January 02, 2017

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) If it's true that, as many saw it, this entire Washington Redskins season was a referendum on Kirk Cousins and whether he should get a long-term contract, the way things ended - a late interception sealing a playoffs-preventing loss - should make for quite an intriguing offseason.

For while Cousins broke his own franchise record for passing yards, nearly eclipsing 5,000, and set another team mark with more than 400 completions, he also closed things on a down note as Washington (8-7-1) lost four of its final six games, including 19-10 against the New York Giants on Sunday.

''This isn't my first time dealing with this,'' Cousins said through a bit of a forced smile. ''Tough times don't last; tough people do, right? I sound like a broken record, but I'm going to keep saying that until I retire.''

A year after leading the Redskins to the NFC East title, Cousins now will be home during the postseason.

He threw a pair of second-half picks Sunday, both by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the second coming while Washington trailed 13-10 with about 1+ minutes remaining. Cousins stepped out of the pocket, scanned the field for a receiver, then threw a floater that did not really come all that close to reaching intended receiver Pierre Garcon.

Garcon and other teammates rose to Cousins' defense afterward, saying as defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois did of the defeat: ''It was not his fault at all.''

After the game, Cousins acknowledged he probably should have tucked the ball and run it on that late interception .

Coach Jay Gruden agreed that throw constituted ''a poor decision.''

In the next breath, Gruden added: ''I think he belongs in the NFL as a starting quarterback, that's for sure, and hopefully it's here.''

And that will be the key question over the coming weeks for Washington and general manager Scot McCloughan: Will the team keep Cousins and, if so, for how much?

The QB made nearly $20 million this season under the franchise tag. The Redskins could tag him again, for about $24 million, or sign him to a multiyear deal, or let him walk as a free agent.

Asked what he expects, Cousins shrugged his shoulders and answered: ''It's really not my decision to make. The ball was in the court of the team last year and they chose to tag me. And the same is true this year.''

Here is what else we know after the Giants (11-5), who already were locked into the NFC's No. 5 seed and will play at Green Bay, beat the Redskins:


Eli Manning said the prospect of the Giants' starters resting in a game that had no impact on their playoff status ''never came up all week.'' By putting up 10 first-half points before going conservative - and no one getting hurt - they validated coach Ben McAdoo's decision and got into a groove going into the playoffs. ''I thought we did some good things and we can build off that,'' Manning said. ''If we can run the ball, defense is playing great, we'll be in good shape.''


Despite Redskins cornerback Josh Norman getting called for two personal fouls for shoving and then going facemask-to-facemask with Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants receiver downplayed the confrontations and the rivalry. ''That's been dead for a long time,'' said Beckham, who left the game in the third quarter after five catches for 44 yards.


From 6-3-1 to out of the playoffs thanks to a 2-4 finish - including two flat losses at home to teams with nothing at stake - Gruden and the Redskins have a lot to ponder in a longer-than-they-wanted offseason. Gruden was asked whether he had his team ready to play Sunday. ''On a gut level, I like to think so, but obviously, the results say otherwise.'' Said Jean Francois: ''I don't blame this on no coach. ... It was on us.''


If the Redskins are going to get back to the playoffs next season, they'll probably want to improve a drab running game that closed with 15 carries for 38 yards against New York.


AP Sports Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.


For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL


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