The Redskins are preparing for a Monday night showdown against the Chiefs, and Kirk Cousins is feeling no pressure

By Peter King
October 02, 2017
Kirk Cousins has led Washington to a 19-15-1 record since taking over as starter to begin the 2015 season.
Mark Tenally/AP

Watching Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins against Oakland last week was like watching a clinic of the position, and not just because he completed 25 of 30 passes for 365 yards with three touchdowns and no picks. What was notable was how fast Cousins worked, how fast he made his decisions, how fast he got the ball out—and how he had zero sacred cows. In the first quarter, Cousins’ completions, in order, were thrown to tight end Vernon Davis, wideout Jamison Crowder, running back Chris Thompson, tight end Niles Paul, Crowder, wideout Ryan Grant and wideout Terrelle Pryor. Early in the second quarter, he added rookie running back Samaje Perrine. Entering Monday night’s game against the unbeaten Chiefs, Cousins’ decision-making speed and his eye for every receiver on the field will be a challenge for a defense that likes to throw changeups as much as Andy Reid’s offense does. So we’ve got a great chess match on TV, 2-1 Washington at the lone unbeaten team in the league, 3-0 Kansas City.

“Each week is its own entity,” Cousins said from Virginia the other day. “But we’ve definitely put some good performances together. Kansas City’s so good and so creative, and they’ve obviously got everything rolling now, and it’s Monday night, in a place that’s really hard for road teams to play.”

You’ve got to hand it to Cousins, who is playing his second straight year on the franchise tag because he hasn’t been able to work out a long-term deal with Washington. But to hear him talk about it, he’s pretty much okay with it.

“Look at it rationally,” he said, “and going year to year isn’t as risky as it might appear. Plus, if you’ve lived my life story, where nothing’s been guaranteed to me in college or the NFL, you might understand my approach a little bit better. And I’ve always thought that if you sign a contract, and it’s announced at $100 million, that doesn’t put less pressure on you. It just puts more pressure, to live up to the money. So I just focus in on this year, and then we’ll see what happens next year.”

It’s easy to debate which approach is right. Some think Washington should have signed Cousins when it had the advantage and he didn’t have a long résumé—say, two years ago. But back then, team president Bruce Allen had no idea Cousins would consistently be a 4,000-yard-per-season passer. So if Allen paid him like a premier player and he fizzled, he’d be stuck with an Osweiler-like contract.

Cousins can compartmentalize the contract pretty well. He knows the $43.9 million he’ll have made by the end of this year in 2016 and 2017 alone sets up him and his family (he and wife Julie had their first child, Cooper, Friday night) for life, so he doesn’t fret about the money—just the job. He knows he’ll be in demand by Washington and a couple of other teams if he hits the open market next March. So what’s there’s to worry about?

Well, playing in Kansas City, for one. “I’ve never played there, and I’ve wanted to,” he said. “Kansas City’s got an iconic stadium. I’d like to play at all of them—but it’s hard, because they keep building new stadiums.”

Football in America: Episode 2—Charlotte

We started our series (in partnership with State Farm) examining all levels of football—youth, high school, college and pro—last week with a visit to the Bay Area. This week, Jonathan Jones, Kalyn Kahler and videographer Steve Raum take us to Charlotte to explore its young football culture.

Football in America: Building Tradition in Carolina

Jones writes about a Clemson-bound senior kicker at 12-year-old Charlotte South Pointe High, B.T. Potter, who booted a 71-yard field goal in practice and is being trolled by Clemson fans after the Tigers’ regular kicker was lost for the season. Jones writes: “Potter’s Twitter account got blown up by Clemson fans asking if he was eligible to graduate high school early and join the Tigers immediately. One fan told him they called his guidance counselor to check.” Big-time football in the south, folks.

Next week: Minneapolis-St. Paul.

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