They’re Just Not That Into You

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The DMV’s hottest couple is the Washington Redskins and quarterback, Kirk Cousins.  They have kept local, beat writers employed, with a seemingly-constant stream of tabloid fodder that rivals Anniston/Pitt, Joli/Pitt, etc.

At this point, they’ve been together for nearly five years.  It’s nearing the time when the Redskins will have to pop the question or break things off, so the two sides can move on.  Will they or won’t they?  Here are five classic, tell-tale, relationship signs that indicate they won’t be tossing burgundy and gold bouquets anytime soon.

 

1) Baggage

Every relationship has its up’s and down’s. Too much of the latter will develop into baggage that will weigh down and test even the strongest bonds.

By this point, Cousins and Washington have enough suitcases to fill a large U-Haul. Here’s the abridged version:

They met in 2012. The Redskins liked Cousins but decided to go with the flashier, Robert Griffin III, putting Cousins in the dreaded “friend-zone.”

As the RGIII/Washington relationship fizzled, a dramatic love-triangle saw the Redskins cheat on Griffin with Cousins. During the tumultuous period, they even had a brief fling with Colt McCoy.

In 2015, Cousins finally broke out of the friend-zone, and the two have been an item since. But, as you will see in the next category, it has been an uneasy alliance.

 

2) Trust Issues

It’s the age old quandary: if your relationship was smelted in the fires of infidelity, can you really trust your partner not to burn you, the next time they get bored?

Cousins and the Redskins clearly have their trust issues. With the record-breaking numbers Kirk has posted, there should be no doubt in everyone’s mind that he has ascended to elite-quarterback status.

Instead, he’s become a polarizing-figure in the nation’s capital, where politics reign supreme. Opinions seem to be divided, from the team’s fan-base to Snyder’s flagship radio station all the way up to the front office.

Is Cousins a true, franchise signal-caller? Or, is he a second or third-tier guy, whose success is more a product of the system and talent around him?

Visit any NFL city, and you’re likely to find a contingent of folks who believe their quarterback sucks; it’s a tough job. But, criticism always seems amplified in Washington.

Case in point: there are still people, who think the team should never have gotten rid of RGIII, for Pete’s sake. Kirk is a tough guy but the constant negativity has to be draining.

 

3) They Speak in Code

“It’s fine.”

This is a classic example of relationship “code talk.” When a woman says something is fine, alarm bells should be going off in your head, because the phrase likely means she is anything but okay with whatever you were discussing (the more probable scenario, she is saving her ammo for a later argument).

Five months down the road, you can’t put your foot down against kitchen-remodeling, when you chartered a fishing boat for your buddy’s bachelor party, over the summer.

That’s a dramatic example, it also happens on smaller scales. When your significant other says, “I heard that new restaurant was good,” don’t fixate on that steakhouse you were craving. Otherwise, you risk being hit later with one of the dreaded, “we never do…” speeches.

The small things matter. Women remember things like a five-star attorney working a homicide case.

Athletes are blessed/cursed with similar, mental clarity. Just ask Tom Brady or Michael Jordan if they remember their early-life slights. The best of them take those instances and use them as motivating tools.

Kirk is appropriately bland in interviews, refusing to shovel coal into the swirling media fire. However, we’ve all seen a peek behind those corporate curtains. Check out his viral “you like that” video, for an impromptu moment of raw emotion.

The problem is, everyone misinterpreted the statement. They thought he was trying to fire his teammates up, like a pro-wrestler working the crowd, before a match.

In reality, he might as well have shouted “F-U Snyder.”

The statement, viewed in hindsight, seems more like an early, declaration of war. The message wasn’t profane, but clearly said: Hey, I’m pretty good. And, I have strong faith in my abilities, even though you don’t.

Cousins is clearly an emotional player. He is also supremely-confident in his abilities. That might be a good combination on game day, but it’s a dangerous mix at the negotiating table.

 

4) Wandering Eyes

Everyone has their own reasons for cheating, but the motives generally break into the following categories.

A) They are unhappy with their current situation
B) They think they can get away with it
C) A & B

Both parties are guilty. For the Redskins, it was clearly B. Last year, they slapped Cousins with the franchise tag, for the second time, instead of negotiating a long-term deal.

It’s an expensive way to do business. The franchise tag netted Cousins a cool, $20 million last year, a figure that hikes to $23 million if he plays under it in 2017. That’s $43 million for two seasons.

It’s unknown whether the Cousins camp would have been open to a deal. However, the Redskins might have been able to lock him up for five years with $55-65 million guaranteed if they had just taken the medicine and made a better effort to get a deal done.

Instead, their actions sent another message: you’re good, but not good enough to warrant a long-term commitment. Let’s see you repeat your 2015 season.

A year later, trade talks have swirled around Cousins and the Redskins. The latter has been linked to anyone from Jay Cutler to Brian Hoyer to Mike Glennon as potential-replacements.

There seems to be a belief among the coaching staff and team executives, that the Redskins could simply plug Colt McCoy in and he would do a passable job as a stopgap.

Likewise, Cousins has sent similarly-mixed signals. Does he want to be back? Publicly, he has been lukewarm on the possibility and hasn’t ruled testing free-agency, in 2018.

Neither side wants to appear that they wanted the other one gone. A free-agency scenario is ground zero for the Redskins, who would find themselves alone at the altar with nothing to show for it.

Cousins’ impending free-agency makes signing him the top priority, on the Redskins’ off-season’s checklist. Unfortunately for them, he is holding most, if not all, the cards.

The starting point for any contract discussion would have to start with making him the highest-paid quarterback in NFL history, surpassing the record-setting deal Andrew Luck just got (5 years, $123 million) from the Colts.

Every year, the contracts for quarterbacks continue to spiral upwards at a dizzying pace. The reason is the ever-increasing salary cap, which will jump to $167 million, this year. If an elite quarterback’s salary traditionally accounts for 15-20% of that figure, the contracts will naturally increase, in tandem.

Thus, it may be appealing for Cousins to bank his $23 million this year and then jump into contracts next year, when the cap is potentially-higher.

The Redskins are stuck in that, unless he decides to sign a deal, Cousins can kill a potential trade by announcing that he will not sign a contract with that interested team. No team is going to give up a big haul for a one-year rental – especially not the RGIII-like package the Redskins have been rumored to be asking for in exchange (multiple, first-round picks).

 

5) Letting pride color their decisions

Everyone has flaws. It’s just easier to overlook them initially, in that wonderful, honeymoon stage. When that passes, and you start considering long-term plans with someone, one tends to be more critical.

It’s never easy to hear criticisms, especially when they’re directed at you. An early test for relationships is how well partners respond to well-intentioned challenges from their partner. Self-growth is important; no one wants to end up in a “dead shark” relationship, as referenced in Annie Hall.

The main obstacle impeding growth is ego. In the Redskins’ case, no one has more pride than its owner, Daniel Snyder. In 2012, he fell in love with RGIII, orchestrating the trade that altered the franchise’s history.

It’s possible that Cousins will always serve as a reminder to Snyder of his own failure. Signing the quarterback to a historical deal will be akin to pouring salt on an open wound. Also, it would mean acknowledging the scouting acumen of Mike Shanahan, who selected Cousins, something Snyder might be loath to do.

But, would they really be better off with plan B behind center? The offensive line has improved, but Cousins’ ability to get the ball out quick definitely plays a big role in that. Also, he has succeeded despite the real threat of a running game. You can hide an average quarterback behind a solid, power-running scheme. It’s much tougher without one.

As for Kirk, he has been second-banana from the day he was drafted (Trivia question, can you name the seven quarterbacks drafted ahead of him, that year?).

As such, he has always been branded with the stigma that he is not starting-quarterback material. Undoubtedly he resents that, along with the team that put him in that situation in the first place.

However, he must consider the fact that he is in a pretty good situation.

Is it really likely that a team that can afford him would really be in position to contend for a title? Teams like the 49ers or Jets are deep in rebuilding stages; they need massive overhauls to even get to the point the Redskins were in 2015-16.

And, as mentioned-before, Cousins has a lot of leverage here. He probably could even have a say in who the head coach is, making that point a contingency of him signing.

That coach, Jay Gruden, clearly understands how to utilize Cousins’ talents. Cousins is also blessed to play on a loaded-offense (Reed, Crowder, Garcon if he comes back). He wouldn’t necessarily have that going for him, elsewhere.

Neither is Cousins perfect. For all his positives, he’s also shown he can get rattled under pressure and be forced into some pretty, bad throws. He appears to be respected in the locker room, but not beloved. Going into a new situation, he’d have the pressure of not only performing, but winning over a new set of guys.

If Cousins’ true motive is validation, he must know that true status will only come by leading a team to the Super Bowl. Any mega-deal he signs will son be rendered obsolete, anyway, when some of these other quarterbacks (a Matt Stafford, for example) are due for new deals.

Washington has been single at the quarterback position for so long that it’s amazing they are even pondering this decision. Still, whether the two tie the knot seems like a coin flip, at this point.

It’s clear that, whatever happens, both sides will feel some sense of regret.

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