A Crisis of Confidence for Redskins QB Kirk Cousins

ASHBURN — It was all too reminiscent of 2014 – the body language, the frustration, the helplessness.

Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins was iced that October 19 after a particularly ugly performance at home against the Tennessee Titans. He was benched for Colt McCoy in the second quarter and never saw the field again that season.

Cousins has come a long way from that fall afternoon. Last season he helped Washington win the NFC East title and set a franchise record for passing yards. But there remains little margin for error. You could see it in the angry outburst of his teammates after Cousins threw a fourth-down pass behind wide receiver Pierre Garcon late in Sunday’s 27-23 loss to Dallas.

He’s a better quarterback than he was that day against the Titans. But Cousins is not immune to some of the same demons that plagued him that day, either.

“I think sometimes he puts a lot on himself. He puts a lot of pressure on himself,” Washington coach Jay Gruden said. “He wants to be great, there’s no question about it. Sometimes if he feels like he isn’t playing to the standards that we all have set for him, he feels like he’s letting everybody down.”

Cousins has missed open throws and had miscommunications with his offensive linemen the first two weeks of the season. Twice he’s been picked off in the end zone. It seems to have led to a crisis of confidence reminiscent of 2014.

But it’s up to Cousins to stave off those thoughts and get ready for Sunday’s game at the New York Giants. In 2014 he never really got the chance to rebound, to prove that he belonged. Last season’s success gave Cousins some rope to work with. But he has to take advantage and play better – soon. The swagger he played with then can’t go missing for much longer.

“I don’t know. I think that he is just a great competitor without a doubt,” Gruden said. “At the quarterback position sometimes, if you don’t get victories, you feel like – everybody feels like – it’s the quarterback’s fault. Everybody’s writing headlines on the quarterback. But there are a lot of issues that we have that we have to correct and he’s part of it, I’m part of it, the coordinators are part of it, and then the rest of the players are part of it. It all fits in the equation.”

Follow Redskins reporter Brian McNally on Twitter.

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