So where did things go wrong for Washington and G.M. Scot McCloughan?
Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com points to three incidents. The first of came in 2015, when McCloughan wanted to try to extend the contract of quarterback Kirk Cousins but others in the organization (presumably, team president Bruce Allen and owner Daniel Snyder) resisted.
Presumably, if McCloughan had gotten the green light to try to extend Cousins, the relationship between G.M. and team may have unfolded differently. Or maybe not.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Cousins was determined as the 2015 season approached to not sign a contract extension. Granted, Washington may have made him an offer he couldn’t refuse (especially since he still had a year of injury risk), but chances are that Cousins, who had been benched the prior season for Colt McCoy during Robert Griffin III’s latest multi-month injury, wouldn’t have been offered anything significant.
In hindsight, Washington could have done a much cheaper deal early in the 2015 season. As the year progressed, it necessarily would have become more expensive. By the time the season ended — and Washington realized how quickly it would become very expensive to re-sign Cousins via the dynamics of the franchise tag — the offers were good enough to get Cousins to not force his way toward a $19.95 million salary for 2016.
So whether McCloughan had or hadn’t gotten permission to extend Cousins at the outset of the 2015 season, a deal wouldn’t have been consummated unless Cousins was faced with the kind of financial security he would have been nuts to reject. Washington most likely wouldn’t have done that, which means that the team was destined to be in the same spot it now is, with $19.95 million paid to Cousins for last year, another $23.94 million to be paid this year, and quite possibly a $28.78 million transition tender applied to Cousins in 2018.