Redskins

Redskins

The debate ended last season. No longer should rational, sane purveyors of professional football question if Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback. He is. 

The question about how good, however, is still very much valid. And it seems to be a question even Redskins coach Jay Gruden doesn't have the answer to.

"He’s got the ball to make the decisions. We just call the plays and try to get him progression reads and man-to-man take your shots with the matchups that you like," Gruden said Thursday. "But ultimately he is the one that is going to make the decisions of what he feels good about making throws."

Gruden's comments come after an interview in Sports Illustrated in which Cousins said that if he played QB like his coach wants, he would throw 20 interceptions per year. Told the quote, Gruden quipped, "He'd throw 60 touchdowns too." (Watch the video above so you can hear the remark yourself).

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That's the thing with Cousins.

He's smart and methodical, highly efficient and capable as a passer. But he does seem to be wary of going after big plays that aren't completely wide open. 

"I think there is going to be a point in time where he is going to have to give some receivers some chances that maybe look a little covered, but give them a chance to uncover or give them a chance to make a play," the coach said. "That’s probably the one area that we can force the issue on a little bit to give these receivers chances down the field."

 

Watching Redskins games, it certainly seems Cousins is hesitant to take big shots, especially if a wideout is covered. That's not just the most recent loss to the Cowboys either, which was played in a downpour for much of the second half. Washington's passer seems content in taking chunk yardage on underneath and shorter throws, getting his team down the field over time. 

This year too, his receivers have not helped him too much.

Terrelle Pryor has not produced on the level he or fans expected, and 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson remains stalled, though perhaps ready for an explosion. 

Much of the Cousins conversation seems to be a Catch 22 debate. Might Cousins go downfield more if his wideouts made plays? Or might his wideouts make plays if Cousins goes downfield more? What came first, the chicken or the egg?

Even weirder, the stats don't really support the debate.

Cousins ranks 5th in the NFL in yards-per-pass-attempt, behind only MVP candidates like Alex Smith, Tom Brady, Carson Wentz and the injured Deshaun Watson. Looking at net-yards-per-pass-attempt, Cousins' numbers dip to 10th in the NFL. 

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Simple truth: Cousins completes a lot of passes, so his stats will usually look good. And for anybody wondering, that's a good thing.

"When the ball is complete, I never criticize," Gruden said. "We just always talk about other options possible for the next time we call it. That’s all, but he is doing good."

Watch enough game film of the Redskins, and yes, Cousins is missing chances down the field. It happens with most QBs in the NFL, but maybe it happens with Cousins a little bit more. 

Can it change? Sure. Will it? Time will tell. 

The debate if Cousins belongs as an NFL starting quarterback is over. He very obviously does. 

The debate if Cousins can lead a team to big wins, and evolve into a top talent in the league? That continues. 

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