- - Sunday, June 25, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

When Robert Griffin III walked the halls of Redskins Park, he was in charge.

He decided what music they would hear in the weight room. If his parents needed a ride to FedEx Field, a limo would be sent to pick them up.

King RG3 wanted a boat? The owner let him use his yacht.

Kirk Cousins? He was lucky they gave him a locker.

But did RG3 have real power, or the illusion of power? Griffin had as much power as the Redskins were willing to give him.

Cousins, though, now has power — real power. Dan Snyder may buy him a yacht if Cousins wants one.

The Redskins may have to make Kirk Cousins the highest paid player in NFL history if they want him in a Redskins uniform for the foreseeable future.

With the July 17 deadline looming for the team to sign Cousins to a long-term contract or else live with the one-year, $24 million franchise tag deal they have, industry observers continue to marvel at the leverage Cousins has over the franchise.

“He is in a position of power,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter said in January. “He holds the keys there.”

Six months later, Cousins‘ position has only improved. “Cousins has so much leverage that a new Redskins official compliments him publicly every day,” Gregg Rosenthal of nfl.com tweeted Thursday. “The ‘Skins are forced to campaign for Cousins just to take their money because the QB knows greater riches are around the corner if he becomes available next offseason.”

The Redskins gave Cousins all this power by refusing to commit to a long-term contract earlier in the process. Committing to Counsins was reportedly something that departed general manager Scot McCloughan wanted to do.

You remember the McCloughan era, don’t you? When chaos reigned and the team was in a downward spiral — not like now, with the franchise in the hands of this new well-oiled front office.

The team opted not to sign Cousins when McCloughan wanted to because, well, they could. They had the power then.

Now, it’s like that scene in “A Bronx Tale,” where Chazz Palminteri, playing mobster Sonny LoSpecchio, locks a motorcycle gang inside a mob bar they refused to leave after starting to break it up and says, “Now youse can’t leave.” Narrator Calogero Anello describes how, in that moment, the gang lost all power.

When the Redskins tagged Cousins not once, but twice, they lost all their power — ironically, even though the franchise tag is a device to control the player.

Not this time.

Cousins‘ value has only gone up, as the market price for quarterbacks has risen dramatically, the latest being Raiders quarterback Derek Carr’s record-setting $125 million deal. Cousins will likely require more.

The question of Cousins‘ ability to win big games is still unanswered — he performed poorly in his two most important games in the past two seasons, the playoff loss to Green Bay in January 2016 and the shameful, embarrassing defeat at the hands of the New York Giants in the final game of last season, eliminating the team from the playoffs.

But the numbers he compiles, week in and week out, are among the best at the position in the league — 54 touchdowns, 23 interceptions and more than 9,000 yard passing the last two seasons, while playing all 32 games. There is no reason to believe that those numbers will diminish, although, contrary to local cheerleader opinion, Terrelle Pryor and Brian Quick will not be Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson.

Cousins won’t get cheaper — if the team opts to franchise the quarterback for a thrid season, the Redskins will have paid him an astonishing $78 million in guaranteed salary with assurance he’ll be on the roster beyond 2018 — after all that, Cousins could still leave as a free agent.

Redskins’ icon and newly-crowned director of player personnel Doug Williams has already made one misstep — he asked that Cousins look “at the big picture” in an interview on the NFL Network, part of the team’s latest public begging campaign for Cousins to take their money.

The “big picture” is an unpredictable, petty owner who once treated Cousins like a limo driver and a team president who, since he arrived at the end of the 2009 season, has contributed to a 45-66-1 record.

The “big picture” leaves the Redskins in the rear view mirror — powerless.

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

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