Three weeks ago, it seemed like the Washington Redskins had lucked out.
Everyone was ripping Kirk Cousins. Adam Thielen criticized the offense. Stefon Diggs reportedly wanted a trade. The $84 million, fully guaranteed deal the Minnesota Vikings gave Cousins looked crazy after another mediocre outing against the Chicago Bears.
These days, Cousins is the hottest quarterback in the NFL. He is the first QB in NFL history with at least 300 passing yards and a passer rating of 130 or better in three consecutive games. And Washington just got shut out at home as its rookie first-round quarterback waits to start his first game.
We’ll get to see the state of both teams when Cousins and the Vikings face the Redskins on Thursday night, a game that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app.
Washington struggles in post-Kirk Cousins era
Washington and Minnesota are on opposite ends of the NFL spectrum these days. That’s not entirely due to Cousins, of course.
With the Vikings’ offense suddenly on fire, they look like Super Bowl contenders. Cousins was fantastic in three straight games against the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions. In a 42-30 win over the Lions, Cousins had 337 yards and four touchdowns. Minnesota has the stars on offense and defense to compete for a title, if Cousins continues to play well. He’ll still need to have big games against the best teams on Minnesota’s schedule to win over all his critics.
It’s hard to say Cousins, even in his current hot streak, would do much for the Redskins.
Washington is 1-6, with its only win coming on a two-point conversion stop in the final seconds against the Miami Dolphins, one of the few teams that are worse than the Redskins. They’ve already fired their coach. They’ve tried quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Case Keenum but not rookie Dwayne Haskins because Haskins is apparently not ready to play. Washington ranks 30th in the NFL in points scored per game and 29th in yards per game.
Would Cousins help? Sure. He’s better than anything Washington has now. But just because Cousins got a deal that paid him like a transcendent quarterback doesn’t make him one. He’s at his best with a good team around him, playing a complementary role. He’d help Washington be better, but he wouldn’t make a sorry Redskins team a playoff contender or anything close.
In that way, changing teams was best for everyone. Though ultimately we’ll judge the Cousins era in Minnesota on his ability to help guide the Vikings to a deep playoff run.
Cousins, Washington had a tumultuous breakup
Cousins and Washington splitting wasn’t your run-of-the-mill situation in which a player’s contract runs out and he signs with another team.
The entire situation between Cousins and Washington was messy. There were a couple franchise tags, a significant disagreement on his worth on a long-term deal, Cousins feeling disrespected and expressing it in his own way (“How do you like me now?” he said to then-GM Scot McCloughan after a game), and former Washington coach Jay Gruden taking a dig at Cousins by saying the Redskins upgraded with Alex Smith.
The reason Cousins got overpaid is because he was the incredibly rare quarterback of his talent level to hit the open market in his prime. Whether he was worth the money will be debated for a long time — though Cousins can end that discussion by leading the Vikings to a Super Bowl.
Thursday night will be a weird game for Washington, seeing its past at quarterback while struggling through the present. Everyone is better off, though the next bad game from Cousins will revive all the old criticism about his contract.
– – – – – – –
More from Yahoo Sports: