- - Thursday, January 26, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION

“I totally anticipate him coming back.”

Redskins coach Jay Gruden, when he was asked if he believes Kirk Cousins will return as the Washington Redskins quarterback next season.

Well, if Kirk Cousins — after two years as the starter in Washington, with 54 touchdown passes, 9,083 yards passing and a 17-14-1 record — is not the Redskins quarterback for the 2017 season, at least we’ll know how much power and influence Jay Gruden has in the organization.

There is some doubt that Gruden’s confident declaration speaks for the entire organization — particularly after what Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole wrote about Washington’s willingness to trade their record-setting starting quarterback, who is facing a number of different future scenarios, including a second year of a franchise tag and perhaps the least of which seems to be signing a long-term contract to stay in Washington, despite what Gruden says.

“Washington source indicated that are willing to weigh their options this offseason with quarterback Kirk Cousins, including the possibility of trading him with either San Francisco or Cleveland being the most likely destinations,” Cole wrote. “The 49ers would chase Cousins once they hire Kyle Shanahan, and perhaps include the No. 2 overall pick in the deal. The Browns also have interest, and Cousins played in the Hue Jackson offense under Jay Gruden.”



Imagine Cousins winding up in Cleveland, putting Robert Griffin III out of a job. Maybe we’ll see a new hashtag — #Ireallyhatethatguy.

It would appear that Jay Gruden is not on the same page with everyone in the building — that he may be out of the loop, so to speak — maybe farther than the 1,000 miles from Ashburn, Va., to Mobile, Ala., where Gruden spoke this week during a Senior Bowl practice.

There may be some tension between Gruden and general manager Scot McCloughan. Gruden took a shot at the front office in his post-season press conference when the coach said, “We’ve had, what, two first-round picks since I’ve been here? One of them hasn’t played a down — or played one game — and the other one is a guard. We have got to utilize our picks. We have got to make sure we do well in the draft the next year or two and make sure that we continue to add to the talent that we have.”

You could argue that Gruden’s Senior Bowl comments were supported by team president Bruce Allen, who, in an interview with SiriusXM’s NFL Radio this week, seemingly backed Gruden’s expectation of Cousins‘ return.

When asked, on a scale of 1 to 10, if the likelihood of Cousins being with the team is a 10, Allen said, “Yeah …. Kirk’s our quarterback. He played well the last two years, and I know there’s other speculation, but it doesn’t come from the Redskins.”

Still, it’s important to remember that Bruce Allen has been known to practice the art of “alternative facts.” His nickname when he was running the Tampa Bay Bucs was the “Prince of Darkness.” So if you are a Cousins supporter, I wouldn’t get too giddy about Allen saying, “Kirk’s our quarterback.”

This is what Allen said in July 2014: “There’s no doubt in our mind that Robert’s going to be an excellent quarterback in this league.”

It’s all reading tea leaves at this point — who said what and what they really meant. We have never heard from the one person who has the most power and influence — owner Daniel Snyder. I suspect that the presence of Cousins is a daily reminder of the failure of his buddy — RGIII — and he would rather chew broken glass than sign a check for $100 million to Kirk Cousins.

McCloughan has been silent of late, but when he has spoken in the past, he has made it clear he is not a big fan of putting a large chunk of payroll money into the pocket of just one player. He didn’t draft Kirk Cousins, and general managers are fond of picking their own quarterbacks.

These are the people making the decisions that Cousins spoke of this week at the Pro Bowl in Orlando, where he’ll play this weekend.

Asked if he had any idea he would be returning to Washington for the 2017 season, Cousins told NFL.com, “I don’t know. I think you have to have an open mind but ultimately it’s not in my hands in the sense that the team is going to make that decision and I’ll react accordingly.

“I’d love to have a crystal ball that tells me what I’m going to do next year and 50 years after that, but that’s not life,” Cousins said. “And that’s not life in this league. I’ll just take it a year at a time and trust in the Lord’s plan.”

He’s not kidding about that. Like I wrote several weeks ago, Kirk Cousins‘ blueprint for life is the Bible. He is looking at his future with a different vision than what I am sure they are used to at Redskins Park.

You would think that Cousins wouldn’t need a crystal ball. After all, the head coach of the Washington Redskins says he will be back.

Who would know better than him — right?

• Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes and Google Play.

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