“When you start paying people this kind of money, I want to know you’re going to get me to a Super Bowl, not live me in the middle of the pack,” Michael Irvin said, even before the viral postgame discussion in which Marshall Faulk and Steve Smith questioned Cousins’s leadership and worth.
But if you wondered whether last week marked some turning point in which the national consensus turned away from Cousins-as-franchise-QB, not so fast. Here, for example, was Charlie Weis, asked about Cousins on his weekly SiriusXM NFL Radio show, “Airing it Out.”
“I am a huge Kirk Cousins fan,” the onetime Patriots offensive coordinator said. “I think he’s a top-five quarterback in the NFL. And I think that if the Redskins don’t go out and sign Kirk Cousins, it is going to set them back years. I think that there’ll be people standing on line to get him if he’s available. Now, he’s going to be expensive. He’s not going to be cheap, okay? But even [Thursday] night, he gets that first interception [on a tipped ball]; you couldn’t throw the ball any better than that. He makes that one [backpedaling] completion to Crowder; I mean, I don’t know how you possibly complete that pass.”
Weis said Cousins’s ball security when he was sacked was the only thing that annoyed him during the loss to Dallas, but he pointed out how Cousins still put up respectable numbers even as his backup offensive linemen were being replaced by their backups.
“You get no continuity with the offensive line, then you’re really not going to get any continuity with the offense, that’s really what it comes down to,” Weis said, before later returning to Cousins. “Let’s look at it like this: To get a really good quarterback, you’re either going to pay a lot for a guy who’s in the league, or take one high in the draft,” he said. “So you have to make a decision, do you want to spend money for a proven guy or do you want to take a high draft choice, take a guy that you really don’t know how it’s going to turn out? . . .
“So [if] you already have the guy, like in Washington’s case, you go pay him. Now you don’t need to go get a quarterback. What are they going to do if they don’t pay him? What do they do then? They’ve got to go get one, right? So what, are they gonna go get a lesser guy in the league right now? Or go try to trade up in the draft for somebody that you’re really not sure how it’s going to turn out?”
NBC Sports analyst Chris Simms launched a similar defense during an appearance on Dan Patrick’s radio show, in which he called the much-cited NFL Network criticism of Cousins “media bullcrap.”
“We’re talking about the quarterback who’s [fifth] in the NFL in passing, that has had a beat-up offensive line all year, no running game and an average defense,” Simms said. “Now, is Kirk Cousins one of the five best quarterbacks in football? No. Is he one of the 10 best? Probably not. He’s definitely in the top half of football. He’s somewhere in that discussion between 10 and 15 or 10 and 16 certainly. So if Washington wants to get rid of him, go ahead. Tell me who you’re going to get that’s better. I’d like to know that.”
“He is a franchise quarterback,” Simms later said. “You can win a Super Bowl with Kirk Cousins, hands down, certainly. The thing I look at too: He feels disrespected. He should. I mean the organization didn’t want to ever give up the dream of RGIII, right? This is where this all started, in my opinion … Again, Kirk Cousins, yes, he might not be a super superstar quarterback, but he is really good.”
And if a Hall of Fame receiver in Irvin has long-term contract concerns, another Hall of Fame receiver — Cris Carter — does not. Carter was also asked last week if the Redskins should lock Cousins up; “of course they should,” he said.
“One of the problems is that the number is so high,” Carter said. “You’re talking about $24 to $30 million. Is Kirk Cousins worth that? It’s not is Kirk Cousins worth that. A top quarterback in the NFL, if you’re in the top 20, that’s what you’re going to make. And Kirk Cousins is in that group.”
Which is why ESPN’s Dan Graziano argued this week that it would probably “take something in the range of $30-plus million a year” for the Redskins to sign Cousins.
“Think about it,” he said. “A healthy quarterback — assuming he gets through the next four games healthy — in his prime, hitting the open market, with multiple teams able to bid on him. You’re already at $27 million a year with Matthew Stafford, who did not meet those criteria, because he did an extension with Detroit. It’s not a stretch. If you have two or three teams after him, then it’s not a stretch for him to hit those numbers.”
All this, of course, will be colored by the very true fact that the Redskins will have missed the playoffs in two of three seasons that Cousins started, in which their overall record will be either just above or just below .500. And yet Weis said it is fair to attribute this year’s backward step to the onslaught of injuries.
“I don’t think this is the same Redskins, like oh, well they’re just the Redskins,” he said. “I think this team is close to being a good team and a contender.”
Here’s one more morsel of Cousins praise, courtesy NFL analyst Ross Tucker, who said the criticism of Cousins after the Dallas game was valuable in one way.
“I like when people bash Kirk Cousins, because then I know that they don’t have any clue what they’re talking about,” Tucker said on his podcast. “I mean, that’s how bad it is. That’s how good the guy is. He’s the best quarterback the franchise has had in at least 25 years, and he’s a top 10 quarterback in the NFL.”