Rather than wait for columnists to bait readers into blind Internet anger, we at SB Nation believe in setting the curve ourselves and doing so honestly. On Troll Tuesdays, we attempt to construct the most obnoxious column on earth. Today: Let's talk about Kirk Cousins.
You hear it on any given Sunday. When the going gets tough, someone shouts down the sideline, "NEXT MAN UP", and the tough get going.
Three words explain all you ever need to know about the National Football League.
Football isn't a complicated sport. It's a game born in the trenches. Push the other team down the field, and good things happen. But you have to push together. The engine only hums if the parts work together. There's no room for solos in the symphony of combat.
But then sometimes the music stops. A star player goes down and the stadium goes silent and a city holds its breath. You can almost hear a pin drop. Then, you look over to the sideline and hear someone scream, "NEXT MAN UP", and the song starts all over again. That's what makes football more than just a game.
And that brings us to the Washington Redskins, the team that just won't quit this year. Back in April, we mocked them for drafting two quarterbacks. They traded two draft picks to take on dynamic superstar Robert Griffin III, and then spent a fourth round pick on Kirk Cousins, a nice enough kid but nobody's no. 1 choice. Cousins was an afterthought.
You know, until last week.
That's when RGIII went down in a heap with the Redskins fighting for a playoff spot. So, with the RG-knee throbbing and Skins fans sobbing, guess who was the next man up?
Guess who didn't make excuses.
Guess who never asked for help.
Guess who got right out there and went 26 of 37 for 329 yards, two touchdowns, a 104 quarterback rating, and a win.
Who replaced RGIII?
I guess you could call him KC1.
Or maybe Captain Kirk, leader of the superstar-less enterprise.
Whatever you want to call him, Kirk Cousins stepped up when his team needed him most. He played his college ball at Michigan State, so we shouldn't be surprised. A thousand years ago, the Spartans practically invented the Next Man Up philosophy. Back then, they knew that if they worked together, they could shock the world. As one source notes, "Their constant drill and superb discipline made their phalanx much more cohesive and effective." Sound familiar?
I know a general in New England who swears by the same philosophy.
And oh yeah ... "The Spartans employed the phalanx in the classical style in a single line, uniformly deep in files of 8 to 12 men." One goes down, the next steps up. The Spartans invented it a thousand years ago, and the National Football League keeps it alive one Sunday at a time.
This isn't as easy as it sounds, though. (Nothing worth doing ever is.)
It's harder than ever to get everyone on the same page in 2012, when everything's an endorsement opportunity and football players care more about trending topics than their teammates. When the whole world's obsessed with going viral, cancer is inevitable.
But lest you think all is lost, there's Kirk Cousins, making all the right plays and saying the right things. I wanted to share one little story I saw out there this week. A Redskins player was asked about Cousins this week, and he said, "Every time he enters the huddle, he says TEAM! before he calls the play. So he gets in the huddle – TEAM! – then he calls the play."
Now, look, I'm not saying Cam Newton enters a huddle and shouts out CAM! before he calls every play, but I bet you he doesn't say TEAM!
It's just a reminder that when you look around the National Football League, the real superheroes are the men who never asked to be heroes. Their superpower is humility. They don't ask for much, they just wait to be called, then one day they answer the bell.
That's what makes the whole show go.
Take all the superstars in the NFL and put 'em on an island, and you'd still have football, and you'd still have TEAM! Because men like Captain Kirk will always be there with a reminder. In the NFL, there's always a man, waiting to be next, waiting to be up.
There's a reason the National Football League is America's favorite game, and it's not because of the endzone dances. We love this game because it's bigger than any individual, and because the poetry of three simple words sort of explains the world. Everything that made the Spartans great a thousand years ago is what keeps America going now, and it was all on display in that Redskins-Browns game. All thanks to the Next Man Up, and a man who wasn't willing to lie down and let his team make excuses.
We'd all be lucky to call him part of the family.