So as you all know, one of the biggest arguments that the anti-Kirk crowd tries to make is the "Kirk can't win big games!" argument. Unfortunately in today's era of fake news, this just goes unchecked as if its actually a stone cold fact, but it actually couldn't be further from the truth. Lets take a journey through Kirk's career, starting from the beginning...
Okay, so we begin with 2012. In Cousins's first ever regular season game action, he comes in with the team trailing against the then undefeated Falcons after RG3 gets hurt. Trailing, he immediately throws a TD pass to Santana Moss. Unfortunately, he also throws two picks later. So yes, perhaps you can say he did choke this game away. BUT, he also got the team the lead in the 4th quarter, but the D couldn't hold it(hmm sound familiar?). And putting the pressure on a rookie 4th round QB to win the game against an undefeated team is a little unrealistic. Still, he gave us a shot.
Move ahead a few weeks, and once again Cousins is tasked with coming in late to save the team. This time down 8 against an elite Ravens team(that went on to win the whole thing that year). Cousins completes two passes, including a clutch 4th down, and a TD pass to Garcon. For the 2 point conversion he takes the ball himself and runs it in to tie the game. Pretty clutch performance if I must say so myself. In OT he didn't have to do much, PR and run game set up the winning score. But, if not for Cousins's clutch play on the final drive, the game is over.
Fast forward one week, and Cousins is now making his first ever start, on the road against a Cleveland Browns team that had won three in a row. Another big game, considering the team was in a win out or go home situation. After an early pick, Cousins plays brilliantly, putting up over 300 yards and 2 TDs to lead us to a blowout 17 point win. Cousins's 2012 ended in relief duty against the Seahawks. I'm going to throw this one out, the game was basically over when he got in the game.
In totality, Cousins had two good clutch performances in 2012, and one bad one(the bad one being literally his first ever NFL game but, whatever I'll give the anti Kirk people that one).
Now, onto 2013...Cousins's first two games this season were in mop up duty in blowouts against the Broncos and Chiefs. These games serve no purpose, both games were over when he got in, so just throw those out. His first start of that season was on the road against the Falcons. In that game Cousins threw for over 350 yards and 3 TDs, and down a TD he led a TD drive to get within 1. Unfortunately Shanahan decided to go for 2 and we didn't convert, but in normal game situation we would have tied the game and gone to OT.
The very next week, we play the Cowboys in a game they need for their playoff hopes. Statistically, Cousins didn't have a big game, but he does lead two 3rd quarter scoring drives to give us a 23-14 lead in the 4th quarter. Unfortunately as has been the case his entire career the D gags it away and the Cowboys rally to win 24-23. Not really a clutch performance either way since it was a meaningless game, but Cousins put us in a position to win with 23 points scored and a double digit lead in the 4th.
Cousins's season ends the next week in the Meadowlands. Meaningless game and it shows, nobody played well. Throw this one out, it means nothing to the argument one way or another. Entire team knew Shanahan was getting fired and no showed.
So as far as the clutch count goes, well in fairness Cousins didn't play much in 2013. No real bad clutch performances really, and I give him credit for having a good clutch performance in Atlanta(all around he played well in his first start of the season, a big spot for him personally even if for the team it didn't mean anything). Overall still: 3 good clutch, 1 bad clutch.
Now its 2014...not gonna lie, a rocky season for Cousins. He starts off well though. After coming in in relief for RG3 in Week 2, Cousins lights up the Jags for 250 and 2 scores. Considering we were 0-1, you could argue this was a big spot for us. I won't count it as clutch though. The next week in Philly Cousins continues his hot play, putting up a whooping 400+ yards and 3 TDs and leading the team to 34 points and at one point a double digit lead. Unfortunately the D and ST suck and we lose, but in a big game spot Cousins came up big. Sure would be nice if the guy had a D right?
The rest of 2014 is rocky for Cousins. He plays awfully against the Giants at home on TNF, then actually puts up a decent statistical performance on MNF against the defending champion Seahawks(283 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs)but we were never really a threat to win that game. He puts up 354 and 2 TDs in Arizona the next week, but also has 3 picks, then gets benched the next week against the Titans. I don't know if any of these are really considered clutch moments, considering we had 1 win going into the Cardinal/Titan games.
Going back to the clutch count, I'm going to give Cousins a clutch point for the Eagles game, and give him an anti clutch point for the Giants game. So far the count is: 4 good clutch, 2 bad clutch.
Finally time for some good stuff...2015. Unfortunately it doesn't start off great, as Cousins plays poorly in the first national TV big game spot of the season, Week 3 at the Giants. But after that it gets pretty good. He leads a game winning TD drive to beat the Eagles the very next week. The week after in Atlanta is a very up and down game however. Against an undefeated Falcons team, Cousins doesn't light it up statistically, but does get us a late 4th quarter lead. Unfortunately once again the D can't hold and gives it up, Falcons take a 3 point lead with less then 30 seconds left. BUT Cousins once again steps up big in the clutch, leading an excellent last second drive to send the game to OT. Then in OT garbage ass Ryan Grant falls down, leading to a Cousins pick 6. The anti Kirk people will scream "CHOKER" but it was obviously not his fault in that spot.
The up and down-ness of 2015 continues. Cousins doesn't play great the next week at the Jets, but in fairness, we had NO D Jax, NO Reed, and NO Trent Williams, against a good Jets team(they finished 10-6)on the road coming off a bye. But after this one is the BIG one, the Buccaneer come back. In a game the coach himself said was a code red game, Cousins rallies us from 24-0 down to lead the biggest comeback win in franchise history.
Lets fast forward a few weeks(the next few weeks aren't really eventful: we blow out the Saints, get crushed on the road by elite teams like the Pats and Panthers, nothing really worth discussing). We get the Giants at home in a big game spot(FOX 4:30 primetime slot). Revenge game against a team that has tormented Cousins. Big game too, as losing would basically end our hopes of a division title. Cousins plays really well, throwing for over 300 yards and a TD.
This game would begin a trend of Cousins playing really well in the clutch down the stretch to win this team games. Having to win four in a row to end the season to win the division, Cousins plays at his absolute best. He eviscerates the Bills, leads a 4th quarter go ahead scoring drive to win at the Bears(Bears weren't great that year but they had won a few in a row and Cousins had a good statistical game, 300 yards and a TD), and then of course in the absolute biggest game of the season and of his career, Cousins goes into Philly and absolutely destroys the Eagles, winning us the NFC East. Unfortunately he doesn't end the season well, playing poorly in the playoff game against the Packers(in fairness, the entire team played poorly, we had no answer for Rodgers and the run game).
So lets go back to the clutch count: going into 2015 it was 4 good clutch to 2 bad clutch. But in 2015 I'll give him two negatives in the clutch(Week 3 at the Giants and the Packer playoff game). As far as good clutch/big game moments: Eagles at home, Buc rally, Giants at home, Bears on the road, and Eagles on the road were all good clutch for sure. That makes the count a whooping 9-4! In 13 big games/clutch moments, Cousins came through 9 times. That's a pretty damn good %. But we still have one more season to go...
So 2016. This one is still fresh in our minds so I won't really give the same types of summaries I did for the previous seasons. Instead I'll just go game by game and state which games Cousins played well in what I consider to be big game or clutch spots. Looking at 2016, its kind of tough to truly evaluate, because the 0-2 start kinda made every game almost a big game, and we played so many good teams/defenses(more on this later).
Steelers-big game(MNF at home). Cousins plays poorly. Bad.
Cowboys-big game(home vs. a rival.) Statistically Cousins was good, until that last pick in the end zone. Still, we have the lead in the 4th. D can't hold. No good or bad.
@Giants-big game(rival, 0-2, on the road, Cousins has never won here). After falling behind 14-0, Cousins rallies us to a win. He puts up nearly 300 yards and 2 TDs. Good.
Browns-not really a big game but with a chance to get back to .500 it kinda sorta is. Cousins plays very well, we beat a terrible Browns team. Whatever.
@Ravens-big game(on the road, good team, really good D). Not a great statistical game but down 10-6 in the 2nd half he does rally us to the lead. Good.
Eagles-big game(rival who started the year hot). Cousins lights up the Eagles to win our 4th in a row. Good.
@Lions-Not really sure if I'd classify this as big game but in the clutch we were down 10 in the 4th and Cousins rallied us to take the lead with around a minute left. Can't say he wasn't great in the clutch here. Unfortunately the D can't hold(recurring theme). Good clutch performance? I think so. Too bad the team lost.
@Bengals-Pretty much mirror image of Lions game for the most part. Down 10 in the 4th, Cousins rallies us, but the D can't hold and in OT the K misses a chip shot. Once again Cousins is actually very good in the clutch, but other guys let us down. Not sure if this is a big game but it was a nationally televised game in London.
Vikings-Semi big game. Vikings had a winning record and a really good D, but Cousins torches them for over 250 and 2 TDs. Good.
Packers-Huge game. Primetime at home against the team that KO'd us from the playoffs last year. Cousins absolutely destroys them for 375 and 3 TDs. Biggest game of the season to date and Cousins comes through. Good.
@Cowboys-obviously big game. Cousins plays great but unfortunately the D can't make a stop. Red zone issues plagued us here. I won't give him a good but he certainly was anything but bad.
@Cardinals-not really sure if big game. Cousins plays well enough to win, until the final drive over 250 yards and a TD, and rallies us to a lead in the 4th quarter. Unfortunately the D once again can't get a stop, and Cousins throws a pick on the final drive. Don't think its fair to say he "choked" here considering he put up a damn good game against I believe the top ranked D in the NFL on the road and generated 23 points of offense.
@Eagles-big game considering its a rival and were coming off two losses. Cousins plays very well, 234 yards and 2 TDs against a good statistical D, and we get a win. Good.
Panthers-MNF and playoffs are in play so big game in that respect. Cousins plays terribly. Bad.
@Bears-big game because were in the playoff hunt. Cousins lights them up. Good.
vs.Giants-obviously biggest game of the season. Cousins chokes. Such a shame. Bad.
So, the clutch/big game count going into 2016 is 9-4(9 good 4 bad). For 2016 I'll give Cousins a bad score for Steelers, Panthers, and Giants. He gets a good score for @Giants, @Ravens, Eagles, Vikings, Packers, and @Eagles. Truth be told he SHOULD get good grades for the @Lions, @Bengals, @Cowboys, and @Cardinals also but because the team lost I won't. Still, for 2016 thats 6-3, and his overall count is: 15-7. Yes that's right, in 22 big game/clutch moments, Cousins has come through 15 times.
And now for some advanced stats(from Al Galdi's article
Total EPA – This is Total Clutch-Weighted Expected Points Added, which is essentially a measure of how much a player contributes to winning. EPA is the measure of a play’s impact on the score of the game. Kirk was fifth among NFL quarterbacks with a Total EPA of 97.9 during the 2016 regular season. He was seventh among NFL quarterbacks with a Total EPA of 82.6 in 2015.
DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) – This is a Football Outsiders metric that gives the value of a player’s performance compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage. This is essentially to football what Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is to baseball. Kirk was third among NFL quarterbacks with 1,342 DYAR during the 2016 regular season. He was seventh among NFL quarterbacks with 1,023 DYAR in 2015.
Kirk did all of this while facing the toughest schedule of opposing defenses that any quarterback faced during the 2016 regular season.
Yes, you read that right. Kirk did what he did this past regular season despite facing the hardest schedule of opposing defenses per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. Nine of the Redskins’ 16 games were against teams that finished the season in the top 11 of the NFL in total defense: Pittsburgh (no. 11), the Giants twice (no. 2), Baltimore (no. 6), Philadelphia twice (no. 4), Minnesota (no. 9), Arizona (no. 3) and Carolina (no. 10).
Kirk Cousins is a damn good QB, top 10 in the NFL, and guess what? He's a CLUTCH QB. Pay him and lets win games.