- - Sunday, November 26, 2017

Last week, Kirk Cousins said he was playing the best football of his career.

A few days later, the Washington Redskins said we’re not impressed.

After the 34-31 overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 19, Cousins said on 106.7 The Fan the next day that “it’s not even close. I’m playing the best football I’ve played.”

Given the long list of injuries on the offensive line and at running back, plus the lack of offensive weapons the front office gave Cousins to work with, he is right. He has his team at 5-6 with no sign of collapse. Treading water with this group might be the best football any quarterback could play.

A few days after his radio interview, as Cousins was about to take the field for the Thanksgiving game against the New York Giants for a 20-10 win at FedEx Landfill, the NFL Network reported that the decision makers in the organization — presumably team president Bruce Allen and owner Dan Snyder — need to see more before deciding whether or not to offer Cousins what would have to be a record-setting long-term contract. Or, at the very least, pay him $34 million under the franchise tag next season after paying him $44 million under that designation these past two years.

“What will be the deciding factor in that call?” wrote Ian Rapoport. “His play down the stretch will have a huge impact.

“Riddled with injuries, with half of his offensive line on injured reserve and two top running backs out, Cousins can step to the forefront and will his team to some victories late in the season. The thinking goes that franchise QBs pull their teams to two or three wins a year that other teams with pedestrian passers have no chance at. If Cousins does, it will solidify his standing as the ‘Skins star for the future and his contract will be in line with what other elite passers get (Lions quarterback Matt Stafford’s extension averages $27 million per year).

“If Cousins does not, the Redskins might not deem him not worthy of $34.5 million in 2018 as a jumping off point for negotiations and they might be in the hunt for a new quarterback who’s more efficient, cap-wise,” he wrote. “It’s not a question of whether they want Cousins to be their quarterback. It’s a question of value.”

No. It’s a question of dysfunction. It’s a question of incompetence. It’s a question of integrity.

It was curious timing that this NFL Network report comes on the heels of Cousins’ declaration of playing the best football of his career. But there is nothing curious about the content and where it comes from — Redskins Park.

“His play over the last month-plus of the season will go a long way in determining if he’s the Redskins quarterback of the future or not,” the report stated.

Cousins is smart enough to know where this came from and why. And if he is keeping score on slights and slings, this is just another checkmark on the long list of cons of why — if given the opportunity to leave — he should run away from the Washington Redskins.

At the very least, Cousins’ radio interview and the NFL Network report shows how far apart the two sides are in their perceptions of his play, even after he has established himself as the best quarterback this team has had in 25 years.

Here is Cousins’ long-term view of himself as an NFL quarterback. “I’m encouraged by the fact that every year I’ve played, I’ve continued to improve,” Cousins said on 106.7 The Fan. “There’s no doubt, a year ago, two years ago, I’m not doing what I’m doing this year. It’s simply because I’ve gotten better, more experienced, have a better mastery of the offense. It enables me to still be productive as we’ve faced adversity. And I’m glad that we didn’t facet that adversity two years ago, because I probably wouldn’t have been able to have the production that I had, but now two years later it’s still possible. And I’m excited for two years from now, where I could be if I continue to stay healthy and go out there and play. Because every time I go out there, I get better and continue to improve.”

What Cousins is saying that if Washington — or anyone else — invests in him now, that two years from now, if he stays healthy (one of his tremendous assets is his durability), whoever is paying him will be getting a bargain.

If you go back two years ago — when the team offered Cousins a so-called “long-term” contract with just $24 million in guaranteed money — and instead, if they had offered the quarterback a fair market deal at the time and locked him in, it would have been a bargain, based on what Cousins has done since then — 44 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and 7,945 yards passing in the last 27 games.

Here is what Snyder and Allen have accomplished with their shortsighted posturing — they have turned their quarterback into a weekly referendum dividing their damaged fanbase on what is wrong with the Washington Redskins.

I’m guessing like Dracula’s castle, there are no mirrors in their offices.

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

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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