The Kirk Cousins watch, at least in terms of the Denver Broncos, is (mercilessly) over.
Here are some observations:
‣ Let’s not kid ourselves, the Broncos and GM John Elway were dealt a large dish of humble pie.
I don’t buy for a second Denver turned down Kirk Cousins. They wanted him. They’ve wanted him for a long time. All of the rumored Broncos interest in Cousins wasn’t just manufactured out of thin air. They liked him.
The problem is the feeling wasn’t mutual.
Cousins turned down Denver, which was something I warned about from the time this saga began. The idea of Cousins being interested in the Broncos because the team was built to win now with its “championship” defense was a myth.
Denver isn’t as good as many people in Broncos Country want to believe. There have been too many empty drafts on offense and too much of a talent drain on defense.
This is a flawed football team, and Cousins recognized that. The Broncos spoke with Cousins the night before Case Keenum agreed to sign with Denver and Cousins agreed to join the Minnesota Vikings.
I think we can all imagine how that conversation went:
“Kirk, do you have any interest in us? No? OK. Get Case on the phone.”
Does anyone honestly believe if Cousins was sincerely interested in the Broncos that Denver would choose Keenum over Cousins?
Yeah, neither did I.
‣ The irony here is Cousins actually did the Broncos a favor.
By telling them he wasn’t interested, it forced the Broncos to understand what they are — a team that needs to be built back up.
They aren’t facing a total rebuild, but, make no mistake, this is a team in need of retooling.
President and CEO Joe Ellis talked at the end of the season about how being “Super Bowl or Bust” looks good as a motto on the wall, but the team has lost its way in actually making that goal realistic.
Instead of fooling themselves into thinking they were just a Cousins away from once again being a Super Bowl contender, they are now being forced to look into the mirror and admit what they are.
‣ And what’s wrong with that?
The Case Keenum deal represents what Denver is. Keenum isn’t the answer, but he does give the Broncos a chance to be competitive while they go about the business of building this team back up.
There’s a difference between winning and being competitive, and Broncos fan needs to understand being competitive is the current standard.
The Keenum move is growing on me because it’s only a two-year commitment. If Keenum is ready for a late-career renaissance, a la Rich Gannon, then great. If he turns out to be (as I suspect) a one-year wonder, then the Broncos aren’t significantly tied to him.
‣ Why do I not believe Keenum is the long-term answer?
Because it’s only been one year. And because I can’t get by the idea that the Vikings, the team that knew him best and saw him help rescue its season, never committed to him.
Throughout the entire season, head coach Mike Zimmer never endorsed Keenum as his guy. He kept leaving the door open for a possible Sam Bradford return or, even more ridiculously, Teddy Bridgewater.
Then, even after he led them to the NFC Championship, Minnesota never tried to work out a new contract. They didn’t franchise tag him to buy more time to work out a deal. They just said goodbye and began courting Kirk Cousins.
Minnesota doesn’t strike me as a dumb organization. Zimmer doesn’t strike me as a dumb coach. So, why were they willing to date Keenum but never marry him?
That’s a red flag for me.
‣ So what’s next?
I’m beginning to believe my “Khaki Pants Strategy” might just come true.
I was mocked for it initially because it lacked sizzle. At that point, Broncos Country had goo-goo eyes for Cousins or — gasp —Baker Mayfield.
But what I proposed was smart. Get a veteran, seat-warming type quarterback. Draft a stud at No. 5 or, even better, trade back and stockpile more picks. Then, grab a quarterback to develop late in the first round or in the second.
Now, what do you know, this might be what John Elway does. It makes just as much sense when I first proposed it.
The Broncos have multiple holes to fill, so 11 picks are good. And 13 or 14 would be great because of the 50-50 nature of the draft and because Elway’s draft record hasn’t been, well, you know, good.
You have just as good a chance of getting your ultimate quarterback of the future late in the first or second-round as much as you do going after one of these top-four QBs.
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