You can only speculate if Kirk Cousins is a Cheap Trick fan, but the veteran quarterback is certainly playing the “I Want You to Want Me” card.
And that’s a funny sentiment to have when the team you play for has essentially committed $44 million to you over a two-year period.
As Cousins gets ready to play his second consecutive season under the franchise tag for the Washington Redskins, many have speculated that his avoidance of a longer-term deal is a signal that he would like to reunite with his former offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, in San Francisco, while also getting out of the perceived dysfunction inside the Beltway, stemming from the messy Bruce Allen-Scot McCloughan divorce.
In desperate need of a quarterback, the 49ers are playing their part in this little morality play, or at least seem to be, by forging ahead with Brian Hoyer as a bridge to 2018, which is when Cousins, in theory, would be available on the free-agent market because the collective bargaining agreement does not permit the Redskins to franchise him for a third consecutive year.
All of that could be derailed next Thursday night, however, if San Francisco turns conventional wisdom on its head and selects a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.
For now, though, it’s fairly easy to connect the dots, and Cousins himself refused to shut the door on the speculation when talking with MMQB.com’s Peter King.
King didn’t pull any punches and asked Cousins point blank if he wanted to stay in Washington, and the prolific passer demurred, preferring to walk the line as to leave his options open.
“I want to be where I’m wanted, and that’s what I’ve said all along,” Cousins said. “When a team is willing to step up and commit to me fully for the long haul, then why would I want to be anywhere else?”
You could have argued that failing to commit was the Redskins’ problem in the 2016 negotiating period, where the organization was the one with cold feet when it came to big money over a long-term deal. However, two NFL sources told FanRagSports.com that Washington pushed forward a very competitive offer this time around (about $20 million per season), and it was Cousins begging off because of concern over the front office.
“I mean, this is an incredible fan base,” Cousins said when discussing the Redskins. “…I love this organization and want to see us get back to those glory days that they had with Coach [Joe] Gibbs in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. And I want to add to that great history. There’s really no reason to want to look elsewhere. It’s a matter of wanting to be where you’re wanted, and I think that’s what all of us want — not just in football but in any walk of life.”
The problem comes in the definition of “wanted” of course, and Cousins still carries a chip on his shoulder from being the overlooked guy, dating back to high school and his days at Michigan State.
“That has been a part of my story,” Cousins said. “So to say does it bother you, does it gnaw at you? You know what, I’ve learned to accept it as part of my life and the way things have gone for a long time.”
It sure seems like Cousins isn’t looking for the sugar daddy who writes the check so he can focus on other things. The Redskins QB wants to be romanced, and his ego wants him to be the big man on campus.
And for now, he’s happy to play out prove-it deals until he can find that kind of relationship.
“It doesn’t feel like I can map anything out,” he said. “I’ve never felt that way. I’ve never felt comfortable, and I think that’s a good thing to have. You don’t have any entitlement. And so I’ll just play it out and see where I’m at.”
From the outside looking in, it might seem tough to keep dipping into the overlooked and underappreciated narrative when you are set to make $24 million in 2017. That’s how Cousins got to where he is, however, and he’s not shying away from the hits that have worked for him.
After all “I Want You to Want Me” finally got Cheap Trick in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016, and maybe its message will eventually get Cousins into a situation he embraces.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, CBS Baltimore, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America.