The Washington Redskins should have listened to Marcellus Wallace.
The word "pride" has several definitions. There is one relevant to Ving Rhames’ gangster character in the movie "Pulp Fiction" and, as of late Tuesday night, the Redskins regarding their stunning trade with the Kansas City Chiefs for quarterback Alex Smith: The consciousness of one's own dignity.
As frustration mounted in the relentless contract negotiations with three-year starter Kirk Cousins, the Redskins became very conscious of their own dignity. Virtually every analyst, fan and general observer within even a basic grasp of the contentiousness between the two sides assumed Cousins was gone.
Put blame for that reality on hold for a second. Washington was on the verge of having no clear starting passer for 2018. That is when pride showed up.
That is when the organization needed a reminder of Wallace telling a journeyman boxer named Butch, played by Bruce Willis, that he would “feel a slight sting” while throwing a fight.
"That’s pride [expletive] with you. [Expletive] pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps," Wallace stated.
If only the Redskins had listened.
The issue with the trade isn’t Smith, a quality 33-year-old quarterback coming off a season with career-highs in touchdown passes (26) and yards (4,042) while leading the Chiefs to the playoffs. The mobile QB was often mentioned as a logical replacement should Cousins exit.
Similar to what some say about Cousins, Smith is no star quarterback. No worries, except this "game manager" — get ready to hear that phrase a bazillion times — is four years older and not as good as Cousins. The Redskins paid in money and assets as if he could lead Washington beyond its recent .500 level or, perhaps worse, at least keep them in mediocreville.
This is not solely about the reported four-year contract with $70 million in guaranteed money, which essentially mirrors what Oakland paid 25-year-old Derek Carr last year. Some suggest that deal will ultimately show something akin to a two-year $40 million deal.
All of that saves the Redskins money considering Cousins would cost $28 or $34 million for another solo season with one of the "tag" options or $28-30 million per season with a long-term deal. Cousins might not be worth it. Alex Smith will be 35-year-old Alex Smith in 2019.
This is not just about cornerback Kendall Fuller, a 22-year-old rising star who shined in the slot during his second NFL season. He will spend his third with Kansas City. Washington selected the Baltimore native in the third round of the 2016 Draft after major knee surgery in college caused a draft slide. Factoring in talent and contract, Fuller was one of the top three values on the Redskins roster.
This is not just about the secondary losing one corner. With Bashaud Breeland entering free agency, it’s likely Washington will lose its second and third best corners from last season.
This is not about the Redskins ignoring the 2018 NFL Draft for a next-season fix. They don’t believe in Baker Mayfield and friends or don’t think those they like will be available at No. 13, so be it.
This is not just about the 2018 third-round pick headed to Kansas City. The Redskins will essentially break even in 2019 when they receive a compensatory third from the team that signs Cousins, who now gets his dream of becoming an unrestricted free agent in his prime. This never happens. Never.
This is not about letting a true asset walk for virtually nothing after a third consecutive 4,000-yard season. No matter what Cousins said in any press conference or fan forum, it’s been evident the 2012 fourth-round pick was not staying. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday the two sides have not talked since the season ended.
This is not just about rushing. Technically the trade is not official until the league’s next business year opens in mid-March. That is generally around the time the Redskins and Cousins might begin another game of tag.
Maybe being proactive was smart considering quarterback is the most important position in any of the four U.S. pro sports. Maybe the Redskins needed to outbid others for Smith ASAP. This screams something else.
The issue is the combination of all of these aspects — and the reality that this trade was not about pragmatism, but emotion. Like the rest of us, the Redskins were clearly over the year-to-year contract uncertainty with Cousins. A scenario they largely created by not coming to terms on a long-term deal circa 2015; a scenario Team Cousins helped foster by stonewalling all recent talks.
This deal was not from a position of strength but from weakness caused by pride. The Redskins had no interest in feeling that slight sting Marcellus Wallace mentioned, not even for a few weeks. Neither did Butch. He reneged on the arrangement and won the fight. In the battle with Cousins, the Redskins most definitely did not. This trade was about making that reality less obvious. Thinking they did is pure fiction.