Quarterback Kirk Cousins came under fire on social media after taking a knee to end the first half of the Washington Redskins versus Philadelphia Eagles game on Saturday night. Had Cousins simply spiked the ball instead it would have given the Redskins an opportunity to put more points on the board in a close 16-10 game. The Redskins were leading, according to NFL.com, but with Cousins taking the knee instead of spiking the ball, he blew a chance for at least a chance at three more points. The clock ran out, the teams dispersed to their locker rooms, and armchair quarterbacks everywhere took to their Twitter accounts expressing hope that Cousins didn’t just blow the game:
— Patrick Wall (@ByPatrickWall) December 27, 2015
Kirk Cousins doesn’t even know what he was thinking pic.twitter.com/7Qfg3VAZll
— NFL Memes (@NFLMemez) December 27, 2015
By the end of the second half, however, Kirk Cousins had gone from being the Steve Harvey of the NFL to the hero of the Redskins offense. Throwing for 365 yards and four touchdowns, Cousins lead the Redskins to a 38-24 victory over Philadelphia, clinching the NFC East title and a playoff berth for the first time since 2012, according to ESPN.
Cousins was drafted by the Redskins in 2012 behind Heisman trophy-winner and fellow quarterback Robert Griffin III. Griffin III was meant to be the future of the franchise but the Redskins would soon discover his tendency to be injury prone. Cousins’ performance as a back up quarterback in Griffin III’s place was dismal in the first two seasons, and his 2014 performance was hit or miss. Many were surprised when Redskins head coach Jay Gruden named Cousins the starting quarterback over Griffin for 2015. The move proved to be a positive one as the team currently has eight wins against seven losses, with one more game to go, and Cousins has flourished, throwing 19 touchdowns and only three interceptions in the last nine games.
Though Cousins’ true test of fortitude still awaits him in the playoffs, most likely facing a tough Seattle defense in the first round, Kirk’s recent performance certainly gives him some bargaining power in the offseason as he heads into free agency.
Cousins reportedly had a base salary of only $660,000 for the 2015 season according to OTC, nearly one-seventh of the salary of Robert Griffin III. In September, it was divulged by several news sources that Griffin had been relegated to playing safety on the practice squad and he has not been under center for the entire 2015 season. Given the lack of bang for the buck from Griffin III, Cousins’ opportunity to squeeze more out of the Redskins during contract negotiations seems not only likely, but well deserved despite his rocky start.
Even if the Redskins decide not to pony up for Kirk Cousins for 2016, there are plenty of other NFL teams struggling in the quarterback position. The Colin Kaepernick experiment seems to be coming to an end in San Francisco and replacement quarterback Blaine Gabbert has thrown almost as many interceptions as touchdowns. Kirk Cousins might just be the arm necessary to pitch the ball to veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin or hand the ball off to Reggie Bush. Other low ranked teams such as the Browns and Cowboys have also struggled with quarterback drama and issues this past season, giving Cousins many options.
If Kirk Cousins manages to make it out of the first round of the playoffs intact and continues to put up Carson Palmer and Tom Brady-type numbers, the sky may be the limit — as long as Cousins remembers to spike rather than kneel with seconds left in the half, on the opponents 6-yard line.
[Kirk Cousins cover image courtesy of Mitchell Leff/Getty Images.]