WASHINGTON — Kirk Cousins has said, going back to the end of last season, before he ever signed the franchise tag he will now play the 2016 season on, he simply wants to play where he’s wanted.
Cousins now has that assurance, while also knowing the Redskins’ faith in him only goes as far as 2016.
He was asked during an interview Wednesday on 106.7 The Fan how he makes sense of knowing the organization’s faith in his ability only runs so deep.
“I always said going back to the end of last season that I want to play where I’m wanted, and if I wasn’t wanted here, the team would not have franchise tagged me,” he told Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier.
“I mean that’s, as we’ve said and it’s been well documented, it’s a good amount of money,” Cousins said of the $19.95 million he’s set to earn. “So the franchise tag showed that I am wanted. Now, maybe not beyond this year, but for this year I am wanted and, frankly, that’s all you really have in this league.
“I mean you don’t have much more than the next game, this coming season — you’ve got to prove it. So whether I was on a long-term deal or a one-year deal, if I didn’t play well this season, it wasn’t going to matter. I feel good about having this one season to go prove myself and see what I can do.”
“I’ve always at times been a little underrated, a little overlooked,” he continued. “And that’s okay. That’s part of my story. I think I do relish the opportunity to prove to people that I’m capable of playing well and being here for a long time, but having that opportunity to prove yourself is really all you can ask for in this league.”
Cousins, 2014: “I’d love to be able to prove people wrong.”
Cousins and the Redskins were never able to work out a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline for franchise-tagged players to do so. Reports after that deadline passed indicated the Redskins offered Cousins a multi-year deal at an average annual value of $16 million. That was in February. The Redskins, reportedly, never upped their offer beyond that point.
The two sides never came close to a long-term agreement, Cousins believes.
“I don’t think we really did,” he said. “I wasn’t the one having the discussions back and forth with the team, so I don’t know how close it was or wasn’t.”
“I think the franchise tag, with the nature of it and the way it’s structured, as you can see, so many other guys in the league are playing on the tag as well this year at other positions, so clearly it wasn’t just me. It’s the nature of the tag and the way it works. I think it ends up being a situation that both the player and the team can work with, and it gives us some flexibility at the end of the season to see where we are.”
With Jay Gruden entering year three as head coach of the Redskins, Cousins has in his second year starting an opportunity to build on the growth he made as a quarterback in 2015, a unique position of continuity not common around Redskins Park.
Asked about the positives to establishing continuity, Cousins said, “It’s night and day.”
“I think in any job, you’re going to perform at your best when you feel familiar with the people you’re working with, what they’re asking of you, the system in place, the structure, the culture,” he said.
“The more stability and continuity you can have, the better you’re going to be. There’s no doubt, when you play the quarterback position, whether it was in college… you know, for me, I had a similar situation. I had the same quarterback coach, the same system all five years, the same head coach.”
Cousins played his entire college career under Mark Dantonio at Michigan State, leading the Spartans to consecutive bowl games in that span. He departed as the school’s all-time passing leader with 9,131 yards, a record that stood until this past season, surpassed by Connor Cook by 63 yards.
“That enabled me to continually get better and never take a step back so that by my fifth year there, I really could run the team in my sleep,” Cousins said. “And that’s what you want. You want to just be able to play the game and not have to think, and every time a new offense or a new coach comes in, you find yourself going back to the basics and having to really think again, and the game’s not going slow, it’s going very fast. I am in a fortunate position in that sense and that’s what every quarterback wants.
“When you look at the good quarterbacks throughout the league, most of them, many of them, have had that stability. And I do think you need that, and it makes a big difference, and it’s an important part of playing this position.”