Liz Clarke, Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/redskins/kirk-cousinss-rapid-ascent-fueled-by-an-attention-to-detail-trust-in-process/2016/01/08/928ac632-b54d-11e5-a76a-0b5145e8679a_story.html)
Kirk Cousins has a way of wincing when he smiles, as if even happiness has been hard-earned.
His isn’t the megawatt smile of a sporting hero born for the spotlight. It’s a working man’s smile — the look of a man who, even amid success, is keenly aware of how far he has still to go. As if to say: “I can get better. I can do better next time.”
How did the 27-year-old Cousins, who this time last year was the Redskins’ No. 3 quarterback, become the linchpin of Washington’s improbable success?
Those who have watched him work up close see nothing improbable about it.
“It’s very hard for people to see from the outside how somebody practices and goes about their business,” Shanahan said. “[Cousins] was a guy that, number one, was very accountable. Very passionate about the game, down to the little details. Late in the evening, he’d be the guy in the office by himself, looking at game film. It’s not talk; he did it day in, day out. Whether he got the opportunity to go in, he was going to be prepared.”
Cousins’s study habits and meticulous attention to detail, traits that Gruden, with obvious admiration, describes as “almost anal,” only intensified over the past two years as he sought new ways to become a better player.
In addition to practice, meetings and weight-room sessions at Redskins Park, Cousins works with a private throwing coach in the offseason. To improve his overall fitness, he also works six days a week with a personal trainer, whether in Northern Virginia or Atlanta, his wife’s hometown.
“There is no entitlement in the NFL,” Cousins said. “You’ve got to prove it every day. Even Tom Brady had to compete; he had to earn his spot, day in and day out, year in and year out. So I just felt like I’ll keep competing and showing what I could potentially do, and let [the Redskins] do what they want to do.”
In doing so, Gruden tied his fortunes, as a second-year NFL coach with just four victories to his credit, to those of Cousins. And the two seemed to be sinking like stones in a pond after a 34-20 loss at the New York Jets on Oct. 18, in which Cousins threw two interceptions, bringing the Redskins’ record to 2-4.
With a petition circulating for Gruden’s ouster and Cousins’s benching, the coach summoned his quarterback for a closed-door meeting during the bye week that followed their seventh game.
What took place wasn’t a tongue-lashing. It was a film session, with Gruden seizing what might be called “a teachable moment” amid the potential wreckage of their NFL careers. He turned on a video of New England’s victory over the Jets that week, and together they dissected what Brady did.
Arguably the greatest to play the position, the Patriots’ quarterback didn’t make any throw Cousins couldn’t. He simply made smart decisions. He managed the game. He got the ball to more-athletic teammates. He didn’t don a superhero’s cape, save the day or win the game on his own.
The lesson proved alchemic, marking a transformation in Cousins’s performance.
“Trust the process, not results,” McVay said, distilling the message. And Cousins embraced it, sharing his coordinator’s conviction in the power of routine and detail.
Cousins had a favorite Walsh mantra of his own: “The accumulation of knowledge is a powerful thing.”
The two ideas — along with a verse of scripture that had been a source of strength since high school — convinced Cousins he was progressing, even if the results to that point suggested otherwise.
McVay never doubted.