Nice guy or phony? The two very different faces of Kirk Cousins

Chris Lingebach
March 13, 2018 - 8:31 pm

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins is Minnesota bound, opening the door for critics and fans alike to look back on his six years in Washington. But how will he be remembered?

By most accounts, Cousins, if nothing else, is construed as a genuinely nice person and a caring teammate. But longtime ESPN scribe, Tom Friend, remembers Cousins differently, pointing to one particular moment in his rookie season, during a Week 6 game against the Vikings (yes, the Vikings). Cousins, you'll remember, was Robert Griffin III's backup then. Via

Kirk was about Kirk more than he was about the Redskins – it was difficult not to feel that. My enduring memory of Cousins is not from any of his 99 touchdown passes or 16,206 yards. It’s the game his rookie year against, of all teams, the Vikings. Kirk didn’t play that day. It was Robert Griffin III’s team back then. The Redskins led 31-26 with 2:56 left in the game, facing a third-and-6 at their own 24. If the Vikings managed to get a stop, they’d get the ball back with chance to put a dagger in the Redskins’ season.

You know the magic that happened next. Griffin faded back, saw an opening and sprinted – Olympic speed – toward the end zone for a 76-yard touchdown. But go to YouTube and watch it again. As Griffin is heading to the end zone….with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan raising his arms heavenward…with FedEx Field rivaling the Linc in terms of noise…with an entire Redskins Nation doing figurative backflips….Cousins is standing alone at about the 30-yard line with his hands behind his back. He doesn’t flinch, doesn’t cheer, doesn’t wave him in. He’s emotionless. That, to me, will always be the real Kirk. Yes, he was young and relatively new in town, but it struck me as odd, selfish – that 75,000 Redskins faithful were on Cloud 9…except one.

The Sports Junkies

The Sports Junkies happened to agree with Friend's characterization, and pulled up the video he referenced to dissect it on air.

JP: I think Tom Friend's all over it. Did you watch the video?

EB: I've watched it 100 times, like the Zapruder film, and every Redskin -- not every one, there's one or two that are still -- but, I mean, there are a bunch of bums jumping up and down, coaches. And then Kirk has got his hands behind his back, completely unmoved!


EB: Dude, I've watched this thing a million times. I've never seen a more passionless teammate.

JP: Terrible teammate.

EB: Terrible teammate.

JP then brought up the farewell letter Cousins penned to Redskins fans, and took issue with the seemingly forced emotion behind it.

JP: I read the letter today that he (wrote to the fans). To me, even though he was trying to say that he was emotional, I didn't feel any emotion at all. It seemed so calculated and disconnected.

EB: He's a big phony.

Drab: You guys sound like a high schooler that was dumped by his girlfriend and he's trashing her a week later. That's all that's going on.

EB: Correct. Correct. Correct. I agree. If he had signed here, I wouldn't do this.

Drab: So, suddenly he's a bad person?

EB: He's a phony. He is a phony. He's a fake person. But a lot of people are fake. A lot of people are fake.

"Jesus. Man. Everyone's jumping up and down," EB went on to say about the video. "(Kirk's) just passionless. Arms behind his back. Nothing. Coaches jumping up and down, just scrubs jumping up and down."

"He wanted RGIII to get caught from behind," Bish added. "That's what he wanted."

Last month, EB explained how he now feels Cousins was "disingenuous" for publicly acting like there was a chance he'd return to the Redskins, when there never really was hope for it. JP mocked EB for buying into Cousins' "politician" routine: "I guess you fell for it." 

Fast-forward a few hours. Grant Paulsen -- who noted he was listening to The Junkies while driving in -- and Danny Rouhier took a different tact.

Grant & Danny

"So, somehow, (Cousins) writes this nice letter to the fans, this farewell," Paulsen said. "Before he did this, people were saying, 'How come he hasn't written anything to the Washington fanbase yet?'"

"Because the league year hasn't started," Rouhier noted. "It's not official."

"I don't know, because he's still a Redskin," Paulsen said. "So now he writes it, and you don't like the hashtags, and you're upset with the website it was on. By the way, I heard that he was actually going to take out an ad in The Washington Post. I don't know if this is true or not. But, like, I don't know what it costs or whatever. But you know how Kirk Cousins is just a guy that is like monitoring every little aspect of his life. He like had this big thought about it. And he goes, 'Yeah, I guess I'll just do it on my website. It's probably just easier, better that way.' But the point is, he got heat for doing it on his website, he got flack for tagging things."

The initial farewell offering, posted the day before Cousins reportedly agreed to sign with Minnesota, had "Jets" and "Vikings" tagged as keywords. Some fans perceived it to be a troll job, intending to taunt Redskins fans. The post was later edited, stripping it of those apparently incendiary keywords.

"Meanwhile, Alex Smith wrote a letter in The Players' Tribune," Paulsen said. "And I don't know how that's going to go over, but I'll bet there's no one going to call him 'a loser' or 'a jerk,' or anything like that on local radio."

"It's never going to be enough," said Rouhier. "It'll never be right. No one can ever be okay. Nothing can ever just go by unmarked, where you go, 'Oh, that was a nice letter. That was nice of him.' Nope. He's a big, fat phony!"

"I was listening on the way in today to The Junks, and to EB, and JP and the crew, as well as their callers," Paulsen said, adding a touch of awkward laughter before a long pause. "Redskins fans amaze me. That you would continually give the benefit of the doubt to Dan Snyder after all these years, and to Bruce Allen. It's comical to me."

"I was texting with a couple former Redskins, who hit me up about this," he said. "I didn't text anybody. I had a couple guys in the last 24 hours hit me up and say, 'You see what's happening to Cousins, right?'

"And I said, 'Yeah, I see what's happening. I'm kinda over it. I don't really care. I know what happened. If ya know, ya know.'

"And they said, 'Yeah, but this is how it goes there.' And they're right. The team and the fanbase kind of come together in the end, and a guy like Doug Williams will have his quotes to his buddy, Tom Friend, and they'll get their word out. I'm sure Kirk Cousins was just a big jerk and Scot McCloughan was just a big drunk, and the Redskins are right again. I'm sure that that's what happened. But at least they've earned the benefit of all your doubts."

Paulsen then turned his ire onto the "childish" fans who've resorted to name-calling.

"The childish nature of the anger. In this business, where you get a couple of times to determine where you're gonna play, and you have the right to go chose your company, to call a guy names, to make it personal," he said. "It is amazing to me how short the memories of this fanbase are. You know, at one point in time, you're moving on from -- it doesn't matter who it is. If it's Lorenzo Alexander, because you didn't want to pay him a couple hundred-thousand dollars. I'm sure Mike Shanahan was the big, bad wolf, and Scot McCloughan was a malcontent who was ruining the organization from the inside-out with his drinking. I'm not a sucker. I was not born yesterday. You guys want to play the role of sucker, you do that. I've followed this thing every step of the way like the rest of you. Use your brains."

Rouhier: Please be better than the butt-hurt fan in Section 420. Please be better. Please be an organization that doesn't leak bull-crap to The Washington Post about a guy that you're firing and trying to keep the money from, in Scot McCloughan, just a year ago, almost to this week. Get out of here! How in the world have we not grown past this petty, small crap?!

Paulsen: Your feelings got hurt. No, here's what happened. Your feelings got hurt because this guy didn't stay, and now it's personal and you want to call him a loser and a jerk and make fun of him. That's fine.

"I'm not talking about people that want to dissect the player and what he's worth, and whether or not you can win a Super Bowl with him," Paulsen went on to explain. "I'm talking about the people that are now personally attacking him, and coming down on him for knowing the media's names, or going back and looking at a video six years ago to see if he cheered in the half-second the camera panned past him. It's stupid! It's dumb! But at least you are rallying behind the organization, as you always do, because suckers are born every single second, so they can keep selling you that nostalgia. At least you're doing that."

"They were good almost 30 years ago, Grant," noted Rouhier. "So, in your face. Deal with that."

"It's embarrassing. If you are being a child and calling Kirk Cousins names, you should be embarrassed," Paulsen said. "Just like, by the way, when Robert Griffin left. If you were calling him names, if you were calling him a loser, you should be embarrassed. Grow up!"

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