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Sunday, September 10, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Bruce Allen is 1-0 as Washington Redskins team president in 2017.

No, not his won-loss record on the field. His team most definitely lost Sunday 30-17 to the Philadelphia Eagles in the season opener at FedEx Field.


But isn’t that really secondary at this point? After all, if wins and losses mattered as a measurement of the Prince of Darkness’s success and failure — a 45-67-1 record since he arrived at the end of the 2009 season — he’d be off somewhere running Redskins legends luxury cruises, instead of running this football team.


AUDIO: Redskins running back Chris Thompson with Thom Loverro


Allen’s win came in his war with his quarterback Kirk Cousins, who looked uncomfortable at the position Sunday in the loss to Philadelphia.

“They were able to harass Kirk and just never let him get comfortable until he started getting some drives together and we got the ball out of his hands quicker with some timing stuff,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said, describing how uncomfortable Cousins (23 of 40, 240 yards, one touchdown, one interception, two fumbles) was.

To which Allen might reply, “You want me to give him a long-term contract for more than $100 million and he’s uncomfortable? Look at the other guy, Carson Wentz. Our defense made him pretty uncomfortable, and he managed to complete 26 of 39 passes for 307 yards, two touchdowns — and win the game! And two years ago, while Kirk was throwing for 4,100 yards and 29 touchdowns, the other guy was a senior at North Dakota State! Not Michigan State. North Dakota State! And that guy is making just $6 million a year and will be for the next three seasons. He’s only 24 years old.

“Tell me why I shouldn’t get one of those kind of guys.”

If he said those things, he might be right.

The referendum on 29-year-old Cousins continues, and you would be hard-pressed to find many voters not named Cousins to cast their ballot to make the man the highest paid player in NFL history after Sunday’s opening game defeat.

More Gruden: “You have four turnovers (including Jamison Crowder’s muffed punt reception in the first quarter), 0 for 2 in the red zone, three for 10 on third down … they were eight for 13 on third down, you don’t have to look at the stat sheet for very long to see who won and who lost.”

The Eagles won. Allen won. The Redskins lost.

Of course, the loss doesn’t solely belong at Cousins‘ feet. There were dropped balls by Terrelle Pryor, missed blocking assignments on the offensive line, and a non-existent running game (Cousins tied Rob Kelley for leading rusher with 30 yards), and, of course, the weekly mea culpa by Gruden about the poor coaching, though he toned it down from his act last year after the embarrassing home losses to the Panthers and the Giants.

“We all had a hand in it — play callers, offensively, it wasn’t a good game offensively,” the coach said.

Gruden, of course, would be that play caller he was referring to.

This could have been a signature win for Cousins, the kind his agent could have put on Allen’s desk and said, “Look, he stunk, the coach stunk, the team stunk, players dropped passes, lost them in the sun, nobody could run the ball — but somehow my guy managed to gut it out and get this team an important season-opening win at home against a division rival.

“He was uncomfortable … yet he found a way to win.”

Instead, you’ll have to make the case that Cousins somehow was robbed because his arm was in forward motion on the fumble that led to Fletcher Cox’s 20-yard touchdown run to put the game away with less than a minute and a half to play and the officials blew the call.

But that wouldn’t change the image of an uncomfortable Cousins, rattled much of the day by the Eagles‘ defense, clumsily trying to make something happen under pressure.

The Redskins ratcheted up the weekly Cousins referendum this offseason when, after negotiations failed to produce a long-term contract before the deadline to impose the franchise tag and the $24 million salary for Cousins that comes with it, Allen released a statement in which the team insisted it wanted to pay fair market value or more for Cousins.

“Our goal was to sign Kirk to a long-term contract with the final objective of having him finish his career with the Redskins,” Allen said in the statement two months ago. “On May 2, right after the draft, we made Kirk n offer that included the highest fully guaranteed amount upon signing for a quarterback in NFL history ($53 million) and guaranteed a total of $72 million for injury. The deal would have made him at least the second highest paid player by average per year in NFL history. But despite our repeated attempts, we have not received any offer from Kirk’s agent this year.”

This was calculated to make Cousins look greedy.

Cousins, after two seasons with more than 9,000 yards passing and 54 touchdowns, actually has a market value closer to that of Oakland’s Derek Carr’s five-year, $125 million contract — though his play Sunday won’t help anyone making that argument.

Cousins searched for an answer Sunday when asked about the defensive pressure he faced.

“Until I watch the film, I don’t know,” he said. “I think a couple of times I can make a protection call that will help them get the right alignment out there for players who are rushing me. A couple of times I didn’t do that very well. They have a lot invested in the (Eagles) defensive line, they expect those guys to get after the quarterback and they’ve always done a good job with that. Not that it caught us by surprise, but they have good players and won a fair amount of plays today and played tough.”

Cousins may get comfortable next week, going to Los Angeles to play the Rams. The sight of his former play caller, Rams coach Sean McVay, on the sideline, even for the opposing team, may bring him comfort.

Sunday is just one game. He has produced two statistically-impressive seasons, and certainly very could deliver a third that would still get him paid — by someone.

But Sunday he had a chance to deliver the kind of win that answers those Cousins questions about his ability to win when he is uncomfortable. He had a chance to walk up to Allen, stick the ball in his gut and say, “Game ball.”

Instead, he gave Allen another win off the field.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.


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