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The local NFL squad is going to the playoffs! This is very exciting news, but it also raises some questions.
“How much money did Kirk Cousins just make himself?”
A life-changing amount. Coming off a season in which he set multiple passing records for the franchise, successfully emerged from the shadow of Robert Griffin III, and led the team to a non-losing record (and oh, by the way, a division title), his worst-case scenario is that he “only” gets the franchise tag, a one-year contract worth an estimated $25 million. The risk he currently faces is if he, like Griffin before him, suffers a catastrophic injury during a playoff game on the overworked turf of FedEx Field.
“Wait, I thought you said Cousins was terrible and that was OK.”
Ha, yeah, funny story about that: Since that piece was published, Cousins has completed 72 percent of his passes for 2,570 yards, 20 touchdowns, and just three interceptions. That is the opposite of terrible. But the argument still holds, just from the opposite side: What the team needed was to determine what they had in Cousins. At the time, it seemed clear that they had a serviceable backup at best. Now it seems clear that they have a viable starter at worst. But my argument was that clarity was the important thing, not what was clear.
“Who’s the biggest outside beneficiary of Cousins’ success?”
It has to be Grant Paulsen of 106.7 The Fan. He booked Cousins as a recurring guest on the radio show he co-hosts with Danny Rouhier when the QB was just expected to be the second-stringer on a laughable failure. Now they have a weekly, must-listen segment with the starting QB of a playoff squad, which is, in industry parlance, “better.”
“If Cousins is the future, do you bench him for Sunday’s meaningless regular season finale?”
You might like to bench Cousins, especially if you’re also planning to let crucial offensive linemen like Trent Williams take the week to heal up. That’s exactly why Colt McCoy is on the roster: because the coaches trust him to fill in if Cousins is down.
But Cousins would still have to be active, because Griffin is the only other QB on the roster, and he’s due a $16 million bonus next year that’s guaranteed only in the case of injury. As he’s now unquestionably surplus to requirements here, the team absolutely cannot, under any circumstances, afford to get him injured. So even if McCoy starts, Cousins has to be the backup.
“And what if either of those guys goes down? Can the team afford, financially or mentally, to have Griffin serve even as an active backup in a playoff game? Keeping him on the roster was defensible when this was a lost season, but it looms as a potentially damaging, dangerous situation now.”
It sounds insane, but the team should give real thought to signing a journeyman veteran to start for the regular season finale only, to avoid any situation in which Griffin might actually see the field.
“Who should we be hoping to see in the first round of the playoffs?”
They’re arguably the toughest out of the three potential opponents, but my love of narrative demands revenge over Seattle for the last home playoff game, back in 2012. Green Bay and Minnesota just don’t have that same Kill Bill thrill.
“Wait, the last home playoff game was 2012? But everyone talks like this team has been awful forever.”
This is one of the real oddities. But 2012 felt like a mirage even as it was happening: Griffin always seemed in danger of a shattering injury (accurately, it turns out!); the offense felt like a gimmick that other teams would solve; there was no real general manager; and the threat of the missing draft picks loomed over everything. Those problems don’t apply to the 2015 squad. This run feels like, maybe, possibly, if GM Scot McCloughan stays in charge, it might be foundational.
“This really does feel pretty exciting! Should anyone in town be upset about this?”
Just the Capitals. Owner Ted Leonsis tweeted very nice congratulations to the NFL squad, but deep inside he must know that the longer they’re relevant, the longer it’s going to take local casual fans to notice that his Caps have continued their hot start and are playing thrilling, enjoyable, winning hockey.
“Couldn’t you have written a column about the Caps to help that along?”
Shhhh. I’m busy reviewing journeymen quarterbacks who could start the meaningless regular season finale.
Photo by Keith Allison / Flickr C.C.