lead my teammates.”
And, among other things, Cousins talked about how he attempts to maintain a poised, even-keel and measured tone in media interviews, partly to avoid creating headlines like the one you see above.
“I think at times I have to be careful not to stick my foot in my mouth and not to have the pedal to the metal at all times, because that can hurt me as a quarterback,” he said, when asked about some of his on-field postgame outbursts. “So I try to be very measured in interviews and be careful what I say. I’ve grown tired of a three-second quote being taken out of context and being made [into] an entire headline. So I’ve tried to tread very lightly with what I say.”
(To editorialize for one second: In my opinion, he has almost always succeeded on that score.)