The Washington Redskins may not know how good they have it.
As the team attempts to lock up quarterback Kirk Cousins to a long-term deal, the rhetoric emanating from the NFC East franchise suggests a belief that their signal-caller is merely an above-average passer. The numbers say that’s selling him short.
“Kirk has proven he’s in the top 15 quarterbacks,” Doug Williams, now the Redskins’ senior vice president of player personnel, said recently. The comment wasn’t meant as a slight (and may have been a negotiating tactic), as Williams has indicated that he certainly wants to lock Cousins up to a new deal.
Former general manager Scot McCloughan indicated in May that he felt Cousins had reached his ceiling and that the quarterback needed to be surrounded by other talent. Though McCloughan is now out of the picture, his sentiment appears to be a popular perception of Cousins — a solid but unremarkable quarterback. The advanced metrics paint a different picture, one of an upper-tier passer who probably deserves the higher compensation he seeks.
Despite a two-interception performance in a Week 17 loss to the New York Giants that cost the Redskins a playoff berth — more evidence for Cousins’ detractors that he’s prone to the late pick — he finished the 2016 season with a Total QBR of 71.7, sixth best in the league. It was not a fluke: He finished in the exact same position the year before. Over the course of 2015 and 2016 combined, QBR ranked him fourth, behind only Dak Prescott (in a one-year sample), Tom Brady and Matt Ryan. To repeat: A two-year sample and Cousins was safely in the company of Brady, Ryan and arguably the best rookie quarterback season in history. People get paid for less.
Though there are some instances when analytics reveal hidden talents, the reality is that much of Cousins’ abilities have been viewable in plain sight: He was the leader of the offense that recorded the second-most passing yards in 2016 while throwing for the third-most yards per attempt (8.1) among quarterbacks.