It seems longer ago than it was. Just last season, Kirk Cousins ripped off one of the most impressive passing seasons in Redskins team history as he guided Washington to an NFC East division title. This summer, debating whether or not Cousins deserved a $100 millon contract dominated D.C. sports radio.
Through two games of the 2016 season, Cousins is still piling up passing yards, but the conversation is different. The Cousins excitement is muted as the team has staggered to an 0-2 record, losing two home games to open the year. The quarterback play hasn't neccesarily been bad, but it certainly hasn't been good either.
Cousins has both been inaccurate, missing two surefire touchdown passes in a loss to the Cowboys, and turnover prone. After throwing just 11 interceptions all of 2015, Cousins has already thrown three in two games this year.
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Asked by CSN's Rob Carlin on Monday if perhaps his passer is struggling with the mental side of the game, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said it's possible.
"He’s just stressing out a little bit too much, I think were putting a lot of pressure on him," Gruden said of Cousins.
Below is an edited transcript of Carlin's conversation with Gruden, and the full video is available in the player above. It's important to note Gruden seems to have lost no confidence in his QB. In fact, Gruden wants his QB to exude the same confidence shown during the 2015 run.
Carlin: I don’t think anyone questions Kirk Cousins physical tools, we’ve seen him make all the throws. The mental side is sometimes where he struggles. I don’t know if he necessarily believes he’s one of the elite quarterbacks in the game yet. What do you do with a quarterback who is really dealing more with the mental side than the physical side?
Gruden: I think he just needs to relax, calm down and play the position. He’s got all the talent, without a doubt. He’s already proven he can make all the throws. Now he just needs to go out there and play. Take every series, every game as a separate entity. Go out and perform with a lot of great confidence and let the people know who’s in charge. He’s done that for the most part but he just hasn’t played up to expectations. Expectations are very high for him right now. The numbers that he put up last year were very good and now everybody expects that week in and week out. And he hasn’t lived up to them so far this year. We imagine if he keeps grinding and keeps working he’ll get back to that level.
RC: Do you get that sense though that right now maybe he’s thinking too much? He’s not going out there and just throwing the ball around, making plays instinctively - that it’s all up in his head and he’s trying to work it out on the field in crucial moments?
JG: There could be some truth to that. I think sometimes he presses a little bit. He wants to be perfect all the time and it’s not a position where you’re going to be perfect all the time. That's just point blank. You’re not going to be perfect every play at the quarterback position in the NFL. We’ve seen that from some of the great ones in the history of the league....He’s just stressing out a little bit too much, I think we're putting a lot of pressure on him. I think you just got to go back to old school and play the game, enjoy playing it and love playing it. And I think everybody will react to him and play better around him.