Commanders still paying price for decision on Kirk Cousins

Taylor Heinicke’s benching in favor of Carson Wentz in the fourth quarter of the Commanders’ 37-20 loss to the 49ers on Saturday is the latest development in a trend that’s been all too familiar for Washington fans.

Since 2018, the Commanders have started 11 different quarterbacks. No one has started every game in a season for the team during that time period. Draft picks and veteran acquisitions alike have flopped and flopped hard. Bottom line: They have had zero stability at the most important position in football.

But the Minnesota Vikings do. Kirk Cousins has only missed one game since he signed in Minnesota in 2018, and currently has the Vikings sitting at 12-3.

As starter for Washington, Cousins compiled three straight seasons of at least 25 passing touchdowns, 4,000 passing yards and at least seven wins. It was the most consistent stretch of quality QB play Washington had seen in decades, and certainly better than what the team has had since.

Yet Cousins was never good enough in the eyes of many. He didn’t win big games. He couldn’t come through in the clutch. He wasn’t worth the big contract he wanted. Those narratives carried over to Minnesota, where in his first four seasons with the Vikings, he put up Pro Bowl-caliber numbers yet only made the playoffs once.

Then came this year. Cousins is actually having a down season statistically, with the lowest passer rating of his career as a starter. But he is finding ways to win. He leads the NFL in fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives (eight apiece). 

Last week, he led the biggest comeback in league history after the Vikings were down 33-0 to the Indianapolis Colts. And his once “overpriced” contract is now considered average QB money.

Cousins is Exhibit A of why “QB Wins” are misleading. Wins and losses are much more dependent on circumstances than anything one player can singlehandedly control, even a quarterback. But what will always be true is that wins are much easier to come by when you have consistently high-level QB play.

The Vikings realized this when they signed Cousins, and now they’re reaping the rewards. Washington did not, and their QB carousel continues to spin.


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