LANDOVER, Md. -- When Kirk Cousins issued his now-famous phrase after a game -- You like that?! -- it became a rallying cry for the Washington Redskins' season. It also was a declarative statement, one that did not require an answer. Now it'll turn into a question, as in, how much did the Redskins like that this season? And that one needs an answer.
Cousins said after Sunday's 35-18 playoff loss to Green Bay that he's not sure what his future holds. The Redskins absolutely want the quarterback to return and view him as similar to Kansas City's Alex Smith, a strong game manager who needs others to help him but who can win games.
But there have been no serious discussions on a contract to this point.
"I want to be where I am wanted," said Cousins, who now becomes a free agent, "and you want to be with people who believe in you and we are going to find out -- because we haven't discussed it much yet -- how much I am wanted and where that'll go.
"It's a business and this team is going to operate with that mindset and this is my first time going through that process in the NFL, so it's new to me, don't know a whole lot about it."
Cousins showed flashes of what made him successful down the stretch. And he showed glimpses of previous struggles. Cousins completed 29 of 46 passes for 329 yards and a touchdown. He wasn't intercepted, but a couple of his throws could have been picked off.
In the past, he got in trouble when he tried to do too much, and that was the case at times Sunday. Other times his throws were off, a problem in games during the first half of the season.
But Cousins energized his teammates with his performance this season, especially over the final 10 games of the regular season, when he threw 23 touchdown passes to only three interceptions. One bad game didn't alter the positive vibes. As Cousins exited the field, he received a long embrace by general manager Scot McCloughan.
"We have a quarterback," Redskins end Ricky Jean Francois said.
"He had an incredible year," Redskins end Jason Hatcher said. "He ain't scratched the surface of what kind of quarterback he can be. I thank God for him that he came into his own, and he'll end up being a special quarterback."
Sunday, though, he was off. He misread a play on the last full series before halftime, a third down when the Packers ran a trap. Had Cousins read it better, he would have opted for receiver Pierre Garcon on the outside rather than Jamison Crowder inside after the corner laid off Garcon. He missed an open Ryan Grant down the middle; Grant had to turn to adjust to the ball and then fell, but the ball was probably too far away anyway.
But Cousins also made some good plays, hitting tight end Jordan Reed for a 24-yard touchdown. Another time, with Clay Matthews blitzing at him, staying calm and hitting a receiver in stride for a first down.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden called it a learning experience.
"Not just a playoff game, but any game," Gruden said. "Sometimes you just got to force it in there and try to make a play. Every experience he had he's going to benefit from."
There was a difference in the quarterbacks. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers reminded everyone why he's one of the best, if not the best, quarterback in the NFL. His focus wasn't on this being his first playoff game, but rather on controlling the game. He did so by forcing two 12-men-on-the-field penalties that forced the Redskins to abandon some substitutions. And that created a positive situation for Green Bay.
Cousins isn't at the point where he can perform that way. Maybe he'll never get there; not many do. But he did show he can lead a solid offense. Sunday did not have to be the end of his rise; it could be just another step in his progression. The question will be, though, what happens in the negotiations and how does each side view his value.
Cousins sounded businesslike about his future, but he also enjoyed the ride this season -- and part of that included his catchphrase. It produced an energy that had been missing at FedEx Field in recent years. When Cousins exited the bus Sunday, he was greeted by chants of "You like that?!"
"What I liked most was the environment in hopping off the bus, to warm-ups, to pregame, to the game itself," Cousins said. "Our fans were phenomenal and outstanding. One of my biggest reasons to be back here is to play for those people and to deliver a winning team year in and year out, because they’re phenomenal."
A year ago, Cousins expressed a desire to go somewhere he could compete for a starting job. He found that place in Washington and capitalized. Over the next few months, we'll see just how much.