WASHINGTON — When it comes to Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins keeping his offensive linemen happy, the little things matter most.
You’ll often hear stories of the lavish gifts quarterbacks purchase for their linemen — TVs, iPads, Rolex watches — you name it. Will Montgomery, who has played on various parts of five organizations’ offensive lines, including centering the Redskins’ line for two of his five years in Washington, can certainly attest to this gift-giving rite of passage.
“I think it primarily correlated to the quarterback’s paycheck,” Montgomery said, speaking to Kirk Cousins (his teammate from 2012 to 2013) for a phone interview with 106.7 The Fan. “The quarterback can go to the Pro Bowl and we would still just get maybe iPads or something, but for the quarterbacks the last two years, who were making over $20 million, you got substantially better gifts. Hint. Hint. Hint.”
Peyton Manning, with whom Montgomery spent the 2014 season, purchased a particularly eccentric gift for each of his linemen, Montgomery says.
“He got us like these custom painting murals. Like these five-foot big, huge murals of ourselves in action shots,” he explained. “The year before, he got the guys custom snake-skin boots with their initials. You know, stuff like that.”
Those windfalls are typically reserved for the end of seasons, however. The little, subtle tokens of appreciation are what sweeten up the linemen’s day just enough to inspire that extra push, the one which can carry a quarterback through the football calendar on two feet.
“I’ll put it this way: They appreciate it more than you know, people on the outside,” Cousins said. “Offensive linemen, it goes a long way. Little things. Little, subtle things to those guys mean the world. They really do, I mean they fight like crazy for you.”
“It is hard to pass protect when you have those defensive linemen and those blitzers staring right down at you,” he said. “Offensive linemen, they want to run the ball. They want to take the fight to the defense and go downhill. When you have to pass the ball, it’s much harder because now the defense gets to come after you, and so when you say ‘three jet,’ ‘two jet,’ these protections in the huddle, you’re really asking a lot of the offensive linemen, and so it’s important any chance you get to say thank you, to appreciate them, let them know they’re doing a phenomenal job.
“Whether that’s in the middle of a game saying, ‘Hey, you guys. Great pocket there. I had a great pocket.’ Just in between plays all the way to taking them out to a steak dinner and telling them all night long how great they are. All if it means a lot and the guys appreciate it, I just want to make sure I don’t get tunnel vision and start only thinking about my job and what I have to do, and that’s why I need guys like Will Montgomery to be reminding me constantly that, ‘Hey, Kirk. It’s been a few weeks. Let’s go out to dinner.’ I always appreciate those gentle reminders.”
One of those moments came up last week, during Washington’s preseason opener in Atlanta while most of the starters, after already putting in their work for the day, watched the remaining quarters from the sideline.
“I was standing on the sideline early in the second quarter and I had been out now for a couple series,” Cousins said. “And I was starting to get hungry, and I looked over to the equipment guy and said, ‘How much time do you need to have food in the locker room at halftime?’
“So, sure enough, I sent somebody in to make sure we had some food for the guys, some hot dogs and some stuff just so that we wouldn’t be starving the whole second half.”