Kirk Cousins blew it.
A pot of gold awaited the Washington Redskins quarterback. The Redskins needed 75 yards in 2:12 to beat the New York Giants on Sunday. Cousins hit four short passes and then went for the big one.
This is the moment that makes careers resonate for the ages. Instead, it was the dagger that ended the Redskins’ postseason hopes.
Cousins admitted his shoulder wasn’t properly aligned and the ball heading to Pierre Garcon fell short into Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s hands. New York would win 19-10 after a bizarre fumble recovery with no time remaining became a touchdown, but really it was a winnable game for the Redskins until Cousins fell short.
Now the Redskins are suddenly in the offseason while others play for the Super Bowl. And the debate on re-signing Cousins will stretch not only through the offseason, but past training camp and all the way into next year’s playoffs. Cousins delivered the stats and several comeback victories this year, but when Washington needed one more play, he failed.
When Washington officials must decide whether to pay Cousins big money or walk away in the next few months, that pickoff will be a lasting memory for owner Dan Snyder to chew on while deciding whether to pay the passer more than $100 million over the next five years.
But Cousins wasn’t the only problem. The running game was once more a non-factor with 38 yards on 15 carries. The defense let New York convert 6 of 17 third downs, including a big one on the game-winning drive. The offensive play calling was erratic.
So many excuses and so many people to blame for the 8-7-1 season. A winner in numbers only.
The Redskins failed to reach the playoffs for the second straight year, which would have been their first such streak since 1991-92. They certainly were a better team than one year ago when winning the NFC East at 9-7, but the NFL is always filled with moving parts and the Redskins stalled far too often to be considered a real contender. At best, they were heading to a first-round loss. Maybe losing in the playoffs would make some people feel better, but not by much.
“It’s over,” coach Jay Gruden said. “We played a very good team today and we didn’t get it done. Then just like that your season’s over. You just got to say goodbye. So hopefully we’ll see y’all next year, appreciate their hard work. They all did work hard, played hard. Just weren’t good enough.”
Indeed, the Redskins just weren’t good enough. Not with no real running game, red zone receiver, consistent pass rusher, poor run defense and a kicker that struggled in the waning weeks.
That’s not to say this season wasn’t a step forward. It just wasn’t the giant leap needed with Dallas improving greatly thanks to two standout rookies and New York buying a good defense. This season was something to build upon, but not considered successful.
“Never, ‘Oh man, I’m proud to be 8-7-1’ for goodness sakes,” Gruden said.
Indeed. Now the long winter of discontent begins.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.