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MINNEAPOLIS — Let’s compare what Washington had at quarterback to end the 2017 season, and what Washington will have at quarterback to start the 2018 season. We’ll use stats from the past three seasons, 2015-17:



Comp. Pct.

TD-INT Diff.


Playoff Wins

Kirk Cousins






Alex Smith






* Age as of opening day 2018

Washington didn’t get better by acquiring Smith and jettisoning Cousins—both of which will be official on the first day of the new league year March 14. Now, we know why Washington did this—because Kirk Cousins was going to cost at least $5 million more per year through 2022, and there’s no guarantee he would have signed with the team once he hit free agency.

But the object of a trade is to improve your team. If you think Washington’s better on opening day 2018 with Smith than it would have been with Cousins, there’s nothing other than conjecture that would support that argument.

• THE KC-DC TRADE: Peter King shares his instant reaction to the Alex Smith deal and finds three elements that were particularly stunning

Washington got four years older in the deal, and gave up a rising young cornerback, Kendall Fuller, and a third-round pick in 2018 (that should return in 2019 as a third-round compensatory pick). 

And Fuller might be a bigger loss than the draft choice. Early this morning, former Washington GM Scot McCloughan tweeted that he “would have never traded Kendall” because he was a high-character player who can play outside corner and the slot. As most personnel people would tell you, other than quarterbacks, there are no more valuable players in today’s football than versatile corners.

I get why Washington did this. I don’t think it’s a terrible deal. I just think Dan Snyder treaded water at the position, gave away four years, will likely be looking for a new quarterback again in three or four years, traded a good defensive back, and saved maybe $5 million or $6 million a year in the process. (Worth noting: the cap will be rising $10 million or so per year, likely, over the life of the deal.) There was no guarantee Washington would have kept Cousins, to be sure. But tell me, if you like Smith over Cousins: What faith at all do you have that Smith will win in January? You’ve seen Kansas City say all the right things about Smith, and then you saw the Chiefs trade two first-round picks and a third-rounder to draft Pat Mahomes in 2017.

To me, this delays the inevitable for Washington. And it certainly doesn’t make Washington any better in 2018.

• HOW BELICHICK’S DEFENSE HAS INVOLVED: He first earned the ‘genius’ label with a complicated, ever-changing defense. Now, Belichick’s defense is much different, and much simpler.

Now for your email...

Where is the most likely destination for Kirk Cousins?​
—Brian D., Seattle

I trust Albert Breer on this one, as he has been close to the Washington-Cousins situation for a long time. The Jets would be the best guess, and Cleveland and Denver will certainly be interested. I’m curious about Arizona, for this reason: The Cards covet security at the quarterback position in the wake of the retirement of Carson Palmer. We shall see.

You are spot on in the decline of minor football and the need to change and grow the game. I was the Director of Football Operations for Waterloo Region Football for four years (in Canada). Our association runs tackle football for kids aged 5-to-19. Over the course of those four years, our registrations have tailed off significantly, as well as those of the other 50-plus associations across the province. I personally expressed the need to grow the game and the best way is to introduce the kids to flag football. With flag football, you are able to compete with the simplest of games, soccer. All you need are shorts and cleats.  Costs to run a flag program are far less than tackle and as a result, you can charge far less for kids to play.  You are able to teach them the nuances of the game and create a love of the game at a young age, and hopefully, as they mature and grow, transition them into tackle football. The decline in enrollment for our great sport should open the eyes to all who love it and make them realize that the initiative is on all of us to make changes to ensure this great game survives.​
—Paul U., Elmira, Ontario

Paul, that’s very educational. Thanks a lot for writing and for letting us know that the concern about the game doesn’t exist solely in the United States.

I understand it's Super Bowl week and that is the main focus (as it should be). But to not mention one word about the unfortunate early (and forced) retirement of Bills center Eric Wood is very disappointing to me. This was a guy who gave his all to the organization as well as the city of Buffalo and to not even write one sentence about him is a huge oversight. Eric Wood was a leader in and off the field, and this team and community will miss him wearing the red, white, and blue greatly.
—Andy, Buffalo

Very good point. I should have written something about this valuable and earnest and excellent center, who exemplifies so much of the qualities NFL teams look for in their players. Good of you to call me on it.

My idea for XFL to be successful is for the eight teams to be tied to states/regions rather than cities alone. All but five players on each team must have high school or college ties to that region. I think California, Texas and Florida could stand alone. Suggested regions would be a Deep South, a Georgia-Carolinas, a Pennsylvania-New York, Ohio Valley, and upper Great Lakes. Cities throughout would host home games on rotating basis. Regional bragging rights for who produces the better football at this sub-NFL level might be an ongoing draw that would sustain the XFL as a niche sport.​
—Dante D., Vancouver, Wash.

Really interesting suggestion, Dante. Thanks for making it. Off the top of my head, I guess I would ask: Would it really be fair for an “Upper Great Lakes” team to face off against a team made up of Texas stars? Or Florida?

Love the column. No matter how busy I am on Mondays, I make sure I have time to read your column. I agree with your suggestion that the XFL would be wise to go after college freshman and sophomores. Do you think it would also be wise to sign some of the elite high recruits? And do you think this could lead the NCAA to open up to the idea of paying student-athletes?​
—Chris M.

Paying college football players would be long overdue … and this is a really smart idea for the NCAA to consider if the XFL decides to target players before they’d be eligible for the NFL draft.

I’m not one to usually comment, but I wanted to thank you for the outstanding quality of this week’s column. Truly great content, namely the Doug Pederson part. Regarding Vizquel v. The Wizard, stick to football! Totally kidding, although I think Ozzie Smith was an innovator at the position and Vizquel got the benefit of watching him.​
—Matt C.

Thanks a lot, Matt. Maybe it’s me: I thought Vizquel was a marginally better defensive player than Smith. But it’s nitpicky. My point is simple: If Smith is in, Vizquel must be next.

How can you possibly say "McAdoo was the only adult in the organization when this thing was going down in the fall?” Ben McAdoo decided to sit Eli Manning, who was not playing well at the time, for Geno Smith. This had absolutely nothing to do with the future of the franchise. Did anyone think Geno Smith would be the future of the Giants? Of course not. If McAdoo had gotten Davis Webb ready and played him, in order to see how he looked as a starter, I could understand the decision. But starting Geno Smith was a desperate move by a coach trying to hang on to his job. Not exactly what I would call an “adult” decision. Everyone in the organization bungled the Manning situation, including the former head coach.
—Pete M., Westport, Conn.

McAdoo was going to play Smith for a week or two, and then play Davis Webb. The reason McAdoo didn’t go to Webb at first is pretty simple: Webb had not taken a series with the first-unit offensive through the regular season. So the coaching staff figured that it would give Webb a couple of weeks to take some first-team snaps before putting him in the games for the last two or three starts. I have no problem with that. The overriding point is that the Giants, at 2-9, should have given Webb at least three starts down the stretch to see if he MIGHT be the answer going forward, or to at least add to the knowledge base before drafting in 2018. McAdoo was moving toward playing Webb at some point for significant time in the last games of the season. But he got shouted down and then fired, and what happened? We never saw Webb. Stupid execution by the Giants.

I can’t help but think about Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and their Hall of Fame candidacy in six, seven or 10 years from now. Baseball has continued to keep out some of the best players of the era due to evidence, or sometimes, speculation that individuals cheated. Both Brady and Belichick have been caught and/or punished for cheating (more than we can say for the baseball players).  It makes me wonder what will happen when they are up for vote?​
—Bob B., Blue Bell, Pa.

I don’t think it will keep either from being walk-in Hall of Famers, in my opinion.

Peter, you are not an Eli fan and I get that. It’s all about the results. Based on your columns, I am not sure how much of the Giants’ games you actually have seen. This guy has had no offensive line for the past three years. The running game is awful. He has no time in the pocket to pass. And he has kept his mouth shut and not thrown any of his teammates under the bus. He certainly understands that the quarterback probably gets too much credit when they win, too much blame when they lose. Watch the film. Put your shovel away.  Eli’s not ready for burial just yet.
—Michael B., Redding, Conn.

I hope Manning plays well. Great guy, clutch player. He hasn’t played well over the past six years, and I don’t think it takes watching 95 regular-season games with a ton of disappointments in there to say that Manning, even with the horrible decisions made that have hamstrung the offense, hasn’t done much to lift a bad offense.

I have been an avid follower of your column for years, and the reporting and writing has always been outstanding. As a lifelong fan of the Eagles, I have always looked forward to SI’s coverage of the Birds and the NFL in general. This year, however, the coverage of the Eagles has been so incredible, that I had to write to say thank you. Several recent pieces come to mind as taking your journalism to another level of excellence: Actually, ALL of Jenny Vrentas’s work but especially the West Coast trip piece; the recent Robert Klemko piece on Doug Pederson’s time as a high school coach; and Peter King’s reporting of his ride to work with Coach Pederson. Each piece demonstrated great reporting and writing all done with a professional enthusiasm that is a joy to read and contemplate.
—Mike L., Swedesboro, N.J.

So nice of you to say, Mike. We’re fortunate to have good journalists such as Vrentas and Klemko to illuminate so much about the modern game.