WASHINGTON — Now five months removed from his time with the Redskins, Scot McCloughan admits Washington “kind of messed up” by not signing Kirk Cousins to a long-term deal sooner.
Cousins, of course, has yet to sign a long-term contract with Washington, and instead will play his second straight season under the franchise tag for $23.94 million, a combined two-year total of $43.89 million dating back to 2016.
In an interview with 106.7 The Fan in May, McCloughan demurred when asked directly about a report this offseason that he’d once strongly advocated signing Cousins to a multi-year contract in 2016, to avoid the year-to-year situation the Redskins find themselves in now.
On Monday, McCloughan finally came clean. Speaking with Joe, Lo & Dibs on San Francisco’s 95.7 The Game, the former Redskins GM was asked how well Cousins — who will have another chance to reach free agency after 2017 — might fit in 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan’s scheme.
“Kyle was with [Cousins], and his father was with him, in Washington,” McCloughan said. “The guy is really intelligent. The guy is a solid, solid quarterback. We kind of messed up in Washington not getting him done earlier, from the standpoint of the contract.”
“But he can adjust to pretty much anything,” he added of Cousins. “But the thing that’s pretty good about Kyle is he can also adjust and put him in a situation to be successful. Now, he didn’t work with him on game days because it was always Robert Griffin [taking] all the snaps, but he’s a very intriguing guy. I respect him as a player and I respect him more as a person.”
Along with getting quarterbacks under multi-year deals early, McCloughan advocated drafting quarterbacks often, a practice he says he learned in Green Bay under former general manager Ron Wolf.
“When I was in Green Bay with Ron Wolf, we had Brett Favre go three MVPs in a row, and every year we took a quarterback,” he said. “We took Aaron Brooks, we took Matt Hasselbeck, we took Jay Barker, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Why would you do that?’ But, what Ron was trying to do is, understand, you need to have an escape plan and you need to train ’em.”
“You bring in a young guy and understand hopefully he doesn’t playe Year 1, Year 2,” he said. “Let ’em sit, let ’em understand the game, let ’em understand the speed of the game, and let their mind kind of go through it, because they all have talent. There’s no doubt about it.”
In San Francisco, a team without a franchise quarterback and entering [Kyle] Shanahan’s debut season as a head coach, McCloughan advised the 49ers to consider signing a free-agent quarterback and drafting an eventual replacement.
“With the new CBA now, you can still sign [a quarterback], a big-time one,” he said. “And say you’re paying 18-to-22 [million dollars], you can still draft one and bring him along. Because the rookie contracts are totally different of course [from] what they used to be, but you get double-whammied because you want more than less at that position. If you’ve got two guys you like, heck yeah. I’d do it in a heartbeat.”
For as much as McCloughan admires Cousins, he did stop short of calling him a ‘franchise quarterback,’ while also equating Cousins to New England backup Jimmy Garoppolo.
“He’s a lot like Kirk from the standpoint that he’s highly intelligent. He’s a great guy,” McCloughan said of Garoppolo. “He’ll never embarrass you on the field or off the field. He might make some mistakes, but it’s just, at that position, everybody kind of panics, which I understand, but you’ve got to be careful how much you give up because, again, I think Jimmy’s a lot like Kirk from the standpoint he’s going to be good with guys around him.”
“Ten guys on offense, 11 guys on defense, 11 guys on special teams,” he said, echoing the characterization he’s made of Cousins since 2015. “That’s how you win games, that’s how you stay consistent. I don’t see Jimmy or Kirk being — you can say ‘franchise’ all you want because of the money they’re getting, but that’s the market. But they need help around them to be successful.”
McCloughan also affirmed his long-held belief in building through the draft, seemingly saying Washington had only just gotten started along that process in his two seasons with the organization, and building success through the running game.
“As you guys are well aware, it all starts up front, offense or defense,” he said. “If you can’t run the ball, if you can’t pass-protect the quarterback… you have to start there.”
“And once you do that, especially if you can play late in season and get in the bad-weather games, you need to be able to run the ball, you need to be able to stop the run, because you can’t always throw it,” he said.
“The game’s changed quite a bit since I’ve been in it where people want to throw it — throw it 35, 40 times — and we had success in Washington with that, and that’s Jay Gruden’s kind of cup of tea,” he added.
“But I knew we would never be a real good team until we could establish the run and stopping the run.”
“At any position, you’ve got to build through the draft and build the young guys,” he went on to say. “Especially when you’re not a 10-win, 12-win team. You’ve got to start somewhere and just start building and building, like we did in San Fran when I was there, like we started here in Washington. And we did the same thing in Seattle.”