The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The one aspect of the Kirk Cousins situation on which we can all agree

Jay Gruden has had a front-row seat for the Kirk Cousins contract debate. (Photo by John McDonnell / The Washington Post)

Here is something special I discovered. It’s a sentence about Kirk Cousins, one that contains the germ of an opinion, and yet one with which no one actually disagrees. That’s right: an opinionated sentence about Kirk Cousins that won’t prompt bile to plume unprompted from the throat of your co-worker, that won’t leave you huddled next to your refrigerator, ignoring your family in favor of angrily arguing with a friend via text message about whether or not Cousins is at all comparable to Joe Flacco or possibly David Carr.

(This was me Friday night: The work week ended, I retreated to my warm and welcoming home and then spent 30 minutes arguing with my friend Matt, over text message, about Cousins and Flacco, to the point that my heart started pounding. In real life. I have so many regrets.)

Anyhow, here is the glorious, unifying sentence: “I think something has to be done.”

Pretty good, right? That comes via Redskins Coach Jay Gruden, and when the quote emerged this week, the most amazing thing happened: No one disagreed. No one got angry. No one locked themselves in a closet to better argue with their friends via text message. Gruden needed just seven words to strip the fat off this bloated debate and uncover the nutritious truth: None of this is healthy. None of this is fun. None of this is productive or sustainable. And something has to be done.

“I personally don’t want to go through another one-year deal, and just [keep going] one year, one year,” Gruden said on his team-produced television show, finally saying what has seemed obvious for weeks. “I think you want to have a quarterback in here that’s going to be here. And hopefully that is Kirk. And if not, we have to move on and do what we have to do as an organization.

“For the most part, the great quarterbacks are in the same system year in and year out, and are developing in that system,” Gruden went on. NFL teams, he suggested, are not “holding our breath every March and April, waiting for the guy.”

Redskins Coach Jay Gruden doesn’t want another one-year deal for Kirk Cousins

Even in this era of erratic quarterbacking, it’s hard not to nod along with Gruden. And if the Redskins were to bring back Cousins on another one-year tag — which the quarterback suggested he would sign, because who turns down that much guaranteed money? — well, a year from now, we’d be strapping ourselves back into this same straitjacket.

You know all those stories about Washingtonians consuming so much political news that it’s ruining their mental health? Now imagine that, except concerning the NFL’s 12th-best quarterback.

No NFL team is free of clattering distraction, not even the successful ones. The Panthers are undergoing an ugly ownership change. The Titans coach was about to get fired until Andy Reid bailed him out, right before Reid’s coaching staff dissolved. Everyone associated with the Patriots apparently wants to saute everyone else, using healthful coconut oil of course. The Eagles are the top seed in the NFC, and also one Nick Foles interception away from a riot.

Still, this Cousins thing is special in its relentlessness — this is my second straight column on the exact same topic! — and in the way everyone is now unifying around the idea of making it end. Last Thursday, team radio voice Chris Cooley reported on ESPN 980 that Gruden has joined our ranks; “The coach doesn’t want to do this anymore,” Cooley said. “You can’t do this, man. You can’t build a team one year at a time with your number one player. You can’t.”

Then came Friday’s Cousins fan event, broadcast on rival station 106.7 The Fan, an event that grew in stature as the fanbase dreamed it might provide some sort of clarity. It didn’t, exactly, although when Cousins was asked about playing under a tag for a third straight season, he seemed finally to admit that he is also getting weary.

“Um,” Cousins said, and then paused. “You know, there’s a part of me that would like to get settled. You know, there’s a part of me that would like to get settled,” he repeated.

He then turned to his standard line about every NFL contract being year-to-year, which is true in its way. But there’s a reason this situation — a franchise quarterback, frozen in limbo — feels unique. It’s because it’s never happened before.

And so, a third one-year deal? Please, no. Let’s debate Oprah’s presidential qualifications, or Michael Wolff’s journalistic ethics, or whether D.C. schools should preemptively close early because of sleet. When Cousins was pressed Friday about just what it is he wants, he finally sided with his coach.

“I think eventually it’s getting settled,” he admitted. “I think you can only just kind of go year-to-year for so long. But I think that’s why it’s first things first. First let’s get away from the season a little bit. Then let’s gather some information as to what the rest of the league is looking like, who’s being hired, who’s being fired. And you just keep kind of stacking up days on each other, gathering information that then leads to the next decision and the next decision.”

It might all be a game, but Kirk Cousins is way ahead of the Redskins

Cousins wants it settled. Gruden wants it settled. I want it settled. You want it settled. Oprah and Michael Wolff surely want it settled. Jake Tapper and Stephen Miller would almost certainly agree that it should be settled.

That means either the team discovers a path toward signing Cousins to a long-term deal, or it doesn’t, and gives up. Losing him would be a blow, but I’d rather have my foot amputated in the hospital than watch it slowly be removed with plastic utensils and twine.

The details of this debate still remain divisive, even to its protagonists.

“I think it’s all about, probably all about the money, I guess, and about the security that he feels that he needs,” Gruden said on his show.

“The money is not the driving factor in this decision to go another 16 games,” Cousins said Friday, describing his thinking last offseason. “It’s just not what I’ve built my life on. That’s not what it’s about, and shame on me if I feel like just a contract is going to solve all my problems. I mean, that is broken thinking, and that’s going to lead to a dysfunctional life.”

There is passionate disagreement on this point, as on every other part of the Cousins debate. Except, apparently, for this one: that something has to be done.