After notching the first playoff victory of his career Sunday, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins spoke with ESPN from the field at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against the New Orleans Saints . The final question posed to him was about the narrative that has dogged Cousins his entire career, that he can’t win big games. When asked whether he had anything to say to the people who have said he couldn’t win those big games Cousins replied:
If you’ve followed my articles this season you’ll have noticed a pattern. While I and we cover a lot of the news of the day (roster moves, etc.), I tend to cover a lot of topics that reflect the sentiment(s) of the Vikings (online) fan-base, that often takes me places where I didn’t think I’d go in an article, but it also means that I can end up discussing some of the same topics over and over. That allows for analysis from every possible angle and it’s been through that process that I’ve found that the feelings that I had back when I was the first in Vikings media to call for the Vikings to sign Cousins in free agency ended up happening (Note: Click Here to read the Cousins related articles I’ve written this season to get an idea as to what I’m talking about).
As I wrote at the time, if you run an offense that highlights Cousins’ strengths, he can put up elite numbers and give this team the best shot at winning the Super Bowl since 2009. While that’s thanks to the sheer number of elite skill players around him, Cousins is simply capable of making all the throws on the field, something the team didn’t have in Cousins’ predecessor Case Keenum.
If you’ve spent any (other) time talking the purple with other fans online you’ll know that the number one topic this and last season has been the play of Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (followed closely by the coaching decisions this team has made, which is intertwined with Cousins’ performance perhaps more than other teams).
After Sunday we now know that, at least according to Kirk, that debate is being held between those that “know” and those that “don’t know”. I’d argue that those in that know also knew all along that this is why the Vikings brought in Cousins after reaching the NFC Championship game with journeyman Case Keenum. That final drive, or even better, that throw from Cousins to Adam Thielen, was a throw that Keenum not only couldn’t make but wouldn’t be allowed to make.
Keenum was on a tight leash with the Vikings and because of that the team wasn’t able to fully exploit the amazing talent it had/has at the skill positions on the offense. The game plan with Keenum was to look at one play down the field and one play underneath. Keenum often defaulted to the underneath, leaving receivers like Adam Thielen wide open down the field on multiple occasions.
Case Keenum does not see the field very well. He did not make one of these throws to wide open receivers. On two of them, the WRs had their hands up calling for the ball. pic.twitter.com/R0q80fF6UJ
— Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) November 13, 2017
I’ve done a series of articles about this topic, and that’s allowed me to catalog the go-to arguments that Cousins’ detractors (which I’ve dubbed the ‘Never-Cousins-ers’, but now kinda want to call those that Don’t Know (although I have a feeling I’ll end up owing some money to Bo Jackson if I use it on a shirt)) have used. Because of that, I’ve seen the goal post moved time and time again over the course of the season.
It started by ignoring a lot of the positives from the start of the 2018 season, at least offensively, and by focusing the three-and-out futility that dominated the offense at the end of last season. Then Cousins and company started putting up big numbers, again (peep the Rams/Packers games last season if you need a refresher), this season and the goal post moved yet again. The new narrative was that Cousins couldn’t put up those numbers or win against good teams, then it became that he couldn’t do it in prime time and then just Monday Night Football (but not Sunday Night Football).
After the Cowboys game, the argument morphed into Cousins not doing it, essentially, by himself (“putting the team on his shoulders”). After the Broncos comeback in the second half, it became a wait-and-see approach, as most of the comments I received on my articles about these topics were… “Let’s wait to see if he can win a playoff game”.
Well, “he” just did (keep in mind that I’m using the arguments/”logic” of the Never Cousins-ers, and that I understand that football is, you know, a team game and that quarterbacks are at the behest of their coaches). That means, all at once, Cousins not only notched that playoff win but he also muted the following arguments; that he couldn’t beat a good team, a good team on the road, a good team in prime time, a team in prime time… What am I missing? Oh no, it wasn’t a Monday Night Football game. So, as Cousins said in his post-game presser, that’s just “another mountain” to climb.
Now, I’m sure that people are already saying something that I heard on satellite radio this morning (I’m fancy?). The host of the show that I was listening to did say that she grew up rooting for an NFC North team and thus “hates the Vikings”, but when asked whether or not the win in New Orleans would change the narrative about Cousins she said “… for six days”, despite the fact that the game is on Saturday and thus only four days away, or five if you’re including today.
In terms of Sunday itself, they’ll say that Cousins started slow or “only” ended with a QB-rating of 96.4, or that it was Dalvin Cook, not Cousins who “really” won the game. To quote Kyle Rudolph who spoke about the offensive pass interference “controversy” on NFL Network… “That’s not how football works”. Cousins is a play action beast and when you have a quarterback who is one of (if not) the best at something, and that something includes one of (if not) the best running back in the league… Yeah, you should probably keep doing it.
Those in the national media who are removed from the bubble that is local Vikings coverage have said that while Cousins did have a great 2019 regular season, he needed to make a bigger statement to be considered one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. That’s reasonable. It’s no coincidence that the remaining teams in the playoffs are a who’s who of the top QB’s in the league.
When the Vikings found themselves in over-time against the team that many thought would represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, Cousins seized the moment/latest mountain and methodically drove the Vikings down the field to not only notch his first playoff win (bringing his record to .500 in playoff games, something head coach Mike Zimmer pointed out as much better than other quarterbacks in his post-game press conference) but also the win that should quiet his detractors… That is until they can find another thing Cousins has yet to do (“Well… He hasn’t won a game with a 3:30 start time during a full moon in October!”).
But as Cousins said in the post-game press conference in New Orleans, and I’m paraphrasing a bit, people are going to criticize regardless and that’s “fine”.
Either way, I guess we’ll find out in “six” days.