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Kirk Cousins has been too good for Washington not to pay him

After a rocky start to the season, Cousins has made a strong case for his future in Washington.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Kirk Cousins got off to a rocky start in 2016 after Washington applied the franchise tag rather than invested in a big contract for him. Now he seems to be back on track, and so does Washington.

At the beginning of the season, doubts swirled around Cousins’s ability to lead Washington. The team got off to an 0-2 start, in large part because of Cousins’s mistakes. His teammates even anonymously expressed frustration with Cousins, saying he lacked the poise of his backup, Colt McCoy.

A Week 2 loss to the Dallas Cowboys — before Dak Prescott led them to win nine consecutive games and establish the best record in the NFL — seemed particularly painful. Cousins’s mistakes in that game, including a late-game interception when Washington was leading by three, definitely contributed to the loss. Things looked bleak early on for Washington with Cousins under center.

Contrast that game with Cousins’s nearly flawless performance in Week 11, when he decimated the Green Bay Packers defense on Sunday Night Football, throwing for 375 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in Washington’s 42-24 victory. He did this in frigid temperatures and wind gusts up to 30 mph.

Since Washington’s 0-2 start, Cousins and the Washington offense have improved dramatically. Washington’s third in the NFL for passing yards per game with 301.4, and it’s second in the league for total offense, averaging 418.5 yards per game.

Washington has lost just one game since that 0-2 start, to the 6-4 Detroit Lions in Week 7. They also have one tie, against the Bengals — a game in which Cousins threw for 458 yards and two touchdowns.

Cousins is playing under the franchise tag, which guarantees him $19.9 million for this season, but he’s hoping for a long-term deal. The shaky start to the season made Washington look smart for hesitating to lock Cousins up long-term, but he’s making a strong case for his future in Washington now.

After Washington’s win over the Packers on Sunday night, Cousins was exuberant, asking general manager Scot McCloughan — the man who will take the lead on any long-term deal the team may offer Cousins — a very important question.

Cousins said his exuberant interaction with McCloughan didn’t carry any ulterior motive related to his contract or his future with the team, according to Liz Clarke of The Washington Post. Still, after his performance against Green Bay, it’s pretty clear what McCloughan’s answer must be.

Washington doesn’t have an easy road ahead with the remainder of its schedule. It’ll face off against the Cowboys for the second time this season in Week 12, and it’s the perfect opportunity for Cousins to make fans — and Washington’s front office — forget about his struggles against Dallas in Week 2.

It sounds as though Washington fans are ready for the rematch.

Cousins and Washington also have the 7-3 Giants lined up in Week 17. They still have the Eagles, Cardinals, and Panthers ahead of them — all teams with defenses that are better than their respective records suggest.

Washington is currently penciled in for the last wild card spot in the NFC despite being in arguably the toughest conference in the division, and with the way Cousins has been playing, McCloughan and the Washington front office probably like Cousins just fine right about now.