Kirk Cousins is keenly aware that his standing with the Washington Redskins has made his performances fodder for gross extrapolation. At times, the quarterback has been fitted for a gold jacket and had his bust shipped to Canton, anointed the savior of a woebegone franchise after an eye-opening performance.
After throwing four interceptions in the Redskins’ last game — one of only two players to do so this season — Cousins vowed to improve. His performance in the 45-14 home loss to the New York Giants on Sept. 25 is not a reflection of who he is, Cousins said Thursday, but the limited opportunities he’s had over three seasons don’t lend themselves to forming an accurate assessment.
“Everybody’s gonna try to write the book on who you are as a quarterback from the end of the Ravens game or the Cleveland game [in 2012], and then you may get spot duty last year,” Cousins said. “That is tough, and to say, ‘How do you deal with that?’ — I don’t know that I have the perfect answer.”
The de facto starter while Robert Griffin III recovers from a dislocated left ankle, Cousins has played in 11 games over three seasons — including three this year, with two starts. He’s played more snaps in that timeframe than many backup quarterbacks, often thriving when pressed into duty but also prone to making mistakes.
That, Cousins believes, is a byproduct of his youth — and it’s why he hasn’t had that much difficulty trying to stay level-headed and take a reasonable approach to each game.
“I’m the kind of guy that would like to know my future and like to know how things are going to play out, and I don’t, so I try not to ride the rollercoaster,” Cousins said. “I try to be as consistent as I can possibly be, and I think that approach is going to help me have success in this league. As a quarterback, you’re going to have things that go your way [and] you’re going to have times where it’s gonna be tough, and I think the guys that last are the guys who can ride it out and stay consistent no matter what.”
When asked about the interceptions after each game, Cousins has frequently vowed that he will learn from the error so that he will not make it again. As part of his routine later in the week, Cousins will watch film of the play himself, then ask his coaches to challenge him so that he understands the reasons why the mistake was made.
“You have to be brutally honest with yourself,” Cousins said. “You have to check your ego at the door when you walk into the film room and say to the coaches, ‘Let’s make sure this never happens again. However you’ve got to coach me, be hard on me to make sure that it gets through.’”
Cousins’ next start is Monday against Seattle, which rode a transcendent defense to a victory in the Super Bowl last season. The quarterback said that while the natural tendency may be to lay off a bit so he doesn’t make the same types of mistakes, it will be important for him to trust his instincts and play football.
“He’s very young with limited starts, and that’s gonna come with experience,” said coach Jay Gruden. “Staring down receivers is part of it that you have to learn from, and if you stare down receivers against these guys, you’re gonna throw more than four picks. You’re gonna throw about 11.
“But that just comes with time and comes with preparation and comes with learning from your reps that you get at practice and in games and moving forward when you do make a mistake. I have confidence that Kirk’s gonna bounce back from his four-pick day and do a much better job moving forward.”