Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins was at Jammin Java in Vienna on Friday for a two-hour, question-and-answer session with fans hosted by 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier. During the sold-out event, which will benefit the D.C. Dream Center, Cousins answered questions about his six years in Washington and his uncertain future. You can listen to Cousins’s full Q&A here.
Shortly after Cousins was introduced to applause, Paulsen wasted no time asking one of the key questions that will factor into whether Cousins is in D.C. next season: Do you want to be a Washington Redskin?
“That has been the question, right?” Cousins said with a laugh. “That’s what we talked about last summer in July. The short answer is yes. I just feel that it’s been a very positive six years. Obviously, we don’t have Super Bowl rings to show for it, we don’t have playoff wins, but it’s a privilege to play here. I’ve felt that for all six seasons. I’d be foolish to say I don’t want to be here. It is truly a dream come true and a privilege to be here. Now obviously, it’s not that simple or that easy, and we have time to figure all that out, and work through all the circumstances that have to take place to feel really good about that, but I do feel the short answer is yes and let’s work through it.”
Later in the event, a fan asked Cousins to elaborate on what he means when he says he wants to be in D.C. “under the right circumstances.”
“Under the right set of circumstances is those conversations that [Cousins’s agent] Mike McCartney will have with the Redskins between now and March,” Cousins said. “I may get involved a little bit, too, but just trying to get on the same page, make sure it’s the right fit. We talk about winning is so important, and I want to be excellent at what I do. I want to be associated with excellence and, as I’ve said, if I feel like winning and excellence is here, I just don’t have a lot of reason to look elsewhere. I’m a big part of that. The ball’s in my hands, so if we’re not winning and we’re not excellent, I’ve got to look at myself first and foremost. But that’s certainly what I want to be a part of and helped build, so if I feel like that’s here, there’s no reason to look around.”
Cousins repeatedly mentioned that winning is the most important thing to him at this juncture of his career.
“I’m not going to just go to a place where I know I’m going to lose but, boy, I’m getting paid well,” he said. “It’s like, c’mon. In the middle lies virtue in anything. Life is about balance. You don’t want to live out of whack over here or out of whack over here. I want to win and be well compensated, and I think there’s a balance to find. It doesn’t have to be one extreme or the other.”
Of course, Cousins and the Redskins wouldn’t be doing this dance for a third straight offseason if the sides had previously managed to agree on a long-term deal. Cousins revealed Friday that former Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan was interested in signing him to a long-term contract during the 2015 season and Redskins brass met with McCartney in Chicago that December before the 6-7 Redskins played the Bears.
“Mike’s message was, he called me and he said, ‘Kirk, for them to see you in the light that I see you, you’re going to play four more games and you’re going to need to do more, you’re going to need to play better, because they’re just not viewing you in that light for various reasons.’ I didn’t like to hear that, and they were ready to do a deal. Mike said, ‘No, you should finish out the season. You should put the risk on yourself, finish it out, and then we’ll go from there.’ ”
Cousins took McCartney’s advice and threw for 275 yards in a 24-21 win over the Bears. Washington won its next three games to clinch the NFC East title, and Cousins was named NFC Player of the Month.
“I’ve always felt good about Scot and enjoyed working alongside him,” Cousins said of McCloughan, who texted Cousins to congratulate him on the birth of his son earlier this year.
The end of the past two seasons didn’t go quite as well for Cousins, who threw three interceptions in Washington’s loss to the Giants on Sunday. Paulsen asked Cousins about Redskins Coach Jay Gruden’s faint praise for him at his end-of-season news conference. (“When you’re 7-9, it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy was really outstanding,’ ” Gruden said.)
“When you’re coming two days after that game, I can understand how that could influence your assessment to some degree,” said Cousins, who added that his season finale was “probably his worst” performance as a Redskin. “What I gathered from the comment was 7-9 and the quarterback play are causally related and that quarterback play is 7-9, 7-9 is the quarterback play. I saw that and I thought, ‘I think it’s slightly more complicated than that.’ I think there’s a few more dynamics in play as to what your final record is. … At the same time, his job is to evaluate. That’s a big part of his role and his position. In that comment, he’s just doing his job, he’s evaluating the position and he has the right to say what he wants to say.”
Cousins said he told Gruden at his exit interview after the season that he “really believed” in his play-calling and later praised Gruden’s ability to orchestrate a productive offense despite all of the injuries that piled up throughout the year. “I do believe that Jay believes in me and he’s given me a great opportunity, and I feel very fortunate,” Cousins said.
Cousins said his relationship with Redskins team President Bruce Allen, whose mention prompted boos from the audience, “has always been positive.” (“They’re saying Bruuuce, for the record,” Rouhier joked.)
“He’s always said, ‘My door’s open; come talk to me any time,’ ” Cousins said. “It’s been good. A lot of these people in the front office, I didn’t really talk to them or relate to them a lot my first few years. I mean, I’m a backup, and I’m a young player and figuring things out. So it’s just been the last couple years where I’ve been able to have those conversations a little more often and get to know them, so it’s something that’s a little new for me.”
Cousins said he has “felt wanted” by the Redskins from the first day of last offseason, and the offer the team made him before last year’s July deadline to sign a long-term deal made that clear.
“I felt they were all-in last summer, but we felt like we wanted to take a little more time,” Cousins said of his decision to play a second year under the franchise tag. “… I feel at peace about their belief in me and where they’re going forward from here.”
Asked whether he feels good about the possibility of remaining with the Redskins and having Allen and team owner Daniel Snyder as his bosses for the next six years, Cousins said it all depends on how the team fares.
“It all comes down to winning,” he said. “We have to win. If we win, everybody will feel good. If we lose, all the other things just don’t really matter. Winning is what matters to me.”
Looking ahead to the offseason, Cousins said it’ll be weeks, if not months, before he and his agent can accurately evaluate his other opportunities. “It’s a moving target because a lot of these teams haven’t finalized their staffs,” Cousins said.
Cousins also said he doesn’t see his camp even negotiating a long-term contract before the March deadline for the franchise tag.
“I see us taking our time,” Cousins said. “I see us waiting and being patient. Hard to say right now, but I do see us taking our time.”
A fan asked Cousins what the Redskins front office can do over the next few months to make him more interested in sticking around.
“It’s a process of getting there,” Cousins said. “They’re going to make their decisions. I don’t have to convince them or tell them what to do. I like to just let the process work; let’s see what they do. I don’t need to force anybody’s hand. I don’t need to force the issue. I can just kind of sit back and be patient. My job was to play football the last 16 games and do my part, and then in the offseason, really, it’s just sit back and let the team or other teams let you know that they want you. I’ll kind of let them do that and just react. I don’t really want to try to be too aggressive to tell them what they’ve got to do.”
During the fan question-and-answer session, Cousins said Washington’s comeback win at Seattle in early November was the “top moment” of the season and the Redskins’ blowout win over the Packers on “Sunday Night Football” last season was among the best performances of his career. He said the Redskins’ passionate fan base was “a benefit that not all 32 teams bring to the table that does set Washington apart.” He revealed that he drinks his coffee black and said he’s partial to mint chocolate chip ice cream at the Dairy Store in East Lansing, Mich. When a young fan asked Cousins what other teams are interested in signing him, the quarterback said he didn’t know.
“Wherever I go, I’m not going to increase my portfolio,” Cousins said. “I’m going there to win.”
Paulsen asked Cousins whether he would be surprised if the Redskins decided to use the franchise tag on him for a third consecutive year, which would guarantee him $34 million next season.
“I don’t know what I would think,” Cousins said. “Hard for me to say. I don’t know that I expected another franchise tag the first two times and they did, so I guess I’ll factor that in. … I’d like to see what they do.”
In previous offseasons, Cousins has said he doesn’t feel any added pressure playing on a one-year deal because the NFL is a year-to-year league. On Friday, he suggested he would appreciate the security of a longer commitment.
“There’s a part of me that would like to get settled, but I haven’t even gone there yet and thought about what-if, what if that happens,” he said. “I haven’t thought that far ahead.”
If the Redskins do use the franchise tag on Cousins, he said he’ll sign the contract and participate in OTAs as he has the past two years. In the event that the Redskins use the transition tag on Cousins, he would visit with other teams and “gather all the facts.” If another team offered him a contract, the Redskins would have five days to match it.
Cousins stressed that any long-term deal he signs this offseason, with the Redskins or another team, will probably feature a significant chunk of guaranteed money.
“Guarantees are a big part of what Mike McCartney is going to be talking about with whoever he’s talking to, to say again, ‘This is something if you’re not going to do, then we might as well just play on one-year deals,’ ” Cousins said. “Guarantees are really that security, or at least knowing I’m going to be here, [and] why I would commit to being here. If I don’t know that, why would I extend commitment? It’s like dating instead of getting married sort of thing.”
Cousins, who held his son, Cooper, on his lap for part of the second hour, wrapped up the event by thanking Redskins fans and offering a few final thoughts on what comes next.
“We’ll take our time, so I don’t know how it’s going to end,” Cousins said. “But I just want to say thank you to everyone here, to everybody who follows our team. You are what makes this league special. It wouldn’t be what it is without your support, without your passion. It’s what makes it fun. It’s what made it fun for me as an 8-year-old in the backyard, dreaming of someday being able to do this. It’s because of the people who are here today and the people who follow it so passionately. That’s what makes it a dream come true for me. I just want to say thank you for allowing me to live a dream. Thank you to the media for covering our team the way you do, the way you work, the way you get the information out to the masses. It’s been a very positive experience for me for six years, so whether I’m here or not, I just want to say thank you and really appreciate your hard work and the way you support us.”
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