Kirk Cousins’ KFAN radio show/podcast is the gift that keeps on giving, if only head coach Mike Zimmer would listen.
A week after apologizing to receiver Adam Thielen on the show for missing opportunities to get him the ball in a loss to the Bears, Cousins this week provided a window into how he felt leading up to and during a much more successful game against the Giants. Prompted by a caller imploring him to cut loose and be himself, Cousins said in fact he did against New York.
“There’s no doubt I play better when I have an edge to me, when that guy who yelled ‘You like that!’ comes out,” Cousins said on the episode that aired Tuesday. “Believe me, the last week has brought that guy out a little bit in me. There’s some fire there and some edge. … And that’s when I play better. I’m going to try to channel that every week going forward and have a little edge to me.”
For those who don’t know or need a refresher: Cousins shouted “You like that!” at reporters on the way into the locker room after a game on Oct. 25, 2015 with Washington. He had engineered a comeback from down 24-0 to Tampa Bay by throwing three touchdowns in a 31-30 victory. It was his first full season a starter; Washington was 2-4 going into the game and Cousins had six TD passes to go with eight interceptions. The phrase became a rallying cry and perhaps signaled a turning point in his career.
Including that game against Tampa, Cousins went 7-3 in his final 10 games of 2015, throwing 23 touchdown passes and just three picks to help Washington make the playoffs (the only time in his career he’s made it to the postseason as a starter). He hasn’t missed a start since then.
So, um, yeah. More of that guy.
But the investigation can’t end with the simple conclusion that “Cousins plays better mad.”
I asked him Wednesday, in following up on his radio comments, why he plays better when he has an edge and how he can maintain it.
“I don’t know the answer,” Cousins said. “Sometimes when I get frustrated and ticked off, there’s a little more fire there. It can also get you in trouble if you’re not careful, but I think within reason it can help you.”
So what brought out that edge Sunday?
“You know, I don’t need to get into it,” he said. “You play this position and things happen inside the building and outside the building that motivate you. You find motivation anywhere you can, really.”
Without getting into it, Cousins gave some clues about the heart of a tumultuous week.
“Inside the building” could refer to the Stefon Diggs saga, which saw the receiver get fined $200,000 after missing time and sounding upset about his role but still playing Sunday. It could refer to smoothing things over with Thielen. It could refer to private conversations that none of us know about. It could be all of the above.
“Outside the building” almost certainly refers to the steady drumbeat of criticism Cousins faced, particularly as national media scrutiny intensified after the loss to the Bears.
Both of those things affected him.
Cousins tends to play well after losses. He tends to play well against bad teams. Both were on display against the Giants. What he needs to do Sunday against the Eagles is string together two good games for the first time this season and beat a good team for the first time this season.
Maybe playing mad is the key?
“I don’t know. If I knew that (it) was, I’d tick him off myself,” Zimmer said Wednesday. “I don’t know and I don’t listen to his radio show. Whatever he says is fine with me.”