One home divisional loss in the first week of the season was enough to raise a whole bunch of doubt in some circles about the Washington Redskins' head coach, and the Redskins' starting quarterback, and the team's overall direction. Me, I've been caught overreacting to Week 1 NFL results so often that I'm attempting to stay medium, while also acknowledging the potential maelstrom that would result from a Week 2 loss to the Rams in Los Angeles.
And that game, as luck would have it, comes against a former Redskins employee, wunderkind head coach Sean McVay. It was McVay who spent much of the past couple of years helping Kirk Cousins become a breakout NFL almost-star, while also assuring the world that what Cousins was doing was no illusion. And now McVay's team could be responsible for cranking up the substantial heat that's already being applied to Cousins. Weird!
For his part, the first-year head coach seems prepared to spend the next few days doing the same thing he has always done: praising Cousins rather lavishly.
"You know, Kirk is clearly a great quarterback," McVay told Kevin Sheehan and Chris Cooley on Wednesday morning on ESPN 980, when asked about Cousins's subpar effort against the Philadelphia Eagles. "He's got a great natural stroke, and when he's throwing the football with accuracy and anticipation, he's as good as anybody. … Just like anything else in this league, you're a couple plays away from being able to connect. Even that first shot of the game, if [Terrelle] Pryor's able to see it, maybe it's a different result, if he's able to track it. You look at the shot that they just missed on a little bit later on when you get the holding [penalty].
"But you can see, it's an explosive offense with great players all around," McVay said. "They've got great players up front. This offense is special. They've been special over the last couple years. And they're only a couple plays away from that being a totally different conversation right now."
McVay continued his defense of Cousins when asked about the backbreaking fourth-quarter red-zone interception against the Eagles.
"Certainly the confidence that you do have in Kirk as a player, he's going to make that play a whole lot more times than he's going to miss it," McVay said. "There's inevitably going to be a couple plays that you'd like to have back, and what you're interested in is guys' ability to respond. And you guys have seen it throughout the course of his career: Kirk is a very mentally tough player that has always seemed to answer the bell. And I know he'll be the first to tell you that he expects to make that play. That's a great play by the Philly defense, and unfortunately it didn't work out for the offense."
McVay was brought to Washington by Mike Shanahan in 2010, eventually becoming the team's tight ends coach and ultimately its offensive coordinator. And he evidently retains fond feelings for the franchise, saying "nobody's a bigger Redskins fan every other week [besides this one] than I am, just because of what some of those people in that organization have done for me, and how they've treated me." He described Washington Coach Jay Gruden as a mentor, and said the team's back-to-back winning seasons were "a big reason why I'm fortunate enough to be in this role."
So it's not a surprise that he rejected the narrative that Gruden has struggled to prepare his teams for season openers.
"Yeah, I don't buy that at all," McVay said. "I've been around that organization. I've been around Coach Gruden. I know what he's about. I know the way he approaches games and the way that he gets his teams prepared, and I didn't see that as the case at all. I thought it was a good, competitive football game. I thought Philly did a good job making a handful of plays. And just like anything else, the score's very misleading, because you look at the [fourth quarter fumble] that goes one way or the other … now we're having a different conversation."
"Philly was able to come away with it, but to say that Washington wasn't ready is not something that I saw at all on the tape," McVay said. "I know how they approach games, and I know how they prepare in order to put themselves in a chance to have a good performance. And there's no [question] that Jay Gruden's the right guy and he has those guys ready to go. And it just unfortunately didn't work out. Credit to [Coach Doug] Pederson and the Eagles for being able to come away with the win, but I thought it was a great, competitive game. It just came down to the wire at the end where a couple of plays made the difference. But I certainly didn't get that sense at all when I watched the tape."