With the news that the Redskins have traded for Alex Smith, it’s now for certain that Kirk Cousins will hit the free agency market. Is he worth the contract he’s set to get?With the Jets in line to be a top contender, let’s dive right into Kirk’s numbers. Here’s an agglomeration of unbiased Kirk Cousins numbers for you to consume at your heart’s content.
Cousins has started every game for the Redskins since the start of 2015. Over that span, he’s completed 67% of his passes for 13,176 yards, 81 touchdowns and 36 interceptions, equating in a 97.5 quarterback rating. Keep in mind that all of these numbers are from 2015 onward unless noted.
How does he stack up leaguewide? Here’s how Cousins ranks among the 24 QBs with at least 1000 attempts since 2015:
Comp%: 67.0 - 3rd (League avg: 62.7)
TD%: 4.8 - 11th (League avg: 4.3)
Int%: 2.1 - 13th lowest (League avg: 2.4)
TD/INT Ratio: 2.25-1 - 12th (League avg: 1.85-1)
Y/A: 7.8 - 4th (League avg: 7.1)
Y/G: 274.5 - 7th
Rating: 97.5 - 6th (League avg: 88.8)
Rush TD: 13 - 3rd (Avg. total among group: 5)
Rush Yds: 323 - 13th
Cousins has a 24-23-1 regular season record since becoming the Redskins’ primary starter. As you can see by the rankings above, Cousins has been better than average in just about every category while at the helm in Landover. He’s done that on a team that has fielded three straight below average defenses (bottom half in total points, total yards, and points per drive each year) and a few very poor rushing attacks (never higher than 21st in total rush yards, 32nd in rush offense DVOA in 2015 and 28th in 2017).
He’s compiled three straight seasons with at least a 93 QB rating, throwing over 500 pass attempts in each one. It’s only the sixth such streak in league history; along with Matthew Stafford (3 seasons, active), Philip Rivers (2013-15), Peyton Manning (twice, 2012-14 and 2006-2009), and Drew Brees (7, active).
Pro Football Reference tracks passer rating relative to league average to compare between eras (100 is average). Cousins has put up at least a 108 relative rating each of the last three seasons while starting all 16 games in each. Here’s the list of QBs to do that 3 times or more before turning 30 years old:
Kirk’s rushing is an underrated aspect of his game. In addition to the 93+ rating he’s posted over the last three seasons, he’s had at least 4 rushing scores in each as well. Aaron Rodgers is the only other quarterback in history to do that at least three seasons in a row (2008-2010).
Here’s another interesting nugget on Cousins’ uncanny rushing ability. Among the top 15 QBs in rushing attempts in 2017, his efficiency was very solid:
You can see he ranked 4th of 15 in both first down and touchdown rate. Both his first down (41%) and touchdown (12%) rates were even higher the previous season, so this wasn’t a one-year fluke.
Now, let’s move on to some of the more worrying Cousins statistics. You saw above that his interception rate isn’t as elite as the rest of his numbers, floating only at a slightly better than league average level. In 2017 he tied for the 7th highest interception total. He’s also ranked top 15 (among all players) in fumbles lost each of the last three seasons, with a total of 12 over the span. His TD (Passing+Rushing) to turnover (interceptions+fumbles) ratio has worsened each of the past three years, from 34-15, to 29-15, to 31-18.
Things have changed drastically since he became the starter, but the turnovers were Cousins’ primary issue before becoming the full-time starter. He had a dreadful 4.7% interception rate (19 in only 14 games) during his first three seasons in the league.
He’s been mediocre in the red zone. Since 2015, Cousins’ 92.7 red zone QB rating is almost dead-on with the league average of 92.8. His 53.1% completion percentage and 22.1% touchdown rate are both slightly below league average. This past year in 2017, his 3 red zone picks tied for 2nd most in the league. His 83.8 rating was the lowest among the 11 QBs with at least as many as his 68 red zone attempts. This could contribute to why the Redskins have failed to hit elite ranks in terms of putting up points offensively. In order from 2015 to 2017, they have ranked 10th, 12th, and 16th in scoring. That’s solid consistency, and in 2017 Cousins did well to rank that highly with a limited supporting cast, but he never brought them to fearful levels. Is his red zone slippage placing a cap on his ceiling?
He did at one point have Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, and Jordan Reed at the same time. That’s a lot of offensive talent. With those guys in 2016, Cousins did have a season with nearly 5,000 yards, 67% completions, and a Y/A over 8, but he still won only 8 games. Though the defense was poor, it begs the question; Can he lift an entire team?
Advanced stats are not high on him. Pro Football Focus had him as their 19th ranked QB in 2017, Football Outsiders placed him 18th in DVOA, and ESPN placed him 15th in QBR. Now, supporting cast could be to blame. Those three sites ranked him 8th, 5th, and 6th respectively in 2016. But it might be concerning to pay 30M per year to a guy who was middle of the pack most recently.
He regressed when facing the competition that knew him best. Against the NFC East, Cousins had a passer rating of only 87.5, his lowest against any division outside the AFC East (which he only played 4 games against). He also went only 8-14 in those games.
Cousins is also 4-16 against teams that ended up with a winning record. He’s performed well in some of those games, posting a 92.5 rating in his ten games against winning teams in 2017 (including combining for 8 TD and 1 INT total with a 110+ quarterback rating in each of three losses at Kansas City, New Orleans, and Philadelphia), but at the end of the day you pay a quarterback to win you big games. Did a poor roster hold Cousins back as he did his part at a high level? Or is he average and not a big game winner? That right there is the $∞M question.
Should the Jets make themselves the highest bidders for Kirk Cousins this March?
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