As the season enters its final quarter, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins is leading the NFL in one major statistical category.
The fourth-year player, in his first full season as a starter, has completed 68.6 percent of his passes. That leads the NFL, a tick ahead of Seattle’s Russell Wilson (68.5 percent) and just ahead of longtime established quarterbacks Phillip Rivers of San Diego (67.3) and the Saints’ Drew Brees (67.1).
There are plenty of Cousins detractors out there who will say that his completion percentage is good because he only throws short passes. Anyone can dink and dunk his way to a good completion percentage, they say.
This criticism is perhaps half valid. According to the NFL, the average Cousins pass travels 7.98 yards. That’s 18th in the NFL, right in the middle of the pack, just behind Aaron Rodgers, who averages a distance of 7.99 yards per pass. Some quarterbacks, like Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger, throw passes that average over 10 yards in the air. Others, like Rivers and Matthew Stafford, average less than 6.9 yards of distance per pass. In all, there are 14 qualifying quarterbacks who throw passes that are on average shorter than Cousins’ and have a lower completion percentage.
Only two quarterbacks, Roethlisberger and the Bills’ Tyrod Taylor, are in the top 10 in both average pass length and completion percentage.
Completion percentage, of course, is not the only measuring stick for a quarterback. Looking at some more comprehensive numbers, Cousins’ NFL passer rating of 92.4 is 18th in the NFL. His ESPN QBR, a more refined metric, is 57.7, which is 21st. Per Football Outsiders’ DYAR, which among other things incorporates the strength of the opposition (which QBR and passer rating do not), Cousins comes out with a 472, 11th in the league.
The numbers that get the most attention will be the ones on Cousins’ new contract, whether it’s with the Redskins or elsewhere. The stats show that he’s a middle of the pack quarterback in a lot of ways, perhaps upper middle by some measures but clearly not in the top group. And he has only done it for one year. Even given the shortage of qualified quarterbacks in the NFL it seems doubtful that the Redskins or any team would break the bank for Cousins.
But “break the bank” is a relative term. The Redskins or someone will end up paying him somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million to $15 million per year for two or three years. That is a hefty payday for most NFL players but it would put Cousins in the lower tier of salaries for veteran starting quarterbacks.