Kirk Cousins shows flashes, but Washington wants consistency

Kirk Cousins has had some huge games this season, but Washington is 0-4 when he throws an interception. Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports

ASHBURN, Va. -- The inconsistency isn’t lost on Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden. He’s seen what everyone else has: One game Kirk Cousins stars and leads the best comeback in franchise history; another game he struggles, throws multiple interceptions and misses targets.

It’s either the life of a developing quarterback or just the way he is. Take your pick. But the coaches see the ups-and-downs. They’re just willing to live with them.

"He’s obviously shown flashes of being one heck of a quarterback," Gruden said. "He’s had some times where you like scratch your head sometimes."

Sunday qualifies as a flash, with Cousins completing 33-of-40 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns. The head-scratchers have occurred this season as well, with multiple-interception games four times -- and too many off-target throws in those games as well. When Cousins throws an interception this season, the Redskins are 0-4.

The past two games show why the Redskins want to keep starting him and why they’re not ready to commit long term.

"You have to see results, obviously, and he's had three wins. He's 3-4 right now. Now you're looking for some consistency," Gruden said. "That position is all about consistency, but it's all about getting better-and-better-and-better and showing us that he has the right to be a starter. I think he's done that over the first seven games, but we still need to see more consistency from him, and everybody, for us to be where we want to be."

Sunday showed the Redskins could win via the pass when the run game struggles -- as it has in recent weeks. But that’s never been the formula the coaches want. They want to be a run-oriented team, setting up play-action and bootlegs -- which, they believe, are areas of strength for Cousins. The Redskins are now 2-2 when Cousins attempts 40 or more passes, but that’s not the life they want to live. However, some of those throws are so short, they’re considered de facto handoffs. Sunday, for example, Cousins completed 24-of-26 passes that traveled five yards or less, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"The objective of this offense is to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands and let the playmakers make the plays," Gruden said. "Whether it's a short pass or the running game, I think it's very, very important. I think Kirk has the ability to drop back and throw it as many times as you want to, but we don't want him to do that. We want to make sure that everybody gets involved -- the running game, obviously -- and everybody gets their touches."

And they want him to show progress. One good game followed by a clunker, or two, won’t help in the long term. But a game like Sunday, if followed by more good games, would.

"I feel there’s a long ways to go," Cousins said. "It’s not my job to say how I’m playing. I think it’s [the media’s job] to do that, and it’s my coaches' job and our scouts' job to say how I’m playing. I know it’s my job to work really hard, prepare really hard, to never quit and to be tough-minded, just keep going. And I’m going to keep doing that regardless of what our record is, what the results are. Just keep playing nad learning from every time out there."