You knew this was coming.
After a week in which I wrote that those blaming Minnesota Vikings Kirk Cousins for the loss against the Dallas Cowboys were doing nothing except exposing their anti-Cousins bias, I think it’s only fair to take that one step further and say that from this point forward we need to put the Cousins debate to rest. The reality is, and really has been, that Cousins is a great quarterback by every measurable statistic, and that he gives the Vikings their best chance to win now and through 2022.
Sure, he isn’t perfect, nor did he have a good start to his 2020 campaign. But as we’ve seen before, Cousins ironically performs best when his back is against the wall and any negative narrative surrounding Cousins is now gone courtesy of a post-bye stretch in which he’s
been on of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
After a rough start in 2019, where the offensive line gave him NO time (especially in that Week 4 game against the Chicago Bears), Cousins put up numbers that mirrored Patrick Mahomes’ 2018 MVP numbers (in terms of efficiency, TD to INT ratio, QB rating, etc).
Cousins is proving that he isn’t just the best quarterback this team has had (that wasn’t in the twilight of their career a la Favre) since Daunte Culpepper in 2004. Yet, it took the final drive in Sunday’s contest against the Carolina Panthers for some to finally get aboard the obvious train.
Somehow, a fan-base that has been so starved for a franchise quarterback under the age of 38 that it preemptively labeled a very mediocre Teddy Bridgewater “elite” after a rookie season in which he had under 3,000 yards passing, 14 touchdowns and 12 picks (for an 85.2 rating), or especially after a sophomore season in which he had … 14 touchdowns, 9 picks and a 88.7 rating.
As I wrote two weeks ago, had Teddy done any of the things Kirk has done to knock down the moving goalposts that has been what Kirk’s naysayers have said will be enough for them to respect him, he’d already be in the Ring of Honor.
I’m not writing this to bash Teddy, but rather to finally, hopefully, convert the Cousins debate to objective fact and to make it so anyone who still is looking for some negative metric Cousins has (“he’s thrown two interceptions in every game he’s player after a new Marvel movie is released! Cut him and eat $41 million in dead cap next year!”) had in his career to explain away what should’ve been pretty obvious for awhile now.
The idea that Cousins is somehow by far the second-most accurate quarterback in NFL history, but only good in garbage time, is strange. Especially as he’s lead two Vikings teams to > .500 records since he landed in 2018. While also having the only season in franchise history with > 4,000 yards passing, 30 touchdowns and 10 or under picks.
When I posted the above article about Teddy doing 1% of what Cousins has done, someone called Cousins a “turnover machine” and got a lot of hearts or upvotes or souls of children (I can’t remember what social media platform it was on). You heard that right. Cousins, not Teddy, is a turnover machine.
With his 30:10 / 26:6 and 23:11 TD:INT ratio the past three seasons (compared to Teddy’s above referenced time in Minny, and 14:8 2020 in Carolina).
But again, I’m not trying to bash Teddy. Instead, I WAS trying to figure out why people ignore the above, or things like this, to bash Kirk.
Cousins threw for 307 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 115.7 passer rating rating. The Vikings QB now has 16 career games with at least 300 yds passing, 3 TD passes and a rating of 115+, surpassing Drew Brees & and Aaron Rodgers (15 each) for the most such games by a QB in his first 9 seasons
— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) November 30, 2020
Vague cliches like “He’s not a winner”, or objectively wrong statements like the “turnover machine” typically precede or follow what I think is the real problem that people have with Cousins. His contract, and their refusal to admit that they were wrong in 2018 (and that Cousins contract is no longer seemingly as egregious as it was initially).
Let me explain.
Cousins’ 2018 contract was crazy. It changed how the NFL did business, something long thought impossible thanks to a combination of having no realistic threat to go on strike (because a majority of players live check-to-check, which is why 75% go bankrupt within two-years of retiring) and just the nature of a sport with 55/53 man rosters and a ton of injuries.
But this is and always has been a quarterback driven league, and once more established franchise quarterbacks saw what Cousins received from the Vikings, they immediately called their agents to get extensions more in-line with the guaranteed money Cousins received from the Vikings.
Now? Cousins is still a top-10 quarterback in terms of compensation, but he also is a top five quarterback since the bye in terms of production. He has a TD to INT ratio of 10:1 since the second Packers game, has had a quarterback rating of over 100 in each of those 5 games, three of which had a rating of 138 or above.
He also has five games with 3 touchdowns this season.
But you can use stats to make a lot of points. So, let me appeal to your memory and emotion. Remember when Tavaris Jackson was the Vikings quarterback? When the Vikings had Jared Allen and the Williams wall on defense (not to mention Antoine Winfield)? A young Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor? Or, in 2012 when AP was lighting the league on fire despite having eight or nine opponents in the box because the Vikings had no tangible threat at quarterback?
Or in 2015? When AP had nearly 1,500 yards on the ground but the Vikings (with young receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, along with Mike Wallace who spurned the Vikings to join a “real quarterback” in Joe Flacco?) but the Vikings passing offense was predicated on running every type of button hook known to man? To the point that the team invested a first-round pick in button hook/contested ball master Laquon Treadwell as it was clear that hitting a receiver in stride/beyond 15-yards wasn’t (yet) in Teddy’s wheelhouse?
Imagine if the 2019 Vikings lost to the Saints, at home, 10-9. Sure, Teddy got the Vikings to within gimme field goal range at the end of the game, but I know in my bones that had Cousins been the QB in that game people wouldn’t have blamed Blair Walsh, instead saying “that’s what happens when you can only muster field goals”.
That’s the mental gymnastics these naysayers use. Somehow, an OT-win against the Saints in New Orleans is less impressive that Teddy’s 9-point salvo in 2015. Because, as the other retort I heard about Teddy after the above article clearly shows, Teddy is more “clutch”.
That’s the type of narrative that leads one of our two major papers to carry a post-Cowboys headline that Cousins “yet again” let the Vikings down/came up short when they needed him most.
That’s staggeringly not just wrong, but ignorant. As I said above, the NFL now more than ever, is a QB league. But some people place far too much blame and credit at the position. That’s why most respectable analytics guys loathe a QB’s win-loss record, as like Cousins’ Monday Night Football record, it doesn’t tell you anything.
How did the QB play in the losses? The wins?
How good was the defense?
The supporting cast?
Despite what their agents want teams and fans to think, even the best quarterbacks in the league can’t win games by themselves. So when superstar receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen had back-to-back drops on what ended up being the final drive of the Cowboys game/loss? That’s on them. Not Cousins.
Anyone saying otherwise is just showing that they most likely wrote some big diatribe about Cousins during the off-season before the 2018 season, and since have bent over backward to explain away feat after feat that we used to BEG and PRAY for back when we were trying to get excited about Matt Cassel or Josh Freeman, or jump-pass aficionado Tavaris Jackson.
Even Favre’s magical 2009 was on-par with Cousins’ 2018 statistically. He had 4,200 yards, 33 touchdowns and 7 picks for a 68% completion rate (he also had the aforementioned 1-2 punch of AP and Percy Harvin). The main difference is that Favre had those backs, whereas Cousins was without Dalvin Cook for most of 2018, and he also had the worst 1-2 punch at the guard position in team history in Tom Compton and Mike Remmers.
The Vikings offensive line was 27th in the league in terms of pass blocking, and things got so bad at one point that we just accepted the reality of this team creating no pocket to pass from to the point that we’d all write post-game articles bemoaning Stefanski for not rolling Cousins out on every passing down.
Not that we had to do that to move the chains, have you, but rather that we weren’t doing it enough.
Despite the fact that Cousins accomplished the above despite no protection upfront, people say with a straight face that Cousins can only produce when “things are perfect around him”. What? Perfect? Vikings?
So, I wanted to write what hopefully will be my last “LEAVE COUSINS ALONE” piece as I feel like I’ve addressed nearly every negative narrative people have used against Cousins (as he’s knocked them down, one-by-one). I also think that his performances are speaking for themselves, and by responding to objectively wrong takes at this point is like me writing an article when someone says Dalvin Cook sucks.
It clearly isn’t true, and that take says more about the person making it than Cousins or me.
Again, Cousins isn’t perfect. But speaking of social media, I saw someone respond to one of the litany of recent articles linking BYU QB Zach Wilson to the Vikings in the 2021 Draft by asking: How does that fix any of the actual glaring issues the 2020 Vikings have?
Because as we’ve seen, with Cousins under center (especially if they’re able to find a consistent starter at the left guard spot) and dishing out high accuracy and efficiency dimes to the most talented supporting cast in the league, this offense is already as elite as any in the NFL.
Imagine what this team could do with a defense on the level of the 2017 Vikings?
I certainly have, and I look forward to that day so I can respond to people who explain away Cousins Super Bowl MVP. Until then? It’s pretty clear that Cousins gives the Vikings the best chance to reach that spot of anyone, especially if that anyone includes rolling the dice on a rookie QB.
So let’s focus our collective gaze on the real issues this team has. Like special teams. Dakota Dozier. The Needle. These are the Vikings after all.