Do you see this man? He’s happier than you think he is.
Why wouldn’t he be? Cuz is making bank! You may think Kirk Cousins is upset with the lack of loyalty the Redskins have shown him, and their unwillingness to lock him to a long term deal. But I assure you, he’s not worried. Not one bit. After franchising him last year, the Redskins wanted to see if Cousins was more than a one-year wonder. That was a logical thing to do, and Cousins made $20 million dollars by signing that contract. So Cousins went out the next year, set team passing records, and had another phenomenal season. In nearly every scenario this would result in a long-term contract. Generally, when an employee goes above and beyond, and has the respect of those around him, a company will want to lock that employee up for a while to prevent competitors from poaching him.
But not the Redskins. Most definitely not the Redskins.
Instead of signing Cousins to that long-term deal, the Redskins signed him to yet another franchise tag, a one year deal that will pay the QB $24 million in 2017. This gives Cousins all the leverage…and $44 million dollars in two years. When the sides could not reach an agreement on a long-term deal, that pretty much assured that Cousins would be playing elsewhere next season.
The Redskins have become the poster organization for ineptitude. I go into great detail here describing why and how they have a long history of poo-pooing fans under Snyder’s leadership. But can they ever learn any lessons? Perhaps they need to look south, to my beloved Carolina Panthers to get some ideas.
This week, the Panthers abruptly fired General Manager David Gettleman. Gettleman was hired in 2013 to clean up a massive front office mess that former GM Marty Hurney left behind. Hurney was notorious for looking in all the wrong places when it came to players. He was decent when it came to first round picks (when he had them), but was horrendous in rounds 2-7. Don’t believe me? Take a look at his draft history here. In free agency, he shelled out loads of money to aging and oft-injured veterans like DeAngelo Williams, Jon Beason, and Olindo Mare. After Jake Delhomme threw footballs to everyone not in a Panthers uniform in the playoffs at home against the 9-7 Cardinals (on his birthday, no less), Hurney signed him to an extension. The term “cap hell” was commonly used to describe the Panthers’ financial situation because Hurney liked to make it rain year after year.
Gettleman came in and immediately began getting the Panthers out of cap hell. To do so, he needed to make the hard decisions; decisions that angered a lot of players. Gone were the days of veterans in their twilight getting big pay days just because they were loyal. Gone were the days of using most of the team’s cap space to keep intact a 2-14 team. Gettleman chose winning over loyalty. Yes, some fan favorites were shown the door, like Steve Smith, but talent that could contribute for years was locked up (Newton, Keuchly, Short), and expensive, aging veterans were let go. It was a painful transition for some of the players, but it did lead to winning.
Gettleman’s approach of winning over loyalty was a hard concept for owner Jerry Richardson to accept. Richardson has always been loyal to his players, as long as they showed loyalty to him and his franchise, and carried themselves in the right way. Gettleman’s approach was different from that. An example of his hardball tactics could be seen with how he handed negotiations with cornerback Josh Norman. A lot of people around the league scratched their heads when the franchise tag was rescinded from the talented fan-favorite and he was allowed to leave for nothing. It was a message that it was Gettleman’s way or the highway, and that no player was safe. This strategy caused the Panthers to start two rookies at cornerback the next year, which resulted in one of the worst passing defenses in NFL history. This year, with contract negotiations becoming tense between Gettleman and fan-favorites (and Richardson favorites) Thomas Davis and Greg Olsen, Richardson stepped in and put an end to the madness by giving Gettleman the boot. Loyalty had to mean something.
What can Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder learn from this? Winning is important, but sometimes character and loyalty also come in to play with Pro-Bowlers who wish to stay with your team. In Washington’s case, you have a General Manager who would rather play hard ball than sign one of the top QBs in the league to a long-term deal. Cousins is a fan favorite (some would say THE fan favorite), and the unquestioned leader of this team. In the NFL you cannot win without a top flight QB, and Cousins is the best one they’ve had in a generation. What Dan Snyder should do in this situation is what Richardson did, which is step in and fire the incompetent Bruce Allen, then get Cousins signed to a long-term deal. Show some loyalty to Cousins and I guarantee it gets reciprocated. Only then can the team can build around Cousins and move ahead.
Gettleman was fired because he negotiatied too hard. At least he put a winner on the field. Allen negotiaties hard and still can’t get a winner on the field, which makes it even more preposterous that he’s still in his position.
Though the firing of Gettleman should be a lesson on how to handle the current situation with Cousins, what the Panthers did next should be a lesson on what NOT to do. Remember the guy I said earlier that Gettleman replaced in 2013? The one that left the Panthers in cap hell for years and couldn’t draft anyone below round 1? Well, he’s back. He was introduced as the interim GM of the Panthers this week. Needless to say, Panther fans are NOT pleased. When the team broke the news, this was my reaction on Twitter:
The lesson here is that loyalty can be seen as TOO important. It should be important, but not everything. Loyalty might win you brownie points with the owner, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into points on the field. What the Redskins need to do is find that balance. Find loyalty but also work out a fair deal for both sides.
Who knows what the Redskins will do next. It’s likely another boneheaded decision is coming. Dan Snyder does love loyalty and he loves those that kiss his feet. I’m pretty sure that’s what drives his decisions.
You know what? There is a QB out there looking for work who held Snyder in high esteem. A QB that knows the organization well and would welcome the chance to come back. Snyder loved him, and Snyder loves those loyal to him. You might want to check out those sports apparel sale racks at Wal-Mart and get the jerseys before they go back up in price. He might be back:
You might think “hell nah!” But think of this: These are the Redskins. This is Dan Snyder. Dan Snyder feeds off your anger. Anything is possible.