Maybe they’re just selfish and interested only in their team’s success. Maybe they’re just gullible and conditioned to side with management. Maybe they’re just envious and wish they were enjoying fortune and fame instead.
Whatever the reason, fans too often let emotions get in the way and don’t see the NFL as the cold-blooded business it is.
Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins offered a reminder this week on Adam Schefter’s ESPN podcast.
“They’ll cut you on your birthday, they’ll cut you on the day your child is born, they’ll cut you on Christmas Eve,” Cousins said in his first public remarks since Washington fired Scot McCloughan as general manager. “So you just never know what’s going to happen. I guess I’m always going to keep an open mind, so I try not to get blindsided.”
Cousins denied a report that he contacted owner Dan Snyder and demanded a trade. However, he acknowledged reaching out to Snyder and team president Bruce Allen to inquire “if there was any interest in trading me, just to try to get an understanding of their perspective,” he said. “But from what I heard in conversations, I felt very much supported and felt the owner and the president of the team want me to be the quarterback there for a long time.”
Sure they do. Unless a team blows them away with a trade offer.
Then it’s, you know, just business.
Cousins understands the distinction as well as any player ever. He has a firm grasp on leverage, market value and implications of the league’s franchise tag. As things stand now, he will have banked $44 million in two years when next season ends. He’s also in position to sign a long-term deal worth anywhere from $120 million to $140 million.
That’s a win-win situation. The only possible loss doesn’t involve his finances, just his future if he stays in Ashburn.
Based on everything that’s happened since Cousins was drafted in 2012 – the Robert Griffin III fiasco, the Mike Shanahan debacle, the McCloughan embarrassment and the Allen/Snyder mishmash in general – it’s understandable if the quarterback wants to play somewhere else.
Laboring for one of the league’s biggest laughingstocks can’t be any fun, no matter the size of their direct deposits. The opportunity for a fresh start, with less drama and dysfunction at team headquarters, must be awfully appealing. A place where you’re wanted and appreciated and respected.
The Skins are real good at lip service. But Cousins is smart enough to know that Snyder and/or Allen aren’t completely sold on him, at least not at the going-rate for top-tier QBs. Otherwise the 2015 season would’ve brought a respectable long-term offer instead of an insult.
For Cousins, this isn’t a case of grass looking greener on the other side; he’s in a gravel pit.
But he’s too decent to state the obvious. Much better to let the Skins twist and turn on their petard while he cashes in. “The negotiation process, in general, has been very positive for me, and I’m happy with how things have transpired so far,” he said on the podcast.
One possible downer would be a trade to Cleveland, an inept franchise on par with Washington. The Browns reportedly have inquired about acquiring Cousins, though that wouldn’t make sense to me unless he’s willing to make a long-term commitment. It’s not like Cousins is the missing piece and Cleveland would be a Super Bowl contender with him as a “rental.”
Washington though would do well to land a couple of high draft picks and sever the relationship now, opposed to watching Cousins walk later for nothing in return. Allen/Snyder might get some perverse joy in shipping him to such a forlorn outpost, but it would be short-lived, like whiffs of success in Ashburn.
Cleveland.com reports that three other teams have asked about Cousins. His fondness for Kyle Shanahan is well-known and the 49ers clearly need a quarterback. However, Houston is a better situation if Cousins wants a chance to win right away.
Just as the Texans are an ideal spot for soon-to-be former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, they would be a perfect fit for Washington’s current starter. In addition to having a championship-caliber defense, weapons at receiver and a solid running game, Houston boasts a soft division, domed stadium and no state income tax.
If I was Cousin – man crush on Shanahan aside – I’d have my agent let the Texans know we’re open to discuss a multi-year contract if they’re interested. I’d also make it clear to Cleveland that jumping from one hellhole to another holds no appeal.
Cousins still can be traded against his will. But he holds considerable leverage in determining his future, here or elsewhere.
That’s unfortunate for an organization as flawed as Washington.
However, in the cold-hearted business that is the NFL, it’s refreshing to see a player wield so much influence for a change.