The following is an excerpt from the latest Sunday Recap, a weekly column dedicated to thoughts on the previous day’s NFL action.
While most of the attention is on the twelve teams in this year’s postseason, I don’t want to overlook the other twenty teams already scheming for next season. As it stands now, here are the three biggest storylines to pay attention to this offseason.
Should the Redskins commit to Cousins?
In case you missed it, here are the highlights from yesterday’s Redskins game. Yeah…not good. The Redskins were held to their lowest scoring output (10) in a must-win game against the Giants that derailed their playoff hopes.
The question for Washington moving forward is whether they should sign Kirk Cousins to a long-term extension. On one hand, Cousins has made significant strides to become one of the leagues better quarterbacks–at least statistically. After three seasons, Cousins, who had not yet secured a job as a full-time starter, had more thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. But he’s turned things around over the past two years. Last year, he ranked sixth in the NFL in Total QBR while leading Washington to a division title. He entered this past week ranked 5th among quarterbacks in that same category, although that’s likely to drop once the latest rankings are assembled. Nonetheless, as a unit, the Redskins’ offense measured as one of the league’s best this year. Though they ranked ninth in points per game, Washington was an impressive second in yards per play and fifth in points per drive.
Is Cousins actually good enough to lead a team to a Super Bowl, though? I’d wager not. Give him credit for cutting down on his turnovers, but he’s still mistake-prone in tight situations. Plus, I’m not impressed at all by how he ended this season. With the Redskins in the thick of the playoff race, Cousins finished the year by throwing eight touchdowns while turning the ball over seven times (five interceptions, two fumbles). More importantly, Washington lost four of their final six.
The Redskins have three options: 1) Let Cousins walk, 2) Use the franchise-tag on him once again, or 3) Sign him to a long-term extension. Options 1 and 3 aren’t practical. There’s no use spending a first-round pick on a quarterback this year given that it’s a relatively weak class, particularly when Washington could use some depth on defense. On the other hand, committing to a quarterback who likely can’t lead you to a Super Bowl title doesn’t make much sense, either.
The Redskins will have to suck it up and pay Cousins upwards of $20 million for at least one more season. As frustrating as it is to stick by a quarterback who came up horribly short when it mattered most this season, Cousins is still a top fifteen quarterback and the best option for Washington in 2017.
Who should Denver hire to replace Kubiak?
Gary Kubiak called it a career yesterday after the Broncos defeated the Raiders to finish 9-7. Kubiak, who was only in his second year in Denver, could’ve went out a winner if he made this same decision last February. Nonetheless, he’ll always be highly regarded in the Mile High city for guiding the Broncos to a Super Bowl title in 2015.
John Elway now must decide who he’ll select to replace Kubiak. If I’m him, I’d look for someone that resembles Kubiak–an experienced, offensive-minded coach. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips already has the defense taken care of. What Denver needs is a more consistent offense that doesn’t put added pressure on their defense to consistently hold opponents to low point totals. So if I’m Elway, I’d reach out to two people in particular.
Elway should first reach out to former Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden. Based on reports, it may be unlikely that anyone will coax Gruden out of his Monday Night announcing duties; but he’s still a Super Bowl winning coach who specializes on the offensive side of the ball, making him a logical fit for the Broncos head coaching job. He also has to be at least mildly intrigued by the idea of returning to coach a team as talented and as relevant as Denver’s.
But if Gruden isn’t interested, Denver should look next to Todd Haley, Pittsburgh’s current offensive coordinator. It’s easier to look good when you’re coaching a future Hall of Famer in Ben Roethlisberger, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that Big Ben has put up the best numbers of his career under Haley. Moreover, Haley’s had success in multiple stops, as he was the offensive coordinator on the Arizona team that went to the Super Bowl in 2009. He also coached Matt Cassel and the Kansas City Chiefs to the playoffs in 2010. The 49-year-old coach clearly has a proven track record, as well as more experience than other young offensive coordinators being considered for head coaching jobs such as New England’s Josh McDaniels and Atlanta’s Kyle Shanahan. He’s the most logical person to replace Kubiak.
And with the first overall pick, the Cleveland Browns select…
Mitch Trubisky, quarterback out of North Carolina. It might be a reach, but I was impressed by what I saw from Trubisky late in North Carolina’s bowl game against Stanford, which the Tar Heels ultimately lost 25-23. He reminds me of Carson Wentz: He’s got a great arm, he’s athletic, and he’s big. He’s got the stats too, as he threw 30 touchdowns and only six interceptions against good competition in the ACC this season.
Cleveland is obviously in need of a quarterback, and though they have other glaring needs, they also have the number ten overall pick to use to grab another talented player. Moreover, other options at quarterback don’t appear to be very feasible. The asking price for Jimmy Garoppolo–a first and a fourth round pick–is a bit too steep. It also doesn’t make sense for the rebuilding Browns to sign a 36-year-old Tony Romo.
I’m not sold on Trubisky being worthy of the number one overall pick, but I do think he’ll be the best quarterback in next year’s draft class, assuming he declares. The Browns desperately need a QB, which is why I don’t think they’ll be able to hope that the best one in the draft falls to them at the tenth overall pick.