WASHINGTON — Every year, ESPN runs a survey among “league insiders” — coaches, general managers, executives, scouts, etc. — with the purpose being to sort all the likely starting quarterbacks in the NFL into five tiers.
Last year, Kirk Cousins did not receive a ranking, as Robert Griffin III was the starting quarterback for the Redskins at the time of the poll (it was published July 21). Griffin was grouped into Tier 4, which “is typically reserved for unproven starters or those who might not be expected to last in the lineup all season.” He was ranked 28th in the league.
This season, Cousins is in the ranking.
According to 42 league insiders, Kirk Cousins is a Tier 3 quarterback, one who is a “legit starter but needs heavy run game/defense to win.”
The irony here, as 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen points out, is Washington had neither a strong defense nor a potent run game last season, when it won nine games and made the postseason.
Cousins is ranked 20th overall in the 2016 survey, with an average tier rating of 2.93. According to Mike Sando, author of the poll, one defensive coordinator compared him to New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
“I like him,” the coordinator said. “He is similar a little bit to Ryan Fitzpatrick in that, perception-wise, he is a backup, but I think from an intangibles standpoint, guys want to be around him. He put up with the situation with RG III, and I thought handled it fairly well. He got them to the playoffs. I see him as a 3 with the arrow going up. He has to win some bigger games in order to become a 2.”
However, a pro personnel director echoed former Redskins’ GM Charley Casserly’s recent comments to The Sports Junkies, saying Cousins’ weapons have been the biggest key to his success.
“In my opinion, he is kind of a manager,” that pro personnel director said. “If you get after him and hit him, I don’t know if he rises to that challenge yet. He has to prove it to me this year. I don’t think he can do it by himself.”
Casserly told the Junkies he considered Cousins the worst quarterback in the NFC East, in part because of how much better Cousins’ offensive weapons are than the other quarterbacks’.
“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.”
For what it’s worth, Eli Manning (No. 9) and Tony Romo (No. 11) are both ranked in the second tier, while Sam Bradford (No. 28) is also in the third tier.
Sando does mention in his writeup of Cousins that the former Michigan State star has worked to change the perception of himself, starting with not throwing interceptions at nearly the rate he used to, and he says another good year could push Cousins into the second tier.