Over the next few weeks, JP Finlay and Rich Tandler will evaluate each position group’s performance in 2016, break down the current personnel situation and look forward to the unit's outlook for 2017.
2016 starter: Kirk Cousins
Backups: Colt McCoy, Nate Sudfeld
Free agents: Cousins
Rewind: In some ways, Cousins was better than he was in 2015 when he burst onto the scene and grabbed the Redskins’ starting quarterback job. But in some other ways, he was worse.
Cousins passed for 4,917 yards, shattering the team record he had set the year before. His average per attempt went up nearly half a yard. But he threw four fewer touchdown passes last year despite attempting 27 more passes. His passer rating slipped about four points, dipping below the 100 mark that is the rough equivalent of a baseball player batting .300.
But the difference between Cousins’ 2015 and 2016 season is not so much measured by the numbers as it was by looking at the results of games. Two years ago the Redskins needed to win three games down the stretch to make the playoffs. Cousins passed for 300 yards against the Bears, 319 against the Bills and 365 in the division clinching win over the Eagles.
This year, however, in two must-win home games down the stretch Cousins was not nearly as effective as the Redskins dropped two of their final three to miss out on the playoffs. The end came on an ugly interception Cousins threw in the last two minutes against the Giants.
Neither loss was completely on the shoulders of Cousins, just like the rest of the team had a lot to do with the 2015 wins. But Cousins did not step up and take his game to another level when the team needed him to. That’s what the best quarterbacks in the league do. Cousins could get there but he’s not there yet.
Cousins was the only quarterback to take a snap. The only buzz surrounding McCoy came when Jay Gruden revealed that he was the team’s emergency long snapper. Sudfeld was the inactive third QB all year.
Fast forward: It is very likely that Cousins is back under center for the Redskins in 2017 whether via the franchise tag or a long-term deal. The way that it happens may influence how the team handles the position this offseason.
Should he sign a long-term contract they likely will stand pat. McCoy is under contract for another year and he would remain the backup. The organization would like to see Sudfeld develop to the point where he can become the active backup quarterback either in late 2017 or the year after that.
If Cousins gets and signs the franchise tag, however, it’s a different story. The organization would have to proceed as though he is in his last year as a Redskin. It would be easy to see them spending a second- or third-round pick on a quarterback to groom. At the very least they would need to invest in quarterback in the latter rounds of the draft to have someone to challenge Sudfeld since, at the very least, the 2017 third-string QB could very well play a key role in 2018.
Right now there seems to be a very slim chance that the Redskins will trade Cousins but that could change. If they do they will have to choose their starting quarterback from McCoy, a draft pick, or a horrendous list of possible free agents including Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Barkley, and Geno Smith.
2017 Position outlook series