Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features

PetersMar15.jpg

» Scramble for the Ball: 2017 West Over/Unders

If the Cardinals and Seahawks will fly so high, the 49ers and Broncos tell their friends goodbye, and the Chargers and Rams start life anew, what exactly will the Raiders and Chiefs do? Your Scramble team seeks a peaceful life in the open air out west.

14 Jul 2016

Film Room: Kirk Cousins

by Cian Fahey

In an interview with Jason Cole of Bleacher Report, Washington general manager Scot McCloughan said that he told Kirk Cousins, "we're going to build this roster to where you can be average and still be good." McCloughan spoke at length in that interview, but those were the words that stood out.

McCloughan is a smart general manager who has an unparalleled track record to fall back on. He played a major role in building not one, but two of the best rosters in the NFL over the past decade. McCloughan built the foundation of Jim Harbaugh's squads when the former San Francisco head coach took the 49ers to three straight NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl. McCloughan then proceeded to play a significant role in building the team that ultimately beat Harbaugh's 49ers in their final NFC Championship appearance. McCloughan was a senior personnel executive for the Seattle Seahawks from 2010 to 2013 and had a hand in drafting Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, Kam Chancellor, K.J. Wright, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, and Russell Wilson. Personal issues prevented McCloughan from staying with either franchise, allowing Washington to appoint him as their GM after the 2014 season.

Understanding McCloughan's presence in Washington is important. He has brought a rational thought process and an expert level of evaluation to a franchise that has been mired in dysfunction for years. Previous regimes would likely have rushed into re-signing Cousins after the season he had in 2015, but McCloughan has so far taken the patient route.

Washington put the franchise tag on Cousins after the 2015 season. The deadline to give him a contract extension is tomorrow, July 15, but all reports suggest that there is no chance McCloughan pays Cousins unless he gets a discount that the quarterback isn't looking to give.

Cousins can demand big money without being laughed out of the room because of his production last year. After sitting behind Robert Griffin III for the first three seasons of his career, Cousins was named the starter during last year's preseason and went on to throw for more than 4,000 yards. He threw 29 touchdowns to only 11 interceptions while averaging 7.7 yards per attempt. Despite his impressive numbers, Cousins became the most polarizing player in the NFL. That brings us back to that sentence, "you can be average and still be good."

Up until Week 10, Cousins' numbers were as expected. He averaged 6.3 yards per attempt while throwing 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Washington was 3-5 and headed nowhere. In Week 10, things turned around and Cousins was considered the catalyst. McCloughan's team blew out the New Orleans Saints, with Cousins completing 20 of 25 passes for 324 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. From that point onwards, Cousins only had one more regular season game with a quarterback rating below 100, an 89.2 against the Carolina Panthers in Week 11. He averaged 9.4 yards per attempt while throwing 19 touchdowns and just two interceptions. The simplest summation is that Cousins improved after Week 9. It's an easy narrative to sell: he needed that time to get comfortable in the offense after taking over without a full training camp and preseason as the full-time starter. It follows a natural plot line and is inarguably logical. The problem is, Cousins was average and was still good.

If we look specifically at that Week 10 game against the Saints, we can see that Cousins averaged 13.0 yards per attempt, but the average depth of his throws was a measly 4.4. Cousins had three screens go for 138 yards, and gained 202 yards with two touchdowns on Simple YAC throws (passes where the ball doesn't travel further than 2 yards past the line of scrimmage). On that day, Cousins only needed to be average to be good -- to be great even.

That is largely how Cousins was productive over the second half of the regular season. His offensive line became one of the most effective in the league, guided by offensive line coach Bill Callahan. Jordan Reed dominated every defender who tried to cover him. Pierre Garcon was constantly adjusting to passes with ease, and DeSean Jackson remained uncoverable. Even Jamison Crowder surpassed all expectations with his play. You can't evaluate those elements using raw stats, but you can isolate the quarterback from his supporting cast by charting his throws.


Kirk Cousins Accuracy, First Eight Games, 2015
Pass Distance 5 or Less 6-15 16-25 26 or more
Outside Numbers Left 83.3% 36 64.3% 14 62.5% 8 30.0% 10
Outside Hashes Left 87.2% 47 64.3% 14 45.5% 11 0.0% 1
Between Hashes 93.3% 15 78.6% 14 75.0% 4
N/A
Outside Hashes Right 92.1% 38 84.6% 13 28.6% 7
N/A
Outside Numbers Right 85.7% 35 43.8% 16 25.0% 8 33.3% 3

The above chart tracks all of Cousins' throws from the first eight games of the season. His completion rate of 67 percent was eighth-best among quarterbacks in that timeframe, but his accuracy percentage was 74 percent, a mark that would have ranked 28th in the NFL over the whole season. The discrepancy lies in the offense that Jay Gruden asks his quarterback to run. Fifty-eight percent of Cousins' passes traveled 5 yards or fewer past the line of scrimmage last season. Not only did he lead the league in that measurement, he was a full 10 percent ahead of Derek Carr, who runs a somewhat similar offense, and a full 20 percent ahead of Cam Newton, who runs the polar opposite offense. When you're not throwing the ball down the field, your completion percentage should be as high as Cousins' was.

Cousins couldn't throw the ball downfield at all over the first half of the season. When he was completing passes, he was relying on his receivers to make outstanding adjustments to pull in inaccurate passes.

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

The above play gains 18 yards, but it is an awful throw from Cousins. Jamison Crowder makes an outrageous adjustment before pulling the ball up off the ground with his hands. This is the type of adjustment that could very easily have resulted in a torn ACL (just ask Reggie Wayne) because of how the receiver had to torque and turn his body.

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

As a weak-armed passer, Cousins can't throw with precision downfield. He has to force passes more to get them there on time, which takes away from his placement. The above play against the St. Louis Rams is a prime example of Cousins completing a pass but making an inaccurate throw. This should have been a long touchdown reception; Janoris Jenkins completely bought on the out route that the receiver, Ryan Grant, never ran. Cousins should have led Grant downfield, allowing him to run underneath the ball and continue on towards the end zone. Instead, as soon as Grant got level with the cornerback he began to slow down, turning to find the football as it arrived on his back shoulder. Grant made an impressive adjustment to pull the ball in but had to sacrifice his momentum and his footing to do so. This was a deep completion, but far from an accurate pass.

Over this period, Cousins was also regularly throwing interceptable passes. He had 17 interceptable passes on 308 attempts, or one interceptable pass in every 18.1 attempts. Only three quarterbacks -- Johnny Manziel, Peyton Manning, and Andrew Luck -- had a worse ratio for the full season. Cousins was extremely lucky that only nine of those passes turned into interceptions, because more than a few were awful throws.

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

The above GIF comes from Week 1 when Cousins had already been intercepted twice. The first was particularly awful, and the second had come on the pass attempt that immediately preceded the above play. With five minutes left, this play should have sealed the game for the Dolphins. Jamar Taylor is always waiting on the ball and Cousins simply heaves it into the general direction of Pierre Garcon. He panicked in the pocket and threw the ball up for grabs. Taylor played Garcon perfectly, but watched the ball slide through his hands instead of landing comfortably between them.

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

The following week, Cousins made a similar but worse throw towards Ryan Grant. This time it was Trumaine Johnson of the Rams who let him off the hook with a drop.

In Week 3, Cousins had four interceptable passes against the Giants; only two were caught. Prince Amukamara had the first interception with a great break on a predetermined throw off of play-action to Garcon. Then, early in the second quarter, serial offender Landon Collins was beaten in coverage, only for Cousins to underthrow a relatively easy touchdown to Jordan Reed.

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

Collins has awful ball skills. He turns his head early enough to locate the ball on this play, but doesn't know how to catch it with both hands, instead settling to bat it away with one. Collins is extremely rigid so he's not comfortable making this type of play. Your average defensive back wouldn't have been so forgiving.

Two weeks later against the Atlanta Falcons, Cousins overthrows Garcon on a deep in-breaking route. Garcon fully extends and makes an admirable attempt at erasing the inaccuracy even though he knows he could be punished for opening his body like that over the middle of the field.

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

The ball eludes Garcon's hands and hits those of the trailing cornerback. Not only does he fail to make the catch, he knocks the ball away from the safety behind him, who has crouched down to cradle the ball before it hits the ground.

At this point, you get the idea but to be sure, here are two more examples from the first half of the season.

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

So here we reach the Saints game, where Cousins doesn't have to throw the ball downfield to put up huge numbers. By DVOA, the Saints weren't just the worst defense in the league last year, but the worst defense we have ever measured. It's not hyperbolic to suggest that any quarterback could have put up huge numbers against the Saints that day in that situation. Quarterbacks who faced the Saints defense last season averaged a 116.2 quarterback rating, 13.9 points higher than against any other defense.

Cousins and the Washington offense faced a lot of inferior opponents over the second half of the season. With the abundance of talent around him, it would often have been tougher for him to struggle than to produce the numbers that he did.

In three of his final eight games during the regular season, Cousins faced the worst defense in the league (and the last quarter-century), the Saints; the second-worst, the Bears; and the third-worst, the Giants. He only faced two defenses that ranked in the top 16 from Week 10 onwards (one if you discount the playoffs). Two of his biggest games came against the Bills and Eagles, two defenses that ranked much worse in weighted DVOA than they did in DVOA for the season. Cousins' success obviously played a part in that number, but when you watch those games you can see how overwhelmed those units were by the level of talent in the Washington offense.


Kirk Cousins Accuracy, Final Nine Games (Including Playoffs), 2015
Pass Distance 5 or Less 6-15 16-25 26 or more
Outside Numbers Left 91.4% 35 66.7% 15 76.9% 13 42.9% 7
Outside Hashes Left 90.6% 32 75.0% 12 44.4% 9 100.0% 1
Between Hashes 84.6% 13 85.7% 7 40.0% 5
N/A
Outside Hashes Right 87.5% 40 73.3% 15 100.0% 3 0.0% 2
Outside Numbers Right 85.7% 28 50.0% 8 83.3% 6 33.3% 6

Above is Cousins' pass chart from Week 10 onwards. His accuracy rate improved over the second half of the season, from 74 percent to 78 percent. Cousins obviously deserves some credit for this, but the situation can't be glossed over. Windows became wider against less-talented defenses, the improvement of the offensive line was obvious for anyone to see, and the structure of the offense was altered. In the above chart, you can see that Cousins' improvement came in the intermediate ranges. He was more accurate to the right and left while remaining inaccurate between the hashes and to the left of the hashes. Cousins' improvement in this area can largely be put down to Washington's use of hard play fakes against ill-disciplined defenses.

Over the first eight games of the season, Cousins attempted 16 play-action passes to the intermediate level of the field. From Week 10 onwards, he attempted 23 (albeit in one extra game). Cousins was always productive on these plays, but the offense went through a stretch where he couldn't find them leading up to Week 9.

Throwing off play-action in general became a big part of the Washington offense over the second half of the season. Over the first nine weeks of the season, Cousins completed 32 of 46 play-action passes for 403 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Over the second half of the season, Cousins completed 39 of 54 passes for 744 yards, five touchdowns, and one interception. He went from averaging 8.8 yards per play-action pass attempt to averaging 13.8.

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

Play-action simplifies the read and throw for the quarterback and asks him to simply throw a catchable pass within the timing of the play. In the above GIF we can see the benefit of play-action as Jordan Reed is left wide open between four defenders over the middle of the field.

Play-action passes are only effective when the defense makes a mistake. As such, they are useful for exploiting bad defenders but less so for attacking talented defenders. In the above play, the Eagles' right-sided inside linebacker completely sells out to play the run fake when he sees the pulling guard. This is an impressive play design from Gruden, but also a startlingly bad mistake by the defender.

This pass was considered accurate, but even when throwing to a wide-open receiver Cousins forces his very tall tight end to leave his feet and catch the ball over his head. This isn't a problem when the receiver is wide-open, but against a better defense the safety might have closed quicker and had an opportunity to burrow into Reed's midsection because of the ball placement.

When Nick Foles was thriving with the Philadelphia Eagles, he was doing so in this fashion. His floating passes that would arrive slightly off target on a regular basis didn't matter in Chip Kelly's scheme behind a dominant offensive line with receivers who could comfortably adjust at the catch point. Foles could make reads from spacious pockets, while he was rarely forced to throw into tight windows downfield because of the design of the offense and the execution around him. Over the second half of last season, all of these elements could be seen in Washington.

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

Cousins was propped up by the talent around him and the absence of talent across from him. To what degree and for how long this is sustainable is unclear. It wasn't sustainable for Foles because the Eagles couldn't maintain an offense with 10 above-average starters playing around him. As one example of how difficult it could be to sustain what Cousins did over the second half of last year, the quarterback had six Simple YAC plays of 31 or more yards in the last two months of 2015. Cousins was the only quarterback to benefit from six such plays all season, and Matthew Stafford and Carson Palmer were the only other quarterbacks to even get five.

The next question is whether Cousins can take care of the ball well enough to keep the offense on track regardless of its talent.

Cousins' ball security improved in the second half of last year -- which isn't saying much. Cousins had nine interceptable passes over his final nine games last year, one every 28.6 attempts (which would have ranked 16th if extrapolated out over the full season).

The main concern there is how Cousins finished the season. He had one of his worst games of the year against the Green Bay Packers. Cousins' numbers were again saved by some poor defensive back play and yardage that was bloated in garbage time (He gained 104 of his 329 yards while trailing by 17 points with fewer than five minutes left in the fourth quarter).

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

This play comes with just over nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. Washington is trailing by 13 points, but there is still enough time to avoid desperate Hail Mary-like throws. Cousins forces this pass down the right sideline, leading two defenders to the ball. Those defenders then take each other out, preventing either from catching the ball. Cousins had a wide-open checkdown option underneath who would have gained at least 7 yards to move the offense into a more manageable situation on a third down in four-down territory.

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

Later in the fourth quarter, Cousins underthrew a jump ball to Jordan Reed that went straight to Micah Hyde. Hyde dropped an easy interception.

It's hard to put a positive spin on Cousins' propensity for throwing interceptable passes. Some quarterbacks throw a lot of interceptable passes, but they aren't awful throws straight to defenders so they aren't regularly caught. Other quarterbacks throw fewer interceptable passes but their throws are so poor that it's often easy for the defensive back to pull them in. Cousins combines the worst of both worlds, throwing awful interceptable passes at too high of a rate. It's possible that he will outgrow this trait and benefit from the smart scheming that Gruden can build around him, but rationally projecting success based on his whole career to this point is very difficult to do.

McCloughan is talking about getting average to be good. Average is regularly received as a negative, but being an average quarterback in the NFL is being a top-16 or top-20 talent at the very least. Players like that aren't all that easy to find.

Posted by: Cian Fahey on 14 Jul 2016

56 comments, Last at 15 Sep 2016, 3:08pm by usernaim250

Comments

1
by AsleepT :: Thu, 07/14/2016 - 3:35pm

All that glitters is not gold.

2
by NYCsportsfan96 :: Thu, 07/14/2016 - 6:37pm

Congratulations, you wrote an entire article about a player and didn't mention his team name once. Kirk Cousins plays for the Washington REDSKINS. The other day you had an article ranking NFL teams' offensive depth and you mentioned every team name except for the REDSKINS. Just don't write about the team if you are going to disrespect them. You have no place writing about sports with your petty PC mentality. We're here to learn more about the sport that we love, not to see some nobody make a political statement.

3
by Kaelik :: Thu, 07/14/2016 - 7:06pm

Unlike your comment, I didn't even notice that he didn't mention the team name, because some "political statements" like not saying words you find offensive are not even particularly noticeable, unlike others, like whining about how the mean PC people are being mean by not agreeing with you, which is always noticeable.

4
by NYCsportsfan96 :: Thu, 07/14/2016 - 7:46pm

Last time he literally listed every team in the NFL by city and name and then only put the city for the Redskins. This time wasn't as noticeable but it's really ridiculous and has no place in sports writing. How could you write an entire piece on a player and not mention the name of the team he plays for? It's unprofessional. Just don't write about the team then.

5
by jacklaughing :: Thu, 07/14/2016 - 11:09pm

It's too bad you feel threatened by this article on Kirk Cousins but that's your problem.

7
by Kaelik :: Fri, 07/15/2016 - 1:50am

As a fan of a variety of not New York (New Jersey) football teams, I have a 100% success rate determining when people are talking about my favorite NFL teams based on city. Talking about whether Alshon will make a deal with Chicago before the season starts rustles my jimmies 0%.

8
by RobotBoy :: Fri, 07/15/2016 - 6:24am

I agree completely! In the future, Fahey should make sure to use "Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons" when referring to the Washington Deadskins so that perpetually disgruntled Trump supporters will know exactly what bad football team he's referring to and will sally forth to blow hot air on some other comment section, far from FO.

10
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Fri, 07/15/2016 - 8:59am

RJ has officially renamed them the Squirrels. I endorse his choice

15
by Scott C :: Fri, 07/15/2016 - 5:58pm

Hmm, I didn't even notice that. Thanks for pointing it out.

I'm glad Cian avoided the racial slur.

6
by Dan :: Thu, 07/14/2016 - 11:22pm

These writeups feel too one-sided to me. Bridgewater, Cousins, Dalton, Flacco, and Taylor all seem like mid-range starters with strengths & weaknesses. I think I'd learn more from articles that went into some depth on the main strengths and weaknesses of each quarterback, instead of picking one side or the other.

9
by timeforchange :: Fri, 07/15/2016 - 7:36am

That's because the articles are based on how much Cian personally likes the QB, and the tone of the article follows from that foundation.

Based on Cians articles Bridgewater should be in the HoF and Flacco should be unemployed. Bridgewater had amazing anticipation and poise all season and Flacco didn't make a single quality pass in the entire 2015 season. That's how stark the contrast in tone is. I agree, way too one sided.

Each article is basically a laundry list of gifs that illustrate Cians personal bias.

If he likes the QB, all the gifs are positive. If he doesn't, they're all negative.

No room for in between. That's silly to me.

Good to see another person who doesn't blindly swallow the content and the narrative and accept it as the only truth simply because this website published it.

11
by Never Surrender :: Fri, 07/15/2016 - 10:08am

Agreed. Comparing the Bridgewater article to this one is especially telling.

12
by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 07/15/2016 - 12:31pm

That would be ideal, for sure, but I'd rather see one side in depth than both superficially. I mean, an article can only be so long.

13
by jlaw37 :: Fri, 07/15/2016 - 12:56pm

I'm a Viking fan and I have watched each of Teddy's games multiple times and I saw all the things Cian pointed out in that article, so I knew how much better Teddy played than his stats indicated. I haven't watched any of Kirk Cousins games and if you had asked me before I read this if he should get a long term extension, I would have looked at what people were saying and looked at his stats and said yes.
The arguments may seem a bit one-sided, but I think they have to be that way because they are going against the mainstream thinking. General consensus is that Cousins was very good this year and was a driving factor in why they made the playoffs. General consensus is Teddy was not very good and was merely a passenger on a very talented playoff team. According to these articles, Cousins was average in an offense that made things easier for him and Bridgewater was very good in an offense that made things nearly impossible for him.

14
by Cian Fahey :: Fri, 07/15/2016 - 3:43pm

If a player's skill set and his performances are 80% bad, I'm going to focus on that 80%. If it's the opposite I'll focus on the 80%. These aren't scouting reports. It's not about listing out a player's strengths and weaknesses, it's about capturing who the player is and to do that you need to look at the overriding majority when there is an overriding majority.

Also, you won't find other articles where the author is literally watching every single pass multiple times and representing every single pass visually the way I do in these articles. I highlight the plays that represent the whole, which is far from nitpicking to stick to a predetermined narrative.

52
by jlaw37 :: Fri, 07/22/2016 - 1:35am

I hope you didn't take my comment as a criticism, because I love everyone of the film room series and I think they are extremely accurate in capturing a player. I was responding to other commenters suggesting they were one sided. I was just trying to point out that if someone has an opinion of a player based on what numerous people are saying (even if it's wrong) and then you get someone, like yourself, who goes into detail and illustrates that widely viewed opinion is wrong, it can seem one sided, especially to a fan of that player. They come into it with a predetermined narrative and assume you must also.

As I said I love your work, and the articles on Teddy are great because I've watched everyone of Teddy's games numerous times and I see the same things you see, you just do a much better job of saying the things I want to say.

16
by Redskins828791 :: Sat, 07/16/2016 - 12:56am

Watch Cian's antics on Twitter, and it is hard to ignore the likely role personal bias plays in his analyses.I will give this fairly subjective "interceptable" stat a fair chance, but you will have a hard time convincing me that throwing 2 INTs over 9 games is some outlier for a guy who didn't even have an off-season as the starter. It is also hard to ignore how sensitive Cian is. His block finger is definitely hot. Dude is not interested in spirited debate at all. He blocked me for disagreeing with him. As a somewhat public figure, I have nothing to gain by acting stupid on social media. I know of many other victims of Cian's ban finger. For someone who claims that he got into this to make film work more accessible to Joe Fan, he seems to have a lot of contempt for many in his audience who have the audacity to disagre with him.

17
by tuluse :: Sat, 07/16/2016 - 3:03am

"you will have a hard time convincing me that throwing 2 INTs over 9 games is some outlier for a guy who didn't even have an off-season as the starter."

Let me introduce to one Josh McCown.

Int rate can be very fluky.

18
by Kaelik :: Sat, 07/16/2016 - 4:03am

Aren't outliers deviations from the norm? Doesn't every other game of Kirk Cousin's Career prove that his one nine game stretch is an outlier?

19
by onelasttime :: Sat, 07/16/2016 - 4:10pm

Those 9 games comprise over a third of his career starts and came in the first season he actually began as the team's starter. He still hasn't had anything close to a full offseason of starter reps.

20
by Kaelik :: Sat, 07/16/2016 - 6:59pm

Okay, but how does that change that by definition the best third of his career is an outlier relative to the other two thirds of his career?

Look, I'm just saying, Nick Foles exists. When someone has amazingly few interventions, and people tell you it is interception luck, you should strongly consider the possibility that it is interception luck. It's fine to hope Kirk Cousins transformed over night into the greatest QB of all time and he will totally maintain that TD to interception ratio better than Tom Brady forever. But it isn't reasonable to believe that.

21
by Redskins828791 :: Sat, 07/16/2016 - 8:09pm

"It's fine to hope Kirk Cousins transformed over night into the greatest QB of all time and he will totally maintain that TD to interception ratio better than Tom Brady forever. But it isn't reasonable to believe that."

This is the kind of straw man BS Cian and others--like you, apparently--operate from. Fans express optimism for a guy who could be a long-term, mid-level starter, and you misrepresent their optimism as homerific delusion in order to bolster your case. You keep bringing up Nick Foles while not mentioning that he put up those numbers in year one of a gimmick offense that blindsided the NFL in 2013. Cousins is running standard WCO-type stuff. The Redskins actually have one of the slowest tempos in the league. Finally, why is it unreasonable or insignificant to point out that Cousins has never taken first-team off-seasons reps in Gruden's offense? If you want to play semantics and view his most recent work as an outlier by the numbers only, go ahead, but that's a rather shallow analysis. Now go ahead and conflate all of my comments here with "OMG COUSINS IS THE NEXT JOE MONTANTA! SUPER BOWL!"

22
by theslothook :: Sat, 07/16/2016 - 8:13pm

You still have to explain Josh Mccown...

24
by Redskins828791 :: Sat, 07/16/2016 - 11:21pm

"You still have to explain Josh Mccown..."

No I don't. That's the dumbest expectation ever, that I would have to "explain" Cousins's worst case scenario. That might be a reasonable request if I were on here making outlandish predictions about Cousins. Do you have any more red herrings to offer up?

30
by theslothook :: Sun, 07/17/2016 - 2:42am

Ok, I'll try not to be condescending.

Kirk Cousins' half a season worth of stats are impressive, but a broader look at qb statistics can and SHOULD temper expectations.

The josh Mccown example is instructive in that sometimes a qb can put up great statistics over a short period of time and then overnight revert back to what he has always been. Its not as if Mccown just got lucky either. Pff, qbr, and FO all graded him well. It was just - it was so ought of character to who he had been that it was reasonable to be skeptical. And of course, he reverted back to what he had been previously. Its not limited to Josh Mccown either. See Josh Freeman, see Matt Cassel, see Jason Campbell, see Scott Mitchell, see even Mike Vick after 2013 or Nick Foles.

No matter how great half a season was, its happened before and the aforementioned examples are all reasons why everyone should be skeptical until proven otherwise.

23
by Kaelik :: Sat, 07/16/2016 - 9:06pm

Cousins had a nine game stretch against several bad defenses that is no more impressive than any other QBs nine game stretch.

Look, if you want to contend that Cousins could be a long term mid level starter, then fine, do that, he could be, he could also not be. But that isn't what you said. What you did was dispute that an interception ratio better than any QB in the entire league was an outlier... Why you would dispute that if you recognize that it is an outlier that won't be reflected in his season totals ever in his entire career I don't know, but that's what you did.

"but you will have a hard time convincing me that throwing 2 INTs over 9 games is some outlier for a guy who didn't even have an off-season as the starter." -You

"Aren't outliers deviations from the norm? Doesn't every other game of Kirk Cousin's Career prove that his one nine game stretch is an outlier?" -Me

"Those 9 games comprise over a third of his career starts and came in the first season he actually began as the team's starter. He still hasn't had anything close to a full offseason of starter reps." -Some Guy

I mean look at that. If you aren't contending that his interception rate that is better than the career rate of any QB ever in the history of the NFL isn't an outlier, then why on earth would you say that you won't be convinced it's an outlier?

Yes, it is possible that it's an outlier and he will end up being a shittier Jay Cutler. It's also possible that it's an outlier and he will end up being a nick foles garbage. But it's not even remotely possible that it isn't an outlier, because Kirk Cousins is not a better QB than Tom Brady.

25
by Redskins828791 :: Sat, 07/16/2016 - 11:45pm

"Cousins had a nine game stretch against several bad defenses that is no more impressive than any other QBs nine game stretch."

No one said this stretch was awesomely "impressive" more than they acknowledged his progress. Anyone who has actually watched him over the years--beyond scanning box scores on NFL.com--knows he has had a confidence problem, a problem that diminished over the course of 2015. Sorry I don't have a bunch of sparkly gifs to insert here.

"Look, if you want to contend that Cousins could be a long term mid level starter, then fine, do that, he could be, he could also not be."

Thank you for at least representing my position fairly and accurately.

"But that isn't what you said."

Nevermind.

"What you did was dispute that an interception ratio better than any QB in the entire league was an outlier...Why you would dispute that if you recognize that it is an outlier that won't be reflected in his season totals ever in his entire career I don't know, but that's what you did."

I never compared him directly to anyone else, so that implicit comparison means more to you than me, since I view the reduced INTs in his last nine games as genuine progress. Why wouldn't I dispute it if I just read an article where the writer's thesis is basically, "Cousins was really lucky in the last nine games"? Duh.

"I mean look at that. If you aren't contending that his interception rate that is better than the career rate of any QB ever in the history of the NFL isn't an outlier, then why on earth would you say that you won't be convinced it's an outlier?"

Because I just read an article where the writer's thesis is basically, "Cousins was really lucky in the last nine games."

"But it's not even remotely possible that it isn't an outlier, because Kirk Cousins is not a better QB than Tom Brady."

You mean there's a *chance* he could be really good and still be an outlier to arguably the greatest QB of all time? Um, thanks?

27
by Kaelik :: Sun, 07/17/2016 - 1:49am

"Why wouldn't I dispute it if I just read an article where the writer's thesis is basically, "Cousins was really lucky in the last nine games"? Duh."

Because there are only two possible positions:

1) Cousins was really lucky in his last 9 games.
2) Cousins is the best QB to ever play football, because he will keep putting up those same numbers forever.

IE, it is either an outlier, or it isn't. You claim you aren't convinced it is an outlier, that means you think that he will continue to put up a 4.5 TD to interception ratio over seasons or his career, which if true would put him well above Tom Brady (2.853) and Peyton Manning (2.147).

Now I want you to pretend to be a reasonable person having a conversation about quarterback ability, instead of a troll who just wants to flame some guy for not saying Redskins, and pick one of these two position going forward:

a) "I Redskins828791, was wrong earlier when I said I'm not convinced his 9/2 ratio was an outlier. It was definitely/probably an outlier. But I still think he could be much better than he was before."

b) "I still don't think it is an outlier, and I think Cousins will continue to put up absolutely obscene TD to int Ratios going forward forever, so good that it would basically be criminal if he wasn't a first ballot hall of famer."

""But it's not even remotely possible that it isn't an outlier, because Kirk Cousins is not a better QB than Tom Brady."
You mean there's a *chance* he could be really good and still be an outlier to arguably the greatest QB of all time? Um, thanks?"

No learn to read. Not is a commonly used word to negate the clause to which it is attached.

31
by Redskins828791 :: Sun, 07/17/2016 - 3:20am

"You claim you aren't convinced it is an outlier, that means you think that he will continue to put up a 4.5 TD to interception ratio over seasons or his career, which if true would put him well above Tom Brady (2.853) and Peyton Manning (2.147)."

In other words, I am not allowed to extrapolate from a set of statistics, right? That is what you're saying? If I point at his stats from the last nine games to indicate general progress in the area of reduced INTs, I am simultaneously binding him to those specific numbers for the rest of his career? Do you realize how absurd you sound? It is perfectly reasonable to point at those improved numbers as a general indication of improvement without expecting him to be, statistically, the best QB ever. People use statistics in this manner all the time.

"Now I want you to pretend to be a reasonable person having a conversation about quarterback ability, instead of a troll who just wants to flame some guy for not saying Redskins."

Follow your own advice: learn to read. I didn't write that comment, nor have I broached the topic in any of my comments.

" Not is a commonly used word to negate the clause to which it is attached."

I read your tortured prose with double negative overload. Here, let me rewrite it for you: "It's an outlier because Kirk Cousins will never be a better QB than Tom Brady." Much better. Clean and precise. Strunk & White would be proud.

If I write, "it's not an outlier," I am chaining myself to that specific data set forever? Again, it's absolutely ridiculous to hold me to those exact numbers and eschew extrapolation. Cousins could regress to the mean, so to speak, and still be much improved from the deer-in-headlights guy I saw in 2014; those stats from the last nine games of last season could support his evolution as long as he's better than average next year. I've watched all of his starts as a Redskin. Only a dishonest person would suggest that he hasn't improved in almost every area, particularly intangibles and confidence. It's well-known by now that, in the past, he would get way too down on himself after throwing a pick, which only increased the chances of him throwing another pick, and another. etc. I don't really need to break down film to show you this; anyone who watched those games (e.g. Giants game in 2014) could see him turning to jello as he trotted off the field and sulked on the sideline. He doesn't do that anymore, and that matters a great deal.

32
by Kaelik :: Sun, 07/17/2016 - 3:41am

"In other words, I am not allowed to extrapolate from a set of statistics, right? That is what you're saying? If I point at his stats from the last nine games to indicate general progress in the area of reduced INTs, I am simultaneously binding him to those specific numbers for the rest of his career? Do you realize how absurd you sound?"

"If I write, "it's not an outlier," I am chaining myself to that specific data set forever?"

Yes. If you are claiming that the stats aren't an outlier, you are in fact chaining yourself to those stats (until you admit that you were wrong, and that it was an outlier, something you steadfastly refuse to do). That's what "not an outlier" means, it means representative of the norm.

No, if you admit that it is an outlier, you aren't allowed to extrapolate from an admitted outlier. That's what being an outlier means. It means not representative of the norm.

"Follow your own advice: learn to read. I didn't write that comment, nor have I broached the topic in any of my comments."

Your started by complaining about how he blocked you on twitter. Yes, it's certainly possible that he blocked you for some reason besides you getting mad about how he wouldn't say Redskins... But it's well within the scope of reason to assume that is why. Since your name is Redskins, and that (complaining about people not saying redskins) is a great reason to block anyone.

"I read your tortured prose with double negative overload. Here, let me rewrite it for you: "It's an outlier because Kirk Cousins will never be a better QB than Tom Brady." Much better. Clean and precise. Strunk & White would be proud."

Double negatives do not mean single negatives. "It is not remotely possible that it isn't an outlier." doesn't mean "It is possible it isn't an outlier." and it doesn't mean "it isn't possible it is an outlier." It means, as you so astutely figured out in only your second whole attempt, "It is an outlier." Which of course, means that when you said "You mean there's a *chance* he could be really good and still be an outlier to arguably the greatest QB of all time? Um, thanks?" It was a complete failure to read the sentence on every level.

And yes, I could have said "It is an outlier" but that would of course have failed to carry the context of the conversation, IE:
1) It is possible X.
2) It is possibly Y.

3a) It is an outlier..... OH WAIT! That wasn't the point of the sentence. The point of the sentence was:

3b) It isn't possible that Z.

36
by Redskins828791 :: Sun, 07/17/2016 - 4:25pm

"Your started by complaining about how he blocked you on twitter. Yes, it's certainly possible that he blocked you for some reason besides you getting mad about how he wouldn't say Redskins... But it's well within the scope of reason to assume that is why. Since your name is Redskins, and that (complaining about people not saying redskins) is a great reason to block anyone."

LOL! You clearly confused me with another commenter on this thread, and you refuse to admit your mistake. Instead of saying, "I'm sorry, I confused you with another commenter on this thread," your pride forces you to suggest that I could've trolled about the Redskins name issue because I've--wait for it!--named myself after my favorite team. The smoking gun! Until this thread, I never knew Cian had an issue or could potentially have an issue with the name. There's no damn way you made the connection to my name and Cian blokcking me to deduce that I'm a troll irrespective of another comment on this thread about the name, which you responded to and considered a form for trolling.

35
by Redskins828791 :: Sun, 07/17/2016 - 4:06pm

"Yes. If you are claiming that the stats aren't an outlier, you are in fact chaining yourself to those stats (until you admit that you were wrong, and that it was an outlier, something you steadfastly refuse to do). That's what "not an outlier" means, it means representative of the norm."

There is not one rigid definition of "outlier" that is free from human interpretation and subjectivity. There are numerous constructions of the concept, and mathematicians acknowledge the subjectivity of outliers. However, given your dogged inflexibility, one might set aside the word "outlier" and explore the following:

a) Cousins's body of work is still small.
b) Cousins has never entered an off-season with the job in hand. Winston and Mariota have had more first-team off-season reps than Cousins.
c) Cousins's INT woes occurred when he was either a reliever, spot starter, or in the first half of his first year as a regular starter.
d) At the end of last season, Cousins's numbers were better than Winston's and Mariota's.
e) "But Winston and Mariota are better talents with higher upside." True, but it doesn't change the fact that Cousins showed drastic improvement toward the end of a small sample size of work.
f) "But Cousins pads his numbers on a lot of short throws." So? The Redskins have one of the best pass catching corps in the NFL.
g) [removing 'outlier' from conversation]: "Given what we know about Cousins's journey so far in the league, you'll have a hard time convincing me that throwing 2 INTs in his final 9 games last year was more luck than a genuine sign of progress and hope for the future."

48
by Tundrapaddy :: Tue, 07/19/2016 - 6:15pm
56
by usernaim250 :: Thu, 09/15/2016 - 3:08pm

RGIII missed most of an offseason and Cousins took the reps. It wasn't Gruden's flavor but Shanahan's WCO but the main difference is in the run game. And RGIII missed a lot of games and practices. So Cousins isn't some babe in the woods.

Redskins fan here and someone who saw a good bit of Cousins at MSU. I still see him as spray-armed and prone to head-scratching risks just like I always have. He is overmatched against good defenses. Hope he gets better, but I don't think he will improve that much. At $10m a year he'd be value. At $20m, not so much.

33
by Noah Arkadia :: Sun, 07/17/2016 - 10:56am

Do you mean homerific as in the Odyssey? Anyway, I don't think the actual expectations of the fans matter. Statistically, you can find examples of similar players who went on to fail and of others who went on to succeed. The bottom line is what you think of Cian's analysis. They seem awfully compelling to me. But if somebody's watched the film and can offer counterarguments, that's fine, too. However, those arguments need to be more film-oriented, rather than circumstantial, like whether he'd taken first-team snaps. That's ok, but my money is on the film.

37
by Redskins828791 :: Sun, 07/17/2016 - 4:42pm

Other football writers have watched Cousins's film, too, like Mark Bullock. He has more positive things to say about Cousins, which shows you how subjective film study can be; film analysis might be more empirical than other forms of analysis, but anyone analyzing film outside of being a coach or personnel man still has the freedom to tailor his findings to a narrative, whether he realizes it or not.

You mentioned The Odyssey. You could write an essay analyzing Homer's use of epic catalogue. Your analysis would rely on the interpretation of specific examples from the text, but you would bend or shape your interpretation of those examples to a general thesis. Sure, you would make discoveries during the process, but you would certainly enter your analysis with a general direction (or narrative). Film study of this kind isn't much different.

51
by Noah Arkadia :: Thu, 07/21/2016 - 3:44pm

That's the trouble with sports. They're not an exact science. Numbers don't tell the whole story. Any analysis can be challenged. But it's not fun to have an argument with someone who made an analysis by saying, "someone says something different". Well, yeah. I'm sure someone else does. But unless you can find specific flaws in his article, the only solution if you don't like it is to stay away from his work.

34
by onelasttime :: Sun, 07/17/2016 - 12:29pm

I brought up the proportion because it sounded to me like you're argument was based on sheer sample size. Consider on the extreme another scenario where Cousins had only ever played 3 very poor games before that same 9 game stretch. You could say "every other game" shows this stretch to be an outlier, but that would sound a little absurd. Obviously the proportion isn't quite that high, but I pointed to a few reasons that Cousins might actually be getting better rather than just lucky. And you fail to consider that in the big picture, Foles is (statistically) an outlier for how good of a season he had relative to how sucky he is otherwise.

For the record, I don't expect Cousins to continue to produce at the statistical level he did during that 9 game stretch. But to just outright discard it from his body of work would be intellectually dishonest. There doesn't need to be a binary dichotomy between getting better and getting lucky. Both occurred during YLT (you like that).

26
by Redskins828791 :: Sat, 07/16/2016 - 11:52pm

Cian Fahey ‏@Cianaf 13h13 hours ago
"As a somewhat public figure" sure you are

I'm sorry you don't believe me, Cian. I am a college professor with 20 publications. It's a pretty bad look for me to name call and troll on the Internet. I simply engaged you in a spirited debate, and you blocked me. The fact that you actually re-Tweeted my comment yesterday only seems to prove my point about your sensitivity. I've noticed that you like to RT criticism so that you can then smugly mock the criticism on Twitter and get your followers to pile on for support.

29
by theslothook :: Sun, 07/17/2016 - 2:37am

/

28
by theslothook :: Sun, 07/17/2016 - 2:36am

No offense - but you look pretty petty posting this on FO.

IF he disagrees or even makes fun of your mother, does it really need to be shared here on the message board about Kirk Cousins?

38
by Xd8 :: Mon, 07/18/2016 - 1:08pm

Fahey you are doubling down on the Cousins hate.

Let's reevaluate this situation by say, the 8 week mark of the season.

My prediction: you will be grasping for even more creative ways to minimize elite yardage, accuracy and touchdown statistics that Cousins puts up for the Redskins.

39
by jklps :: Mon, 07/18/2016 - 1:39pm

Cian Fahey watches film and is paid to provide his opinion on guys. Doesn't mean everyone has to agree with him, or that a player will play the same way next year.

I'm a Redskins fan, and I honestly think the GM leans more towards what Fahey sees than what the desperate DC fan bubble believes.

I hope Kirk Cousins plays better next year but am not counting on it. If he isn't the guy, time to find somebody else.

40
by theslothook :: Mon, 07/18/2016 - 1:47pm

I think theres a very real possibility he falls somewhere in the middle, in which case hes a fine qb and probably worth keeping.

41
by ramirez :: Mon, 07/18/2016 - 8:44pm

Another interesting read Cian, and I gained a lot of insight into Cousins' sudden improvement over the 2nd half of the season. Which QB are you profiling next?

PS My goodness, do some of the comment forums on this site get salty!

42
by BJR :: Tue, 07/19/2016 - 7:04am

I would say, if you are going to repeatedly cite the weak defenses Cousins faced in the second half of the season, why not use the DVOA numbers to prove it? That is an easy way to provide a little more objectivity.

But overall I did enjoy the piece, and didn't think it was especially biased against Cousins; rather just a warning against projecting future success from a small sample of games which were far from perfect.

43
by SandyRiver :: Tue, 07/19/2016 - 12:47pm

He kind of did, in the paragraph above the 2nd accuracy table, though without giving actual DVOA figures. According to that paragraph, 3 of Cousin's last 8 regular season games came against the 3 worst defenses in the league, and 3 more came from the bottom half (Cian noted that only 2 were top-16.) Since he said the Saints' DVOA was the worst, I'm assuming his other rankings also were by DVOA, though that's not explicitly stated.

44
by theslothook :: Tue, 07/19/2016 - 1:48pm

Sometimes I feel like weak defenses is sometimes the dog that did not bark. We never remember bad quarterbacks who fail to take advantage of the bad defenses and almost always remember the qbs who did as controversial.

I maintain, one can say cousins played well last year without believing he will do so in the future. I tend to maintain the view that you can't have a good pass offense without the qb doing some things correctly. I've seen plenty of teams with good enough receivers do pretty horribly on offense because the qb just wasn't good enough.

45
by tuluse :: Tue, 07/19/2016 - 2:18pm

"We never remember bad quarterbacks who fail to take advantage of the bad defenses"

Speak for yourself. I vividly remember Johnathan Quinn, Todd Collins, Craig Krenzel, Caleb Hanie, Chad Hutchenson... ok I'll stop now.

46
by Kaelik :: Tue, 07/19/2016 - 3:55pm

Indeed, when I read that first thing I thought is... Clearly not a Bears fan :(

47
by theslothook :: Tue, 07/19/2016 - 4:13pm

Haha. Fine Fine. We remember them if we observed them directly as a horror show. And no, I've been fortunate to see mostly good qb play out of my favorite team. Conversely, I'm fairly numb to awful special teams. And as defense guy, I haven't enjoyed too many of those seasons either.

53
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 07/22/2016 - 11:11am

Except... he was 6th in DVOA (and QBR, FWIW). And 7th in DYAR.

49
by Keep Chopping Wood :: Thu, 07/21/2016 - 11:12am

Good God, man...haven't you learned that no one ever gets their point through by being a raging a-hole? I have officially stopped reading your comments because you have nothing to put forth other than straw men, red herrings, non sequiturs, and ad hominems. What started as commentary devolved into a Keith Olberman type rant...not something to be proud of.

"Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."
-Joe Theismann

50
by jklps :: Thu, 07/21/2016 - 12:51pm

Who exactly are you addressing? The author of the article? One of the people making comments. It isn't clear at all.

54
by chongthamodanang :: Sat, 09/03/2016 - 9:22am

Cousins had only ever played 3 very poor games before that same 9 game stretch. You could say "every other game" shows this stretch to be an outlier, but that would sound a little absurd. Obviously the proportion isn't quite that high, but I pointed to a few reasons that Cousins might actually be getting better rather than just lucky. And you fail to consider that in the big picture, Foles is (statistically) an outlier for how good of a season he had relative to how sucky he is otherwise. I love this

55
by mainmantone :: Mon, 09/12/2016 - 2:37pm

Great article. I also noticed many of these thing such as Cousins being 32 in yards per pass and 37th in longest pass before the return of Desean. Also the obscene amount of dropped ints he benefited from and his outright exposure at home against a very beatable green bay team. The redskins were actually favorited to beat them going into the game. But of course the most telling and mentioned problem is Cousins inability to beat any teams over .500.