LEESBURG, Va. — Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins is signed for this season — and this season only — and that’s why his coach, Jay Gruden, isn’t focused on anything beyond 2017. It’s too hard to predict what will happen this season, let alone the next several years.
Gruden doesn’t negotiate contracts, so he doesn’t have a lot of say in what’s going on with Cousins and the Redskins. Rather, Gruden’s job is to coach players to win this season — and that, of course, includes Cousins.
Cousins, as you might have heard, will play under the franchise tag for a second consecutive season. The Redskins have until July 15 to sign him to a long-term deal. If they don’t, they can’t talk about a contract with him until after the season. Clearly, Cousins’ future in Washington remains murky. But he’s here in 2017, and that’s what matters to Gruden.
“I won’t be concerned about [the deadline],” Gruden said at Ryan Kerrigan‘s golf tournament Monday to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. “I know he’ll be here this season, and that’s all I care about. Whatever happens, happens with him and his agent and our organization. But I’m excited to coach Kirk for a third year in a row.”
Cousins has played well for most of the past two years, establishing himself as a solid NFL starting quarterback. Gruden gave him the job near the end of the 2015 training camp and, after some rough early games, Cousins started to flourish. In those two years, Cousins has thrown for a combined 9,083 yards — establishing franchise records both seasons — 54 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.
It’ll be interesting to see how the year develops for Gruden and Cousins. Though Gruden has obviously been heavily involved in the offense, Sean McVay had served as the coordinator the past two years. McVay and Cousins bonded quite strongly in part because of similar personalities. But McVay is now the head coach with the Los Angeles Rams.
It’ll be an adjustment with a new playcaller – that’s not to say it can’t or won’t work, but it will be different. Gruden called plays in his first season with Washington, when Cousins started five games but ultimately was benched. Cousins, though, has improved quite a bit since 2014 — his growth was a key reason why they won 17 games combined the past two years.
Still, Cousins has a new position coach, coordinator and playcaller. Not to mention two new receivers — the bigger adjustment for him at that spot will be the loss of Pierre Garcon, though DeSean Jackson provided a major deep threat. The Redskins, though, still have the pieces in place to be a dangerous offense and might be more effective in the red zone with receiver Terrelle Pryor and running back Samaje Perine to pair with tight end Jordan Reed and receiver Jamison Crowder. There are changes; that doesn’t mean there need to be excuses. Gruden, after all, is a respected offensive mind with an offense that gets players open.
So this season could still be a good one. That’s why Gruden isn’t looking beyond 2017.
“He’s had two good years in our system, and I think it’s going to be very good for him. You’ll see major growth from him again,” Gruden said. “I’d love to have him for a long-term deal, but this is the year I’m worried about.”