- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 24, 2017

LANDOVER — Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins was relaxed following the Redskins’ 27-11 victory Sunday against the Denver Broncos. Decked out in a green Christmas-themed suit, Cousins addressed questions about his future.

Cousins, for his part, repeated the usual: he occasionally wonders about it but will address the situation when the season ends.

For now, he’s focused on getting the Redskins to 8-8 because, he said, there’s value — for him and for the franchise — in not finishing with a losing record.

“I want this brand, this organization to be associated with winning,” Cousins said. “I know 8-8 isn’t 13-3, but it also isn’t 7-9.”

The Redskins looked dead, figuratively speaking, at 5-8 and some wondered if Redskins coach Jay Gruden was in jeopardy of losing his job.

With no playoffs on the line, the Redskins won two in a row. Now 8-8 is in reach with next week’s game coming against the 2-13 New York Giants.Now, Washington has a chance to finish three straight years without a losing season for the first time since 1999-2001.

Gruden would be Washington’s first coach to accomplish that since Joe Gibbs (1990-1992).

“Everybody wrote us off and questioned the character and quitting,” Gruden said. “I knew that wouldn’t happen. The guys stepped up (against Denver) and there’s still a lot to play for. … I think these guys will be fired up.”

If they win Sunday at New York, the Redskins will likely end up with the same record that most people pegged them with before the start of the year. Las Vegas oddsmakers set the Washington’s over/under for wins at 7½.

But the way this season has turned has been unpredictable. Against the Broncos, the Redskins used three backup offensive linemen. Kapri Bibbs, signed almost two weeks ago, was the Redskins’ seventh running back to record a carry this year. 

By now, the Redskins’ injury situation is well-documented, but still bears repeating: Washington has 21 players on injured reserve — 14 of which were either starters or key backups.

Even with the injuries, Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder said the Redskins still have “a lot of playmakers in this building.”

“Down the stretch, we didn’t really play as well as we wanted to in other ball games, and obviously knocked us out of playoff contention,” Crowder said. “We still want to finish strong.”

Against the Broncos, there were moments when it was clear how much these final games still matter. The Redskins didn’t give up a sack and kept Cousins clean for most of the afternoon. Washington was also on the same page defensively, again getting after the quarterback.

But football is a hard sport to judge. With so much turnover year-to-year, it’s not clear how much, if any of this, is going to matter for next season. Does “momentum” really carry over from one season to the next?

Gruden said the final stretch is about “accomplishing the standard we set here.”

“Every week, you come and prepare and you play your tails off, and that’s what the guys are doing,” Gruden said. “We set a standard here with the veteran guys we’re going to have next year, and that’s how it’s going to be, week in and week out, no matter what the circumstances.”

Those circumstances could see Cousins leaving. But Gruden, like his quarterback, said that’s something to worry about when the season is over.

For now, the Redskins have the opportunity to finish 8-8. At first glance, that says the Redskins are an average team. The truth, given the injuries and the wild swings of the season, is much harder to pinpoint.

“I got a great group of guys here, people don’t understand, and I’m happy for all of them,” Gruden said, “but their character has been on display these last couple weeks and will be again next week.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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