The subject of quarterback rankings is one that dominates the NFL world during the long offseason months, as the only thing people can agree on is that we’ll never have an overall consensus.
These rankings can take the form of a list of quarterbacks from best to worst, or it can also take the form of comments about certain players being better than others. The latter is what we’ll focus on right now, as an unnamed NFL assistant coach told Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman that Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins could wind up having a better career than Andrew Luck.
"It's possible we will look back maybe 10 years from now and say Kirk Cousins was better than Andrew Luck or almost any other young quarterback today. Maybe better than Russell Wilson, as well. I would have never thought that a year ago—mainly because I feel like a good quarterback there didn't have the organizational support. That owner [is not good], but now he seems to be staying out of the way. His coach believes in him, and that offense is perfect for him. He's got weapons and an improving defense. He may shock a lot of people in the end."
Firstly, it’s important to understand that this isn't really a shot at Andrew Luck. Rather, it seems like the coach’s intent is to build Cousins up all the more by saying that he could be better than a good quarterback like Luck or even Russell Wilson. Secondly, note that we don’t have many details in terms of who this assistant coach is, so there very well could be (and likely is) some form of bias that is underneath the surface. The comments don't appear to be coming from a Redskins assistant (though it’s still a possibility), but they still could be coming from a coach more familiar with the Redskins or with Cousins.
But is there merit to the statement? That’s perhaps the best question of all to ask: is it really possible that Kirk Cousins could wind up having a better NFL career than Andrew Luck? In his first full year as Washington's starter last year, Cousins certainly impressed - completing 69.8% of his passes for 4,166 yards and 29 touchdowns against 11 interceptions for a passer rating of 101.6, while also adding five rushing touchdowns as he helped lead the Redskins to the playoffs. By comparison, Luck’s best season came in 2014 as he completed 61.7% of his passes for 4,761 yards and 40 touchdowns against 16 interceptions for a passer rating of 96.5, while he also rushed for three scores. Luck has the volume stats, while Cousins has the efficiency ones. Both players have proven to be good quarterbacks capable of leading a franchise, so it’s possible they could continue that way.
At the same time, the question is about determining whether 2015 was an aberration or not for both players. The argument for Cousins winding up having a better NFL career than Luck is likely rooted in the play from last year - where Cousins was terrific and Luck was not. So the argument would be that last year was more indicative of each player instead of just an aberration. In Luck’s case, he has three good seasons before that to suggest that more likely than not last season was just a disaster and that he’ll get back on track in 2016. For Cousins, it’s more likely than not that he’ll be able to continue to play well, though it’s a smaller sample size - and likely part of the reason the Redskins placed the franchise tag on him rather than signing him to a long-term deal, as they want to see him do it again.
So right now, it's all about projection. Is Kirk Cousins going to continue playing like he did in 2015? Is Andrew Luck? If you think the answer to both questions is yes, then Cousins is certainly more likely to have the better NFL career. I think most would agree that the answer to the second one at least is no, as the expectation is that Luck will bounce back. If he does that and returns to his 2014 form (or even better), then he's certainly more likely to have the better career. It’s all about what you make of the 2015, and since I expect Luck to bounce back and get back on track, I’ll still take him to have the better career.