WASHINGTON — It’s been nearly 11 months since Kirk Cousins was named the Redskins’ starting quarterback.
In that time, just about everybody imaginable has given their take on him — whether he’s better than Robert Griffin III, whether he can beat good teams, whether his hot streak at the end of the season was a fluke — and those takes pretty much run the gamut. Some think Cousins is a second-tier quarterback, just below the Aaron Rodgers/Tom Brady/Drew Brees group.
Here’s another to add to that list. Just a heads up: Redskins fans won’t like this one.
Former Redskins GM Charley Casserly ranks Cousins the fourth-best quarterback in the NFC East. Out of four starting quarterbacks.
First, some background. Casserly joined The Sports Junkies early Wednesday morning, and host Eric Bickel asked for his thoughts on the NFC East teams. The roundup began innocently enough.
Of the New York Giants: “I think the Giants are the team people aren’t talking about enough. To me, they’re the biggest threat to the Redskins.”
Of the Philadelphia Eagles: “Philadelphia, I’m not sure what to make of them. They kind of seem to me to be a middle-of-the-road team. I like [Sam] Bradford, I thought he ended the year at a Pro Bowl level.”
That’s where things got thrown off track. Bickel interjected with, “What?!? Really?”
“I thought he was the best quarterback in the division,” Casserly responded. “Yes, no question. Beginning of the year, he didn’t play well. His reads weren’t good, his accuracy wasn’t good. But the end of the year, the reads were quick, the accuracy was good, he was playing well. The problem with them is they don’t have a speed receiver. [Ryan] Matthews is their one back and he’s injury prone.”
Casserly continued on with his evaluations of the division, but the Junkies would return to the Bradford comments.
On the Dallas Cowboys: “Dallas losing Kellen Moore last night was a big loss at quarterback. I don’t think Kellen Moore can win for them, so I’m contradicting myself, but he’s a heck of a lot better than Dak Prescott is, OK? So that’s a big loss. Because [Tony] Romo ain’t gonna play 16 games. He’s at a point now statistically, the odds are against him.”
On the Redskins: “I think the Redskins, I think they improved the secondary at the expense of improving the defensive line. They probably couldn’t do both, they certainly did one. They’re counting on the young offensive linemen taking another step and obviously the running game coming along. And Cousins, that’ll be the discussion all year long. Is he playing at the high level he played at last year when he was good? Or is he playing at the level he played at when he wasn’t good? So they’re gonna be there in December contending.”
OK, there’s nothing too terrible there. In all, that’s a pretty positive review of his former team.
But the Junks went back to that quarterback issue. Most analysts give Cousins the nod over Bradford, considering the Redskins’ signal-caller had a higher completion percentage last season, as well as more yards per attempt, 10 more touchdowns and three fewer interceptions, and a passer rating that was 15.2 points higher.
So the Junkies asked the former general manager to rank Cousins among the four expected starting quarterbacks in the division. His response was not what they were hoping, or expecting, to hear.
“Well if Romo’s healthy, he’s four,” Casserly said of Cousins. “Those three guys are pretty darn good now the way they play. Eli has thrown something like 66 touchdown passes in two years. And you’ve gotta look at who they’re playing with. The Redskins have the best set of receivers in this division. The Giants had one receiver last year — Odell Beckham — and then Shane Vereen out of the backfield. The Cowboys really have one receiver. And [Jason] Witten’s a smart guy. He can’t beat anybody in coverage anymore, but he’s smart, he knows how to sit down in zones. And you’ve got Dez Bryant. Philly has no outside speed receivers, [only Darren] Sproles out of the backfield. Switch it around and give Manning, Romo and Bradford the Redskins receivers, and then give the Redskins one receiver. So you’ve gotta look at that point there. But Cousins, Kirk played well now, he really did. So it’s like you’re sitting there saying, OK, he’s fourth. Well fourth is still pretty good because these other three guys played well. Well Romo didn’t, we know that, but he can.”
“Yeah but you thought Bradford down the stretch played better than Kirk did down the stretch?” Bickel asked.
“Well maybe in the second half — Cousins played more better games over the course of the season, but Bradford really played well,” Casserly answered. “Down the stretch, Kirk played as well as anybody. But I’m talking about the whole season, I’m talking about, when you say how you rank them, I gotta rank their body of work. If I’m picking ’em, if we gotta go pick somebody to go play.”
“Right, no I get that,” came Bickel’s response. “But the part I was kind of quibbling with you about, just a little bit, is just down the stretch you said you thought Bradford played the best in the division.”
“No, I said he played a Pro Bowl level,” Casserly said. “Kirk played at a Pro Bowl level. When Kirk was good, he played at a Pro Bowl level.”
“If you were starting a team today, you like Bradford over Cousins?” asked host Jason Bishop.
“Yeah, I gotta take the body of work,” answered Casserly. “And I know he’s been hurt and everything, but I’ve seen enough of him to know what he’s like.”
“Then why’d they draft a quarterback then, Charley?” Bickel asked. “Why’d they do that?”
“Well because first of all, you can’t count on Bradford for 16 games,” Casserly said. “You’ve got a two-year contract on him. Their feeling was, they’ve hardly ever been in the top 10 [of a draft], so this is the time to get [a quarterback], but they’ve said from day one, they’re not playing [Carson Wentz]. So what’s that tell you about what they think of Bradford and him? They think Bradford’s better.”
On the one hand, ouch. According to a former Redskins GM, the Redskins are paying their quarterback just shy of $20 million this season, and he’s the worst out of the four NFC East quarterbacks. On the other hand, Romo and Manning are each making more than Cousins is this season, and Bradford signed a two-year, $35 million deal a few months ago. So it’s not as though Cousins is competing with a bunch of quarterbacks just hoping to earn a starting job.
But fourth? That’s brutal.
The whole call is available below.