How quarterback Kirk Cousins fared under Kyle Shanahan in Washington

All signs point to Kirk Cousins playing this year for Washington on the franchise tag and leaving for the 49ers in 2018, primarily to reunite with former OC and current San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan and to make a run with a defense that has had a ton of assets sunk into it since the 2013 draft.

Now, the quarterback has evolved a great deal since the two split—Cousins didn’t become Washington's full-time starter until 2015, two seasons after Shanahan left. And he has done a lot since taking over, throwing 54 touchdowns and completing 68.3% of his passes over the past two years, and nearly hitting 5,000 yards passing in just his second full season as a starter.

We also know that before he did all of that, Shanahan was very fond of Cousins and believed his game was compatible with the system he runs.

But with this alleged inseparable bond—the powerful gravitational pull that is supposed to bring these two back together to fulfill their ultimate destiny—it seemed worth looking at how Cousins actually fared under Shanahan when they did attack defenses together.

A close-up look . . .

Total numbers

Cousins in eight games with Shanahan: 114 completions on 203 attempts, giving him a completion rate just north of 56%. Cousins also put up 1,320 passing yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He finished with a 68.6 passer rating in a sample that included four two-interception games. The QB also failed to throw a single touchdown in three of those contests. Overall, these are on the negative side of league averages.

Zooming in on the starts

In four games as a starter under Shanahan, Cousins went 95 of 167 passing with 1,067 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions. He had a 75.5 passer rating and went 1-3 over two seasons of staggered starts.

2012 @ Cleveland (5-11)

In 2012, Cousins made the December trek into Cleveland for his first NFL start. In that game, he went 26 of 37, completing over 70% of his passes. He pushed the ball for 329 yards in the air, two touchdowns and one interception, for a very solid 104.4 rating. Wideout Pierre Garcon was his leading receiver in both catches and yards (6-65-0); then second-year receiver Leonard Hankerson caught both scores. Washington scored 38 points in what was Cousins’ one and only win as a starter under Shanahan.

2013 @ Atlanta (4-12)

Shanahan and Cousins went up against the struggling Mike Smith coached Falcons in the Georgia Dome the next week. The QB went 29 of 45, completing 64.4% of his passes, while throwing for 381 yards and three touchdowns, and two picks. He posted a 94.8 rating. Garcon had the hot hand again, going off for 129 yards and a touchdown this time.

Of note was that Washington turned it over seven times, with three coming from Cousins (2 interceptions, 1 fumble lost). His squad went on to lose by a point (27-26), but it could have been avoided. Washington went for the win with 18 seconds left—instead of opting for the extra point and the tie/potential OT period—and Cousins, rolling to his right, tossed one up in the end zone that was deflected by then-rookie Desmond Trufant.

While that was the fashion they lost in, that late in the season with a 3-10 record, there was no reason not to go for it. And Trufant, who ended the game, has since emerged into one of the better corners in the league.

2013 vs. Dallas (8-8)

For his third career start, Cousins welcomed NFC East foes, the Dallas Cowboys, at FedEx Field. While not a playoff squad, this was the best team Cousins had seen yet. The quarterback finished 21 of 36 passing for 191 yards, throwing a touchdown and an interception. Garcon exploded for one of the top three games of his career, this time for 11 catches, 144 yards and a touchdown.

Again, Washington lost by a point (24-23), but it was Tony Romo’s fourth-quarter heroics that put them away.

2013 @ New York-N (7-9)

Cousins led his squad into frigid New Jersey in December to face Eli Manning and the rival Giants, who were just two years removed from their second Super Bowl title since 2007. It was the final game Cousins played under Shanahan. The quarterback struggled mightily that day, going 19 of 49 for a completion rate of 38.78%. He threw for under 200 yards, and tossed a touchdown and a pick. Washington failed to score that game, losing 20-6.

Media courtesy The Washington Post

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