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Jay Gruden Should Worry About Himself

This week Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder made the confounding choice to retain Jay Gruden as his head coach. Less than two days later, Gruden opened his big, fat mouth hole and showed exactly why that was a mistake.

While Jay’s brother Jon is making the big splash with an impending return to the NFL sideline with the Oakland Raiders, Jay spent the early part of the week badmouthing his team’s franchise quarterback.

First off, here’s some background on the situation with quarterback Kirk Cousins. For the second consecutive season Cousins played on the franchise tag. This year Cousins completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 4,093 yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The team finished 7-9.

It was Cousins’ first losing season as the full time starter. In his career, he’s 26-30-1 but, over the last three seasons, he’s 24-23. He did get the team to the playoffs in 2015. The same year he led the NFL in completion percentage (69.8).

Cousins, in his three years as the franchise guy, passed for more than, 4,000 yards and more than 25 touchdowns in all of them. His 64.3 completion percentage this year was his lowest.

On the flip side, let’s look at Gruden. He’s been with the Redskins since 2014. He’s 28-36-1 as a head coach and, with Cousins at quarterback, accidentally made the playoffs in 2015. It was Gruden’s best season and the team finished 9-7. They were 8-7-1 the next year and posted losing records in his other two campaigns.

So Gruden, who has been in charge this whole time, was asked to assess Cousin’s performance this season as he heads to free agency again. He cracked open his maw after a lengthy pause and emitted the following sentence.

“When you’re 7-9, you know it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding,’” Gruden said. “Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know we’re 7-9. He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns. I think he’s a very, very good quarterback without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning a division with all the injuries that we had, I think he competed and did some good things.”

Not exactly a glowing assessment of the most important offensive member of your team. Cousins was asked about Gruden’s comments later in the week.

“When you’re coming two days after that game, I can understand how that could influence your assessment to some degree,” Cousins said. “What I gathered from the comment was 7-9 and the quarterback play are causally related and that quarterback play is 7-9, 7-9 is the quarterback play. I saw that and I thought, ‘I think it’s slightly more complicated than that.’ I think there’s a few more dynamics in play as to what your final record is. … At the same time, his job is to evaluate. That’s a big part of his role and his position. In that comment, he’s just doing his job, he’s evaluating the position and he has the right to say what he wants to say.”

So Gruden, the head coach, is saying that it’s Cousins’ fault that the team finished 7-9. I, as someone who watches football, pays attention and lives in reality, would argue that Cousins is the only reason the team won seven games at all. In fact, Cousins is the primary catalyst that has kept Gruden employed in Washington, outside of Snyder’s incompetence as an owner.

Now, there’s a good chance that Gruden was actually carrying Snyder’s water somewhat with that comment. If the Redskins use the franchise tag on Cousins again, it’ll cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $34 million. They’re not paying that.

Currently the NFL’s highest paid QB is Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions. He makes $27 million a season. Derek Carr of the Raiders is second with $25.005 million. Stafford’s and Cousin’s numbers aren’t so different this season (Stafford – 65.7 completion percentage, 4,446 yards, 29 touchdowns, 10 picks). The Lions finished 9-7. Cousins had a better year than Carr (62.7 completion percentage, 3,496 yards, 22 touchdowns, 13 picks).

Cousins isn’t worth $35 million. That goes without saying and you could argue, with his record (again, attached to Gruden the whole way), means he’s not worth $25 million. But that’s what it’s going to cost to keep him. That’s what another team, like, say the Cleveland Browns, is going to pay.

The fact is, Cousins in the wind could be an option for plenty of teams. The Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals would all (and should) take a good, long look at Cousins and the work he’s completed over the last few seasons. Gruden could just be setting the stage to explain why the team let Cousins go.

If Gruden was smart, and he isn’t, he should be talking up Cousins and demanding Snyder and general manager Scot McCloughlan get the contract situation fixed before free agency hits. They want to pay him $18 million or so a year. It’s not going to happen. Yes, in a perfect world, that’s what the guy is worth. It’s not a perfect world. It’s this one and the only way Cousins won’t make $25 million next season is if Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un start lobbing nukes at each other while taking angry shits on their golden toilets.

Now, obviously, a player like Alex Smith would be a fine replacement for Cousins but, again, they’d be paying $25 million. A guy like Case Keenum or Sam Bradford are the only QBs you’re getting for less than $20 million and they might not even go for that.

Instead of blaming his quarterback for nine losses this season, maybe Gruden should take a look in the mirror. He’s done a decent job calling the offense and will probably have a long future in the NFL as an offensive coordinator if his shitty personality doesn’t derail it. There is no way he still has a head coaching job without Cousins. If Cousins bolts, he won’t keeps it past 2018.

The ultimate F-U for Cousins would be to go somewhere like Denver and win while Gruden flounders in Washington with Keenum at quarterback and a rookie like Mason Rudolph out of Oklahoma State on the bench. Either way, If I’m Cousins, I’m hitting the bricks.

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About Adam Greene

Adam Greene is a writer and photographer based out of East Tennessee. His work has appeared in USA Today, the Associated Press, the Chicago Cubs Vineline Magazine, and many other publications.

About Adam Greene

Adam Greene is a writer and photographer based out of East Tennessee. His work has appeared in USA Today, the Associated Press, the Chicago Cubs Vineline Magazine, and many other publications.

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