On multiple occasions the chant rang out through FedEx Field: “You like that! You like that!”
Washington fans are all-in on Kirk Cousins, to the point of adopting his line from a now-famous outburst toward a reporter earlier this season. And the franchise appears ready to commit to him, as well.
CBS's Jason LaCanfora reported Sunday that Washington will commit to Cousins, an impending free agent, “even if it requires applying the franchise tag” for 2016. Cousins then went out and dropped four touchdown passes on the Bills in a 35–25 win—a result that gave the Redskins their first two-game win streak of the season and kept them atop the NFC East.
Jordan Reed caught two of Cousins's four touchdowns, with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon chipping in for the others. Jackson's was a 77-yarder on which he found a deep ball despite two Bills defenders tracking him, before spinning back inside to take off for the end zone. It was far from a brilliant throw or decision by Cousins, but positive things like that can happen when talented playmakers are given a shot.
That's really all Washington coach Jay Gruden has wanted Cousins to do. Last season, Washington could not keep Jackson or Garcon involved with any consistency, and their offensive production ground to a halt because of it. There has been much more life across the board most of the time this season.
“You can see his confidence just slowly become more of a factor for him, in a good way,” said Gruden about Cousins earlier this week. “He’s still learning, man. He’s still fighting through some things. We’re still coaching the heck out of him, but I like where he’s going. I like what he’s about, what he represents as a football player and as a person. We’ll go from there.”
Next stop on that journey could be the playoffs, via a division title. Washington now sits at 7–7, with games at Philadelphia and Dallas to close the year. Win both and the Redskins will host a postseason game. But even if they fall short, they seem to have found their trajectory into next season. While nothing ever is set in stone when Daniel Snyder is the owner, Gruden's job should be safe—his emphatic backing of Cousins all year one of the main reasons why.
Cousins has not always been good as the full-time starter, but he's been good enough for a team desperate to solve its quarterback issues as it moved away from the brief, frustrating Robert Griffin III era. Cousins, Griffin and Colt McCoy all saw starts in 2014; this has been Cousins’s show throughout ’15.
In the process Cousins has quieted—at least for now—many of his critics.
Keep in mind, Washington is not a fluky 7–7. Up until last week's win at Buffalo, it had been an outstanding home team and an absolute mess on the road, which still could derail its NFC East title hopes in Weeks 16 and 17. Cousins and his offense often have gone through the motions away from the FedEx confines.
At home, though, the Redskins have been borderline dominant since a Week 1 loss to Miami. Perhaps this falls under that growth process Gruden has preached. Find some footing at home, string together a few wins, then build it out to a finished product.
Cousins will not be confused with the league's best quarterbacks. He's not even a threat to reach the Pro Bowl this season, barring a parade of players at his position backing out. Washington knows better than most how difficult it is to find a reliable quarterback in this league, though. Sometimes, even when you think you have one, you find out that conclusion was reached in haste.
However, Gruden stayed patient with Cousins, throwing his support behind the fourth-year QB when few others wanted to go along for the ride. Getting to 7–7 on the season, whether in first place or not, should not be the end game but it marks clear progress.
Cousins has been better than expected this season. So, too, have the Redskins. Whatever may come over the regular season's final two weeks, that pairing deserves another shot next year.