During the Kirk Cousins franchise tag/long-term contract debate, the question of whether or not Cousins could continue to play as well as he did in the last 10 games of 2015 was pivotal. In that stretch of games he completed 72.4 percent of his passes with an average of 8.7 yards per attempt with 23 touchdowns and three interceptions. His passer rating was 119.1.
Those who saw that run as a fluke were not inclined to want the Redskins to give Cousins a long-term deal near the top of the quarterback pay scale. Those who saw the stretch as things clicking for a quarterback in his first year as a starter were inclined to lobby the Redskins to lock him up no matter what it cost.
How realistic is it to expect Cousins to repeat that stretch over a full season? It would be difficult. His completion percentage of 72.4 would top Drew Brees’ single-season record of 71.2 percent. The passer rating of 119.1 would be the fourth best of all time, better than any season ever posted by Tom Brady, Steve Young, Breese, and others.
From the same perspective, it might be a little easier for Cousins to repeat what he did in the interception department. In the last 10 games he threw three of them in 315 pass attempts, a percentage of 1.0 percent. Eight quarterbacks have had an interception percentage of 1.0 or lower for a full season. Some of them, like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, are among the best quarterbacks ever. Others, like Damon Huard, Nick Foles and Joe Ferguson, are not.
A look at the single-season leaders list implies that some luck may be involved when it comes to interception avoidance. You see a lot of players, like Huard, Ferguson, Seneca Wallace, Brian Griese, and, yes, Robert Griffin III who have seasons ranking in the top 30 of all time and never came close to duplicating it again. Griese, for example, had 1.2 percent of his passes intercepted in 10 games in 2000. In his 10 NFL seasons before and after that he never had an interception percentage lower than 3.6; his career average was 3.5 percent. That’s about a percentage point over average.
Was Cousins just lucky towards the end of last year? Some who have looked at the latter part of his season closely think so. Matt Williamson does scouting work for ESPN and some other publications. Focusing just on the last half of the season, he said that he saw a lot of interceptions dropped.
While he only threw two interceptions during that eight-game stretch, quite a few more easily could have ended up in the other team’s hands - and probably should have. This was even truer in his uninspiring playoff game against Green Bay, the last time we saw Cousins.
I will say that I am suspicious of statements like that. How many is “quite a few”? Four? Ten? More? What is the standard for a “drop”? And all quarterbacks benefit from would-be interceptions that get dropped. How do Cousins’ dropped picks compare to those of other quarterbacks? More? Fewer? About the same?
But there it is and you can take it however you would like. The fact that he had a career 3.9 interception percentage going into that 10-game stretch lends some credence to the theory that Cousins benefitted from some good luck. But it’s also possible that he figured out how to avoid the turnover bug after 15 NFL starts prior to the game against the Bucs that got things rolling for him.