Kirk Cousins provided the Redskins with a consistent option at quarterback during his career in Washington, especially his three seasons as the starter from 2015 to 2017.
The Redskins hovered around .500 throughout his tenure, won the NFC East and reached the playoffs once and Cousins provided them with some big-time moments (see: "You like that!?"). His play showed that he was a solid option as a starter in the league. Plenty of teams would have loved a quarterback of his caliber.
But Cousins was polarizing. A big faction of the fanbase grew frustrated with him. To them, he was a quarterback who couldn't get above .500, never won in the playoffs and often faltered under the bright lights. He had a ceiling and wasn't a top-10 quarterback.
It seemed like every single game was a referendum on Cousins. One good moment made him "the guy" and one slip up had everyone ready to see him depart. The constant drama around his one-year franchise tags, and the uncertainty that brought to the position, only made things worse until Cousins finally played out the string and left for Minnesota as a free agent in 2018.
Similar criticisms have followed Cousins to Minnesota - though in 2019 he had 26 touchdown passes to just six interceptions and led the Vikings to a playoff win. But in the NFC East, there is another quarterback going through similar circumstances. Carson Wentz looked to be the savior for the Eagles in 2017 before injuries and subpar seasons changed that perception. Now, the debate rages as to whether or not Wentz is what Philadelphia needs. Sound familiar?
Joining the Redskins Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Dave Zangaro gave his take on whether or not Wentz and the Eagles are experiencing a similar circumstance. To him, he does see similarities.
"It has been strange, and I think it has become polarizing," Zangaro said of the situation.
Much like Cousins, Zangaro believes there is no general consensus in Philadelphia as to who Wentz is. He's an upper-tier quarterback, but one many have questions about. The reasoning for that stems from two factors in his career, according to Zangaro.
The first is his bad luck with injuries, something that wasn't a major concern for Cousins. Problems with his ribs in his rookie year, a torn ACL in 2017, back issues in 2018 and a concussion in 2019 have plagued Wentz. Though some of those can be viewed as unfortunate injuries that happened by chance, that isn't enough to shake the "injury-prone" label. It has left some in Philadelphia skeptical about his future.
“He’s never going to be that MVP-type player because he can’t stay on the field," Zangaro said of the argument made by some Eagles fans and by some reporters who watch him consistently. "And I can’t argue with that right now because he hasn’t done it...He’s just not going to get that monkey off his back until he plays a full season from start to finish."
But doubt surrounding Wentz is also due to his lack of playoff success. Cousins can relate. Even the Eagles quarterback's playoff experiences are unfortunate. His only appearance last season was ended early by a concussion, and Philadelphia would go on to lose. He was lost to that ACL tear late in that Super Bowl season. Who knows what would have happened if Wentz had played. But Nick Foles was the hero.
Zangaro explained the end of that 2017 season in detail. Through 13 weeks of the season, Wentz was everything the Eagles needed and more. He threw for 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns and had Philadelphia at an 11-2 record. Then he tore his ACL and missed out on the playoff run that would end in the Super Bowl. His contribution became overshadowed.
"I think that a big reason and an obvious reason was that he wasn't the guy on the field when they won the Super Bowl," Zangaro said in reference to the polarization surrounding Wentz. “I always feel like he doesn’t get enough credit for that season. They were really good. I mean he got them off to a great start, they won the division in the game he got hurt. He was the MVP after 13 weeks of the season, in my opinion.”
But Foles is who was on the field when the confetti came down, and he's why Wentz's season was overshadowed and why the quarterback still deals with skepticism. Despite no longer being in Philadelphia - or Jacksonville for that matter - Foles' contributions during that magical run left many wondering if he should be the future under center.
“It’s funny because Nick Foles has been gone now for a whole year and there’s still this shadow over Carson Wentz. In one playoff run Nick Foles became a folk hero in Philadelphia," Zangaro said. "There was a lot of people who thought the organization, at that moment, should have made a split and gone with Nick Foles instead of Carson Wentz.”
That isn't what the Eagles ended up doing, and they have made it clear that Wentz is their guy. However, that hasn't stopped the dissection of every pass he makes. Some believe in Wentz, others don't. That is a mirror of what went on with Kirk Cousins for a few years in Washington.
The two are not the same quarterback, and as Zangaro puts it, Wentz does have the larger skillset and higher ceiling. It's been proven by their best moments on the field. Yet, that hasn't stopped them from landing in similar situations.
“It’s funny that we’re comparing Carson Wentz to Kirk Cousins because, no disrespect to Kirk Cousins who’s been an okay quarterback, but talent-wise Carson Wentz is an elatedly talented quarterback," Zangaro said. "He was a guy who came damn near close to winning the MVP.”
“The fact that we’re even including those guys in the same conversation is crazy to me. But it’s a fair comparison for sure.”
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