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How many QBs are definitively better than Kirk Cousins? The list isn't that long


How many QBs are definitively better than Kirk Cousins? The list isn't that long

As fall leaks into winter, Kirk Cousins again finds himself near the end of a one-year contract. Once the season ends in 2018, the Redskins and their quarterback will be forced back to the negotiating table, or, put in position to again use a franchise tag to keep their passer. 

While that situation will unfold across board rooms and telephone calls, what Cousins can control right now is on the field. And through 11 games, he's controlling it well. 

Cousins is second in the NFL at 3,038 passing yards, ranking only behind Tom Brady. He's third in the NFL in passing yards per game, again behind Brady as well as Carson Palmer (who only played five games before a season-ending injury).

In fact, looking at QB stats around the NFL this season, Cousins' name is near the top of almost every key metric. 

Considering that an Ian Rapoport report showed the Redskins want Cousins to prove he can be their franchise passer with a strong performance the remainder of the season, it's worth considering just how good Cousins has been so far this year. 


This list will be objective, based on empirical data. For fans that want to point to intangibles, head straight to the comment section. Also, this list is based on 2017 performance alone. Repeat, only 2017 statistics. As they say in the stock market, past performance is not indicative of future returns. 

Ultimately, Washington's question in paying up for Cousins, or not, this offseason comes down to how good he is compared to the rest of the league. How good is he? Let's answer by figuring out who is definitively better:

  1. Tom Brady - He's the best passer in the game, and probably the best QB of all-time. This is the easiest No. 1 choice in history. 
  2. Carson Wentz - The Eagles second-year passer has thrown for nearly 500 yards less than Cousins, but has found the end zone nearly 10 times more. Wentz's ability to go downfield with accuracy separates him from Cousins. Wentz leads the NFL with 28 TDs and has thrown just five interceptions. 
  3. Drew Brees - While Brees is actually a hair behind Cousins in a few categories (yards, YPG, TDs) he is completing 71 percent of his passes to Cousins 66 percent. Also, he gets the nod for a head's up win over Cousins just two weeks ago. Brees also averages more yards-per-attempt than Cousins and has the higher QB rating. 

That's it. That's the list. Only those three passers are definitely better than Cousins this season. Of course, Aaron Rodgers would also be on this list, but he's currently on injured reserve after breaking his collar bone in Week 6.

Now, a case can be made for two more players. Not an ironclad argument, but a case.

  • Russell Wilson - More TDs but fewer yards and lower completion percentage. Nobody is more important to their team than Wilson is to the Seahawks. 
  • Philip Rivers - More TDs and siginificantly fewer sacks. Also, grit. Rivers vs Cousins in LA in two weeks will be fun to watch. Rivers and Cousins are tied in yards-per-completion at 12.2.

At this point, there are probably some folks screaming that Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan and Matt Stafford should rank ahead of Cousins. Look at the numbers. They don't. Perhaps Cam Newton? Newton only has 2,400 pass yards to go with 14 TDs against 11 INTs. Not even close to the same company this season. 

Three players that bring interesting questions: Deshaun Watson, Jared Goff and Case Keenum. 

If Watson stayed healthy, he would have ranked ahead of Cousins or at least been in the same category as Wilson and Rivers. In six games he had 1,700 pass yards and 19 TDs. He was throwing a touchdown almost 10 percent of the time. 

Goff's season started slow, with head coach Sean McVay keeping things very simple for the second year passer. In his last four games, however, Goff has twice thrown for more than 350 yards to go with 9 TDs against 1 INT.

And Keenum? Well, 2017 Keenum could be very similar to 2015 Cousins. In his last three games, Keenum has completed at least 70 percent of his passes and thrown for seven touchdowns. Facing free agency after the year, the Vikings might be forced to use the franchise tag on the still unproven Keenum or lose him to the market. Sounds familiar, right Redskins fans?

Looking at the numbers, and just looking at the numbers, even the most ardent Cousins critic sees that the Redskins passer belongs among the Top 10 NFL quarterbacks. In fact, he might be in the Top 5. 

Looking beyond just numbers, the answer isn't as concrete. Using their proprietary grading scheme, Pro Football Focus ranks Cousins as the 11th best QB this season, behind players like Tyrod Taylor and Marcus Mariota. Football Outsiders, using either their DYAR or DVOA metric, also rank Cousins 11th in the league

One metric that hurts Cousins in some of the more advanced passing statistics comes from the 31 sacks taken so far this year. That's the fourth most sacks in the league, and Cousins has lost 269 yards on sacks, by far the most in the league. The tricky part about Cousins' high sack total is that some of it appears to be by design. Rich Tandler has more on that here, but the short version is the Redskins want more downfield and off-schedule plays from their QB, and sometimes that results in more sacks. 

Stats don't tell the whole story, but they tell a big story. When it comes to Kirk Cousins and Redskins fans, the story often remains more complicated. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Need to Know: If Kirk Cousins leaves, with the Redskins rebuild or retool?

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Need to Know: If Kirk Cousins leaves, with the Redskins rebuild or retool?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, January 16, 57 days before NFL free agency starts.


Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 49
—NFL Draft (4/26) 100
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 236

Nickel coverage—Five Redskins questions

Taking a look at some of the key questions surrounding the Redskins, sometimes coming up with more questions in the process. Yes, it's going to be that kind of offseason. 

What will the Redskins do at left guard? It would be better for the Redskins to find their left guard in the draft, but assuming that the successor is picked after the second round, they will want someone to start until the rookie is ready. That could be Arie Kouandjio or maybe a veteran free agent.

Can the Redskins make do with what they have at running back? The short answer is no. The running back situation needs attention. It’s hard to picture Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley forming a formidable tandem, or even a very good one. I’m wary of spending a high draft pick on an RB, but the success of the likes of Todd Gurley and Leonard Fournette have to be factored into the thinking.

Are the Redskins OK with Zach Brown and Mason Foster at inside linebacker? For the time being they are, assuming that they are able to sign both of the unrestricted free agents, however the Redskins need to continue to build that position. That means continuing to develop Josh Harvey-Clemons to use in nickel situations and spending draft resources there. Even if Brown and Foster are back, the Redskins might be smart to grab Roquan Smith out of Georgia if he’s there in the first round.

If they are without Kirk Cousins, will the Redskins rebuild or retool? This is a key question for the organization. If Cousins leaves, do they just try to plug in the best available/affordable quarterback they can find and roll on with the same basic personnel with which they have hovered around .500 the last three years? Or will the make other changes, perhaps moving on from Josh Norman and Jordan Reed to save cap money for future seasons and give their younger players a chance to establish themselves? The latter might be the better way to go but this organization rarely considers short-term pain for long-term gain.

If Junior Galette leaves, who replaces him? While Galette did not light it up in the sack department, he put plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He is likely to leave since he would remain behind Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan on the depth chart if he re-signed in Washington. Can they rely on 2017 second-round pick Ryan Anderson to take a giant leap in his sophomore season? Will they try to lock up free agent Trent Murphy and hope that he can bounce back from an ACL injury he suffered last August and regain his nine-sack form of 2016? I don’t see how they can rely on Anderson to suddenly provide pressure after recording zero sacks this past year. Whether it’s Murphy or another free agent, someone with a better track record has to be in the picture. If Anderson improves enough to move ahead of that player on the depth chart, so much the better.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Where does Stefon Diggs' remarkable catch rank among some of the best NFL playoff walk-offs?

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Where does Stefon Diggs' remarkable catch rank among some of the best NFL playoff walk-offs?

There is nothing quite like January playoff football and Sunday night's Vikings vs. Saints game further proved this point.

In case you have been off the grid the past 12 hours, the Minnesota Vikings literally got a last second win against the New Orleans Saints.

With 10 seconds left in the fourth and facing a 3rd and 10, quarterback Case Keenum heaved the football near the sideline to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who dodged two defenders while managing to stay inbounds for a 61-yard touchdown as the clock expired. 

It was one of the most remarkable playoff walk-off wins, if not the most remarkable one, in football.

So, where does it stand among the others?


Broncos vs. Steelers 2011 AFC Wild Card game: Remember Tim Tebow's 80-yard overtime touchdown to Demaryius Thomas during the 2011 Broncos vs. Steelers AFC Wild Card game? It was the first and last snap of overtime and it was wild.

Mile High Miracle: On third and three with 43 seconds left in the game, Ravens' Joe Flacco launched one towards wide receiver Jacoby Jones, who got in front of the Broncos receiver and ran the ball in for a 70-yard game-tying touchdown. The Ravens would eventually go on to win the game in double overtime. Some could argue it was the defining moment in the Ravens' Super Bowl run. 

Cardinals vs. Steelers Super Bowl XLIII: Under the brightest lights of all, Ben Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes with 43 seconds in the fourth in the back of the end zone for a toe-dragging, Super Bowl-winning catch. 


Saints vs. 49ers 2012 NFC Divisional game: Sunday's loss wasn't the first time the Saints have experienced a fourth quarter letdown. Back in 2012, Alex Smith threw one to the endzone on 3rd-and-three with 14 seconds left that sealed a win.

While these are only a few, we can't wait to add more to the list in years to come.