I find Tyrod Taylor and Kirk Cousins to be interesting pieces in the offseason. Both have shown some ability to operate offenses. They are worthy of being two of the 32 starting quarterbacks on the planet. But neither looks particularly likely to ever develop into one of the top 15 quarterbacks in the league.
When team building, is it better to invest huge money in a quarterback with some ability, or continue to wait for that franchise-type guy who might generate a bunch of playoff berths and maybe a championship?
With Cousins, he made about $20 million last year and will need to be paid about $24 million if they keep him on a one-year deal under another franchise tag.
With Taylor, the Bills either need cut him loose or commit to paying him over $27 million in 2017.
Houston opted to throw a bunch of money at an unknown quarterback last year – Brock Osweiler – and now that franchise is behind the eight ball financially.
I find Cousins to be the more puzzling of the two. He showed some ability to be a good passer in 2015, leading Washington to a division title. But he regressed last year, coming up short in too many key situations.
Around the goal line, for example, is a telling area. That’s where the windows get tighter and the stakes get higher – either you put it in the end zone for a touchdown, or the defense wins.
Inside the 10, Cousins was fine in 2015. He went 27 of 44, with 16 touchdowns, a pair of 2-point conversions and one sack. So he got the ball in the end zone on 40 percent of his plays, which is just fine – better than Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees that year, and better than Cam Newton (who was a league MVP).
Here are those numbers (which are a mix of official NFL stats, plus effectiveness on 2-point conversion plays, which I’ve got mixed in with the touchdowns). On this chart, I’m showing all quarterbacks with 20 or more plays, so Tyrod Taylor doesn’t quite make the cut. He went 10 of 17, with 2 sacks and 6 touchdowns.
|PASSING INSIDE THE 10, 2015|
|Player||Com-Att-Int-Sk||TD & 2-pt||Pct|
|Marcus Mariota, Tenn.||17-24-0-0||11+3||58.3%|
|Matthew Stafford, Det.||30-39-0-0||21||53.8%|
|Derek Carr, Oak.||12-23-0-0||10+1||47.8%|
|Philip Rivers, S.D.||17-30-1-0||12+2||46.7%|
|Andy Dalton, Cin.||13-26-3-0||12||46.2%|
|Ben Roethlisberger, Pitt.||28-45-0-1||12+8||43.5%|
|Ryan Fitzpatrick, NYJ||18-34-0-0||14||41.2%|
|Sam Bradford, Phil.||13-21-1-1||9||40.9%|
|Tom Brady, N.E.||23-40-2-2||17||40.5%|
|Kirk Cousins, Wash.||27-44-0-1||16+2||40.0%|
|Blake Bortles, Jac.||28-55-2-2||21+1||38.6%|
|Alex Smith, K.C.||13-22-0-0||6+2||36.4%|
|Cam Newton, Car.||18-31-0-2||12||36.4%|
|Matt Ryan, Atl.||22-38-2-1||13+1||35.9%|
|Aaron Rodgers, G.B.||28-56-2-0||16+4||35.7%|
|Matt Hasselbeck, Ind.||9-19-1-1||7||35.0%|
|Drew Brees, N.O.||18-31-1-1||11||34.4%|
|Eli Manning, NYG||22-41-3-3||15||34.1%|
|Carson Palmer, Ariz.||19-41-1-3||14||32.6%|
|Russell Wilson, Sea.||10-27-0-1||9||32.1%|
|Josh McCown, Clev.||11-24-0-1||6+2||32.0%|
|Joe Flacco, Balt.||16-28-1-0||7+1||28.6%|
|Jameis Winston, T.B.||18-46-0-0||12+1||28.3%|
|Teddy Bridgewater, Minn.||7-17-0-5||6||27.3%|
|Ryan Tannehill, Mia.||19-45-2-1||11+1||26.1%|
|Jay Cutler, Chi.||19-42-2-2||10+1||25.0%|
|Colin Kaepernick, S.F.||7-20-0-1||2+1||14.3%|
But Cousins wasn’t the same quarterback last year. Inside the 10, he was down with the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Osweiler. He went only 14 of 41 in that part of the field, with 2 sacks, 2 interceptions and only 8 touchdowns. So a year after scoring on 40 percent of his pass plays, he finished under 19 percent.
|PASSING INSIDE THE 10, 2016|
|Player||Com-Att-Int-Sk||TD & 2-pt||Pct|
|Jameis Winston, T.B.||20-32-0-1||14+3||51.5%|
|Marcus Mariota, Tenn.||18-29-0-1||15||50.0%|
|Aaron Rodgers, G.B.||35-51-0-2||25+1||49.1%|
|Blake Bortles, Jac.||17-27-1-0||11+1||44.4%|
|Eli Manning, NYG||14-27-1-1||12||42.9%|
|Carson Palmer, Ariz.||20-44-1-1||18+1||42.2%|
|Ben Roethlisberger, Pitt.||17-38-1-0||12+3||39.5%|
|Tom Brady, N.E.||22-34-1-2||13+1||38.9%|
|Joe Flacco, Balt.||17-32-1-2||9+4||38.2%|
|Ryan Tannehill, Mia.||12-20-0-1||7+1||38.1%|
|Drew Brees, N.O.||41-61-1-2||24||38.1%|
|Andrew Luck, Ind.||30-41-0-4||15+2||37.8%|
|Cam Newton, Car.||10-23-2-1||8+1||37.5%|
|Derek Carr, Oak.||24-51-0-1||14+5||36.5%|
|Alex Smith, K.C.||16-29-2-0||8+2||34.5%|
|Carson Wentz, Phil.||14-28-1-1||9+1||34.5%|
|Dak Prescott, Dall.||13-29-1-0||10||34.5%|
|Matt Ryan, Atl.||32-55-0-3||19+1||34.5%|
|Philip Rivers, S.D.||21-41-1-3||15||34.1%|
|Matthew Stafford, Det.||22-39-1-3||12+1||31.0%|
|Russell Wilson, Sea.||12-31-0-2||9+1||30.3%|
|Tyrod Taylor, Buff.||10-23-0-4||7+1||29.6%|
|Sam Bradford, Minn.||18-33-1-1||10||29.4%|
|Brock Osweiler, Hou.||14-29-1-0||8||27.6%|
|Andy Dalton, Cin.||15-32-0-1||9||27.3%|
|Trevor Siemian, Den.||17-35-0-2||8+1||24.3%|
|Kirk Cousins, Wash.||14-41-2-2||8||18.6%|
|Ryan Fitzpatrick, NYJ||10-27-2-0||5||18.5%|
Note that Taylor also declined slightly last year in a disappointing season for the Bills. He was 10 of 17 in 2015, but just 10 of 23 last year, with sacks on an additional 4 plays.
Taylor has great mobility and is one of the more accurate deep-ball throwers in the league, but he isn’t worth $27 million. The accuracy, vision and decision-making haven’t been there consistently enough on the shorter throws. So I would guess the Bills will try to make some kind of change – perhaps try to bring him back at a reduced rate.
With Washington, I expect they’ll probably keep Cousins on a one-year deal, giving themselves the freedom to go in another direction a year from now.
The 49ers probably have an eye on these guys. Kyle Shanahan was in Washington with Cousins for two years, so there’s some relationship there. Shanahan in Washington also got a big season out of Robert Griffin III in Washington, and Taylor has RGIII-like mobility, but I doubt that Shanahan or the 49ers would be interested in starting down the road of trying to win with a run-pass quarterback. It’s tough to win long-term with that kind of formula.