By CHRIS MARKHAM
To many Redskins fans, Sunday’s performance for Kirk Cousins can be perceived one of two ways: optimistically or cautiously. Though the 102nd overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft posted a perfect quarterback rating in the team’s routing of the New Orleans Saints, Redskins fans are all too familiar with the glimmer of hope shining only to be painfully shut off.
Yes, there is reason for excitement, as the controversial switch to Cousins over Robert Griffin III in the offseason sparked much debate, but Cousins’ incredible performance of 324 yards and four touchdowns should be taken with a grain of salt considering it came against a defense that is on pace to have one of the lowliest seasons in NFL history.
The Redskins have a history of playing to the level of their opponent. When the play a good team, they put up a fight and keep them honest. When they play a bad team, they turn sloppy and inconsistent. It was a good sign to see a game by the Redskins that was effectively decided by the end of the third quarter, and in their own favor for once.
In a recent press conference, Gruden even complained about his team’s lack of consistency as giving him “gray hair.” The cautious fans out there will tell you to not hold your breath and count on those gray hairs to spread on Gruden’s head.
Jay Gruden’s confidence in Cousins in the offseason was viewed by many as ignorance to RGIII’s talentor even Colt McCoy’s potential. Of the three, Cousins had done arguably the least of the three D.C. quarterbacks to warrant earning the starting position.
Due to his controversial call, Gruden was immediately put on the hot seat and will continue to stay there until the end of the season. Dan Snyder is not a patient owner and would certainly consider finding another coach should this season turn out like ones in years past.
However, the optimists out there will tell you that Cousins has only scratched his potential. Cousins has shown flashes of what he can be and what Gruden sees in him, and Sunday’s performance was the epitome of those flashes.
Finally with a healthy DeSean Jackson in the offense and the running game back to where it was at the beginning of the season, Cousins finally has the support around him to show what he can do and prove his coaches right and his doubters wrong.
As it stands, the Washington’s 4-5 record puts them in second place in the NFC East, just half a game behind the 5-5 Giants for first place. With a division title in arms reach, Cousins has more to play for now than ever before and every game for the rest of the season should be considered the most important of his career. To win a division title would most likely supplant Cousins as the Redskins’ franchise quarterback, effectively putting an end to the RGIII ‘era.’
As if he did not already have enough to play for, Cousins has his expiring rookie contract hanging over his this head, adding to what is already an extremely pressure loaded year for the former Michigan State Spartan. His tendency to turn the ball over will not make him a sexy option for other teams in free agency, so Washington is essentially his only option if he wants to continue to be a starter. Gruden is one of the few coaches in the NFL who would have faith in Cousins, proving this to be a make to break year for the both of them.
So how should Redskins fans feel about Cousins after Sunday’s performance? Getting hopes crushed is all too familiar for fans, but not supporting the potential quarterback of the future can be detrimental to your own cause as a fan. Probably the safest way to feel going forward should be defined as “cautiously optimistic.”