- - Tuesday, September 26, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

If Kirk Cousins was going to have the best game of his NFL career, he picked a symbolically important game.

Of the two quarterbacks on the field Sunday night, you would have surely thought the one in Burgundy and Gold was the one signed to a long-term $125 million contract.

No, that quarterback, Oakland’s Derek Carr, put up pauper numbers, completing 19 of 31 passes for 118 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Cousins put up numbers worthy of his $24 million paycheck this year — 25 of 30 passes for 365 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

But, unlike Carr, who became, briefly, the league’s highest paid player with the five-year contract he signed with Oakland in June, Cousins is a short-timer, as Redskins team president Bruce Allen reminded us this off-season when, in a statement that painted Cousins as selfish, he said that “Kirk has made it clear that he prefers to play on a year-to-year basis.”

Before Sunday night’s game, Allen met with the FedEx Field stadium workers to give them a pep talk, promising them they would be singing “Hail to the Redskins” at the end of the game. Some might have sang Kirk’s song, “If you got the money, honey, I’ve got the time.”

Time. It’s possible that Kirk Cousins may only have 13 games left was a Washington Redskin.

You may not want to consider that possibility, and bask in the glow of Sunday night’s remarkable 27-10 win over Oakland, but a game like the one Cousins had should only raise the concerns about his future in Washington, not lower them. The debate about paying Cousins long-term should be raised after Sunday night, not lowered.

I mean, it’s easy to say, let him leave after his opening game performance against Philadelphia, when he completed just 23 of 40 passes for 240 yards and one touchdown in that 30-17 loss.

But after a game like the one Cousins had against Oakland — a good opponent, a Super Bowl contender — and contrasting that with the game had by the quarterback who set the standard for NFL contracts this off-season, Redskins fans should be more nervous than ever about the future.

If you believe coach Jay Gruden, Sunday night was a breakthrough game of sorts for Cousins.

“You can look at the yards and say obviously I like the yards and the completion percentage, but really, I think there were some decisions that Kirk made that were equally as impressive, not forcing the ball, running the ball when we had a couple of bad looks, protecting the football,” Gruden said. “We had a third down and five and he ran it, we kicked a field goal to go up 17. He could have forced it in there and made a bad decision. I think he really managed the game perfectly. He made some big-time throws, the receivers made some plays for him, so all around I was very impressed with the entire offense moving the ball.”

Decision making is something that is within Cousins‘ control — and can often be the difference in those games like the opener against Philadelphia, when the team is struggling.

The decisions by the quarterback can get a team through tough moments as well as good moments.

Cousins had a term for it — situational awareness.

“Any time you start fast, you know it’s up and down, plays happen, you can easily give the ball back,” Cousins said. “You can have a bad decision here or there and miss the read. The fact that it was a full four quarter performance — I felt that was outstanding.

“All off-season I was asked, ‘What are you working on, what are you trying to get better at?’” Gruden said. “The answer was situational awareness. Not just stick to my reads, but to think about how does that read change every now and then, because the game situation is changing? I think Jay was talking about that — looking at last year to now. By knowing how to manage situations and making decisions based on what I am coached to do and then how the game is being played.”

Now, the question for Cousins is — can he have a full season performance? Will he have situational awareness in December or January?

If he makes the same decisions then that he did against the Raiders Sunday night, we’ll know for sure that Bruce Allen’s situational awareness stinks — not that we needed much convincing.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.

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