There is no conversation to be had, Kirk Cousins is a franchise quarterback. When we see “franchise quarterback” we are predisposed to think of the best quarterbacks in the history of the National Football League. We go back to Starr, Staubach, Montana, Young, Aikman, Bradshaw, Brady, Peyton, Roethlisberger, Brees, Marino, and Elway, among others. The upper echelon of quarterbacks are who have influenced how we see the game today. Every year during the pre-season, the discussion about any team is whether they have a franchise quarterback. If they have one, many analysts and fans pick those teams to play well and make the playoffs. Once we get past the few teams who have our ideal “franchise” quarterback, the discussion begins as to whether or not the rest of the quarterbacks are a “franchise” quarterback. There is a new modern day definition to the franchise quarterback.
Historically, there has been a mold in which we compare every quarterback to. The names that come up are the folks listed above and we then go through comparing current quarterbacks to those names, and see if they stack up. If they do, we have called them a franchise quarterback. If they do not have a skill-set similar to past quarterbacks, we ultimately decide such quarterbacks are not franchise quarterbacks.
It is ultimately time to accept that B-rated quarterbacks as franchise quarterbacks. B-rated quarterbacks can win you divisions, put up really good numbers and could help you compete in January. Right now, Kirk Cousins is a B-rated quarterback. He sits on that plateau with guys like Alex Smith, Teddy Bridgewater and Andy Dalton. All three of those players can lead your team to division titles. They can win games and with a good defense, like in Alex Smith’s case, can win playoff games. It is true. These guys are franchise quarterbacks. Take them away from their respective teams, all four quarterback situations stink and they are picking in the top ten of the draft. Now, in Minnesota’s case, we saw this actually happened. The season was declared over for the Vikings before it even started this year. Then, they traded for a quarterback who can win games in Sam Bradford, if he is healthy. Barring Minnesota’s imploding offensive line and losing Adrian Peterson, Bradford held his own.
Below are the top-50 qualified quarterbacks (in no particular order) for the 2016 season and I have ranked them based on their skill-sets, how the season went, and if they can elevate other players on their respective offenses.
A+: Brady, Rodgers, Roethlisberger
A: Brees, Ryan, Wilson
A-: Stafford, Manning, Luck, Rivers
B+: Carr, Flacco, Newton
B: Cousins, Smith, Bridgewater, Dalton
B-: Palmer, Winston, Mariota, Prescott, Bradford, Wentz
C+: Tannehill, Bortles
C: Siemian, Garoppolo
C- or lower: Barkley, Cutler, Goff, Keenum, Gabbert, Kaepernick, Fitzpatrick, Osweiler, Savage, Hoyer, Griffin III, Kessler, McCown, Petty, Taylor, Moore, Jones, Lynch, Anderson, Brissett, Cassel, Hill, Tolzien
According to the list, I would consider 23 quarterbacks worthy of getting paid at least sixteen million dollars per year based on the 2016 season.
Before there is an outrage pertaining to Winston, Mariota, Prescott and Wentz not being better than a B-; these are constantly adjustable rankings based on the team’s situation, and who is around these players. Three of the four did not make the playoffs. Two were in contention late which keeps them on the rise for seasons to come. All of these players will be paid like franchise quarterbacks when it comes time to do so because that’s what teams have to do. Last year, Mariota and Winston would have been C+ graded quarterbacks based on the years they had as rookies. They are on the rise. Now to Dak Prescott. He went 13–3 and had a 5.75 touchdown to interception ratio with the third-best QB-rating among quarterbacks with at least 10 starts. Great stats for a player in any season but, taking everything into account, he had the offensive line, Zeke and Witten. But to be a B- after one season is an accomplishment.
Now back to Cousins.
Cousins had a chance at being only the sixth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards. To put that into perspective, only Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Dan Marino and Matt Stafford have thrown for 5,000+ yards in a single season. Of all the players we revere as franchise quarterbacks, only five have reached such a feat.
Cousins’ 2016 campaign was way above average statistically. He was 3rd in yards, 7th in QB-rating, 3rd in completions, 7th in least sacks allowed (among qualified quarterbacks), and 3rd in total completions of 40+ yards. He finished 13th in touchdowns (25) and 15th in interceptions (12). He moved the ball around, down the field, and helped his offensive line. Kirk Cousins played well enough to get the Redskins into the playoffs. The defense kept Washington out this year. Take away some of the anemic defensive performances and the Redskins could have won another three games at a minimum, putting them in the playoffs.
Teams would give the barn or pay whatever fee in order to get a competent quarterback who can get them to the playoffs, or what I would call, a modern day franchise quarterback. We always talk about how a team in any sport just needs to get into the dance and they could make some noise; they just need a chance. Remember Any Given Sunday? With a modern day franchise quarterback, teams have a fighting chance to advance in the playoffs. If a team has the right guy, they improve and the quarterback becomes a center-piece of a playoff run. It becomes the prerogative of a front office to build a functional team around these quarterbacks because in the end, they can get the chance to rise the Lombardi Trophy.
Maybe it is all Jay Gruden and his system making Kirk Cousins great. It’s doubtful because Kirk wasn’t picked my Gruden, Mike Shanahan believed that a 4th-round pick of of Michigan State was a better quarterback than the 2nd overall pick — and we all know who that was. Someone will pay Kirk Cousins at least $21 million per season, no doubt. It should be Washington because we fans do not want to continue the twenty-plus year incompetency for another long stretch.
The Redskins finally have a quarterback competent enough to play well in this era of passing the football. If Kirk Cousins can keep this offense up at this rate, Kirk is a modern day franchise quarterback and will get paid.
***This post originally appeared on John Amoroso’s Medium page on January 6, 2017***