Mar­i­ucci: Ex­tend­ing Cousins is right move

The Washington Post Sunday - - WASHINGTONPOST.COM/SPORTS - BY LIZ CLARKE liz.clarke@wash­post.com

Now that the NFL’s win­dow for ap­ply­ing the fran­chise tag is here, opin­ions are flying about what the Red­skins should do with quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins. And for­mer NFL coach Steve Mar­i­ucci, who was Brett Favre’s quar­ter­back coach at Green Bay be­fore be­ing named the head coach in San Fran­cisco and later Detroit, has a unique way of an­a­lyz­ing the pros and cons.

It starts with an eye-pop­ping num­ber: 7.3 bil­lion. And it leads to this con­clu­sion: “You’ve got to keep [Cousins], and you’re go­ing to have to pay him and keep your fin­gers crossed that you can still sur­round him with enough sup­port­ing cast to get it done.”

Here’s how Mar­i­ucci, now an NFL Net­work an­a­lyst, sized it up in a re­cent in­ter­view.

“There are 7.3 bil­lion peo­ple on this planet, last I counted,” Mar­i­ucci said. “But there are not enough hu­man be­ings to fill the 32 fran­chise-quar­ter­back spots; they don’t ex­ist. So when you have a [Tom] Brady and [Aaron] Rodgers, a Matt Ryan and a [Ben] Roeth­lis­berger — those great, Pro Bowl, fran­chise kind of guys — you just thank your lucky stars ev­ery day.”

Mean­while, the 28-odd other NFL teams are look­ing for that cal­iber of quar­ter­back, and many end up over­pay­ing — award­ing $20 mil­lion-a-year con­tracts and up on a hunch.

The ques­tions fac­ing the Red­skins, five years af­ter their costly trade to draft Robert Grif­fin III, who seemed a sure­fire fran­chise quar­ter­back, are these: Do they keep Cousins, who will be 29 when the 2017 reg­u­lar sea­son opens? In­vest in a younger player? Draft a quar­ter­back and start over?

“Not ev­ery rookie quar­ter­back is gonna have suc­cess like Dak Prescott did, with a great of­fen­sive line and all the things he did so well,” Mar­i­ucci cau­tions. “Teams like Hous­ton, they’re go­ing to have to over­pay at quar­ter­back and say, ‘Maybe this is the guy that takes us there.’ There are go­ing to be some swings and some misses and some suc­cesses.”

In the case of the Red­skins, Mar­i­ucci said he be­lieves, the smart play is to ac­knowl­edge that keep­ing Cousins is go­ing to be costly — and do it.

“He’s a heck of a player,” said Mar­i­ucci, a Michi­gan na­tive who has fol­lowed Cousins’s ca­reer since the un­der­sized, un­der-re­cruited quar­ter­back from Hol­land (Mich.) Chris­tian signed with Michi­gan State. “He wasn’t one of those five-star re­cruits then. But he is a class act, a great hu­man be­ing and a heck of a leader. Whether you call him an over­achiever or not, I think you sign him, and that’s your guy.”

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