WASHINGTON — Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins is making $23,943,600 this season, good for sixth highest salary in the NFL. He hopes to be paid at historic levels next offseason, either through a third-straight franchise tag or a long-term deal.
But all of that hinges on improving his play in the final 14 games of the season.
Last week, he registered a 72.9 passer rating against the lackluster Eagles, his lowest passer rating since Week 1 of the 2016 season against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In Week 2, he threw for 179 yards, his lowest output since Week 17 of the 2015 season.
Those aren’t franchise-quarterback numbers. Those are slipping dangerously into the “game manager” territory, a term that his head coach nearly tagged him with on Sunday.
“Kirk managed the game and managed the clock,” Gruden said. “Got us in the right runs and did a good job overall.”
Trent Dilfer was a good game manager. Todd Collins was a good game manager. Game managers win lots of games and play for long careers, but nobody aspires to be labeled a game manager.
The good news for Redskins fans is that the Redskins won on Sunday, and they did it without needing Cousins to be great. Being a game manager was adequate.
The Redskins rushed for only 68 yards and possessed the ball for just more than 25 minutes. On Sunday vs. the Rams, they flipped the switch dramatically, running 68 plays including 39 on the ground for 229 yards. This time, Washington held the 10-minute time of possession advantage.
It started by getting off to a hot start on the ground, recording 167 rushing yards in first half, the team’s most in a first half since Dec. 12, 2010 vs. Tampa Bay (174). When the running game is that productive out of the gate, the game plan tends to change.
Overall, it was a robust offensive day for 385 yards, despite completing only 18 passes. And perhaps most importantly, they converted 12 first downs through the air, giving Cousins a high rate of efficiency when it mattered most.
So did he manage the game on Sunday? Yes. Does that make him a game manager? It’s too soon to tell, but certainly not yet.
On Sunday, he played well enough to win, and that’s all that matters to his head coach.
“Anytime you’ve got the ball in your hands, and I’m the coach, I’m always going to be a little upset we left some things out there,” Gruden said of Cousins. “But I think he did a good job. Huge throw at the end of the game to Ryan Grant, and a huge catch by Grant.”