To many fans, the Redskins displayed a level of heart and tenacity in last Sunday's come-from-behind win in Seattle that the team lacked last season.
For Kirk Cousins, however, the process outweighed the outcome. And not in the plus column.
"I’ve learned to ignore outcomes at times, I’ve learned to ignore the noise on the outside and just focus on the process. And I’ll be the first one to say that the process against Seattle by no means was perfect," Cousins said Wednesday. "I felt like there were a lot of mistakes. Maybe it never had to come down to a two-minute drill if we had been better through the first three-and-a-half quarters."
Usually insightful, Cousins answered the question with forthright introspection. Earlier this year, Cousins said that he was not searching for signature wins, rather a signature season. Asked after the Seahawks game if the victory carried more importance, if for nothing else than to keep the Redskins in the playoff hunt, he talked about the process compared to the outcome.
And he explained that outcomes don't always portray performance, particularly in his position.
"I think this is a great case study in the way that the outside thinks versus the way that I think. And I totally understand from covering the team, fan base perspective, the emotional rollercoaster, I understand that a two-minute drill on the road against a good football team, finding a way to win, it’s exciting and it’s fun and it gets the juices going," Cousins said. "I’m a little bit more process-oriented and there have been games where I’ve thrown for a lot of yards and felt like I played nearly flawlessly but we lost."
It's an interesting paradox for Cousins, and likely for quarterbacks all over the league.
Much like starting pitchers in baseball, QBs often get assigned the blame for a loss or the credit for a win. In Cousins' situation, it seems like that happens on an accelerated scale.
And it sounds like he's cognizant of that.
"I walk away saying, ‘I’m getting better, I’m doing really good things, I’m about the process, and my process was really good today. I can’t control the outcome but the process was really good.’ But the noise on the outside is, ‘He’s got to get better, he’s not doing enough, we didn’t come away with the win.’"
That's why Cousins ignores the outside noise.
Does that mean he ignores the meaning in the come-from-behind win in Seattle? Not exactly.
"Was it a great finish? Yes. Did we show a lot of character? Yes. Did I love the resiliency? Is that a game I’ll remember? Yes. But, I don’t like to get too outcome-focused."
Listening to Cousins, it sounds like focusing on outcomes, instead of the process, could allow for complacency to set in. Particularly after a big win on the road.
"I feel, on the outside, I feel that happening after this game and that’s OK, on the outside. My concern is in the locker room, in our organization, making sure that we don’t allow that to creep in."
Cousins' comments come with some element of surprise. Few NFL players give that honest, that open of an answer, especially following a major win.
Many players would relish in the positive attention a game like the Redskins played in Seattle creates. Fans love it. Media members report on the highlights, and the excitement, from such a victory.
None of that is wrong either.
Players should be allowed to enjoy themselves. Fans should absolutely enjoy themselves. The media's job is to report on what happens, and when that's a wild, comeback win, the story is more fun to report.
For Cousins, though, it's clear he wasn't thrilled with his play in Seattle.
He completed 21 of 31 passes for 247 yards. He got sacked a number of times, and was hit consistently throughout the game, playing behind a patchwork offensive line.
The most memorable of those 21 passes, by a large margin, came in the final two minutes, when the Redskins quarterback drove the team 70 yards in less than a minute, and engineered the game winning touchdown.
The good news for Redskins fans?
Despite the late heroics, Cousins isn't happy.
He liked the outcome, obviously, but not the process.
That process - that mindset - will drive the Redskins' passer to better performances.
For Kirk Cousins, and maybe Redskins fans, it's time to trust the process.
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