Today, NFL numbers are parsed to the core and subjected to rigorous statistical analysis. We know how many rushing attempts that a team had on first and second down between its own 20 and 40 yard lines and how that somehow contributes to wins and losses.
But sometime correlations are very simple. The Washington Redskins have played five games. In two of those games, Kirk Cousins has not thrown an interception. The Redskins won both of those games. In each of the three other games, Cousins threw two interceptions and the Redskins are 0-3.
Correlation is not necessarily causation here. There were plenty of other factors that contributed to all three losses from special teams play in the loss to the Dolphins to an inability to move the ball on the ground against both the Giants and the Falcons.
But when a game ends on a pick six by the other team, it’s impossible to say that there wasn’t some correlation between the interceptions and the loss. You can argue how much of a factor Cousins’ interceptions were in the three losses but you can’t say they weren’t costly to some degree.
The company line has been that at least some of Cousins’ interceptions were just a matter of bad luck. A Dolphins defender made an incredible play on one of them. The ball bounced off of the receiver on one of the picks against the Giants and on one against the Falcons. Ryan Grant slipped while making his break on the last play in the Georgia Dome and Jay Gruden wrote it off as “an unfortunate play”.
But is Cousins just unlucky? After the Giants game, when Cousins threw 49 times, I pointed out that almost half of the quarterbacks who threw at least that many times in a game up to that point in the season threw two or more interceptions. So it’s fair to examine how many times a quarterback who threw as many times as Cousins did against the Falcons was picked off multiple times.
Cousins had 32 pass attempts in Atlanta. This year, a quarterback has attempted between 30 and 35 passes 47 times. On only 12 occasions did that quarterback throw two or more interceptions, about 25.5 percent. The only name that is on that two-pick list twice is Kirk Cousins. He threw 31 passes in the Dolphins game. So Cousins is too well represented in the minority group. Most quarterbacks have managed to throw 30 or so passes in a game without multiple turnovers.
Looking at the bigger picture, Cousins has had 3.2 percent of his passes intercepted this season. That’s not good, but it’s not awful. It’s 27th in the NFL, better than Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston, Matthew Stafford, Colin Kaepernick, Nick Foles, Sam Bradford, Peyton Manning, and Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Jets, who will be Cousins’ counterpart on Sunday.
One note to make here. Of the eight quarterbacks with a worse interception percentage than Cousins only one, Winston, has fewer NFL starts than him. The quarterback with the next fewest starts is Foles, who has 29. Bradford has 54 starts, Kaepernick 44, Manning 261, Fitzpatrick 93, Stafford 82, and Luck 51.
But turning back to the here and now, the Redskins just aren’t good enough to overcome turnovers, especially when the running game is sputtering. And even though Cousins’ interceptions may be due in part to bad luck and they many be just part of the growing process, if they don’t stop the Redskins will have trouble taking advantage of opportunities to win games and building any kid of momentum.