Analysis

If September is Life after Cousins, What Does it Look Like?

In all likelihood, Kirk Cousins will be the Minnesota Vikings starting quarterback this autumn. The former Washington Football Teamer hitched his talents to the Vikings three years ago and has since accounted for 91 touchdown passes in 47 games – fifth-most during the timefame. But that may not be good enough for a franchise that is repeatedly starved for quarterback consistency. It is a strange situation.

Cousins is the subject of trade rumors after a couple of NFL analysts loudly whispered that the San Francisco 49ers wanted the 32-year-old Vikings signal-caller. Because of money matters, San Francisco’s quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, would likely necessitate involvement in the transaction – if it transpires at all. So, Minnesota could already be profiling their ninth starting quarterback of the Zimmer era.

If the deal is real, it is not ironclad that Garoppolo would be the long-term plan for Minnesota. As a stop-gap or transition, though, a dose of Garoppolo would probably be in order.

Because this entire scenario is mired in what-ifs, there a few different routes Minnesota might consider with or without Garoppolo.

These are those.

The Garoppolo Method

The most probable option is the channeling of a healthy Garoppolo. The utopian vision would be to replicate a 2019 49ers-like run to the Super Bowl. The 29-year-old passer was quite good in 2019 – chiefly because he was healthy. In every other career season on his resume, his health has been suspect.

Under Zimmer, the Vikings have done this before – more than a few times. Teddy Bridgewater, in the infancy of his career, was Garoppolo-like in that he played astutely while minimizing turnovers. After Bridgewater’s horrific temporary demise, Minnesota turned to Sam Bradford – another quarterback prone to injury like Garoppolo. Then it was Case Keenum, a player that found a once-in-a-lifetime season with the purple and gold in 2017.

We’ve seen this before.

A pro-Garoppolo argument is rooted in the notion that Zimmer “only really needs” a quarterback that avoids colossal mess-ups. And that’s when the Zimmer defense is in peak form. It hasn’t been peak anything recently.

But from Matt Cassel, Bridgewater, Bradford, and Keenum, Vikings loyalists are familiar with the pretty-decent QB1 mindset. A move to Garoppolo would be nostalgia for that sentiment – and not out of the realm of possibility.

The Journeyman Flashback

If you’re 30 years old or older, you know this Vikings-fueled mentality like you know your own kids. Minnesota has a ceaseless history of signing an aging veteran to the squad and hoping to re-squeeze prime years out of his orifices. Names like Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, Brett Favre, Donovan McNabb, Jim McMahon, Gus Frerotte, late-years Brad Johnson, and the aforementioned Cassel brought the habit to life. With this sign-a-journeyman practice, the Vikings do it substantially more than other winning franchises – and Minnesota is indeed a winning franchise.

Folks this year in free agency that could conceivably extend the tradition are Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jameis Winston, Joe Flacco, Jacoby Brissett, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, and Tyrod Taylor, to name a handful.

A trade for Deshaun Watson does not fall into this category, but he would certainly provide the “veteran” presence in the best way humanly imaginable. If the Vikings are entertaining life after Cousins, Deshaun Watson’s agent better be consulted.

The Rookie Experience

But Watson is the consummate longshot. If the Vikings released Garoppolo (for whatever reason – cap hit or poor play), then a rookie is on the docket this April in the draft.

In theory, general manager Rick Spielman should have some sweet draft capital extracted from the Cousins deal. Spending it on a fireballer of the future is wise. From Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Mac Jones, to Kyle Trask – NFL teams will have a sizable pool to splash for young quarterbacks.

Unnamed Rookie Quarterback #1 could either start in early September or watch and learn from Garoppolo for a year or so. Hell, even if the Cousins trade is fool’s gold, Minnesota would not be silly to try this avenue. Only the front office knows the present level of ardor for Cousins that exists.

Minnesota has not nailed a rookie quarterback selection under Spielman. Bridgewater is certainly debatable as many NFL heads still love his persona and game. Yet, Bridgewater was mediocre in Carolina during 2020. His team that had a talented wide receiving corps and a pass-first philosophy when Christian McCaffrey was lost for the season.

One must travel back to 1999 to find the last occurrence of a successful Vikings quarterback selection – Daunte Culpepper.

Stay faithful to the process – Kirk Cousins – is the obvious and foreseeable outcome. Otherwise, the Vikings will try Garoppolo on for size, find a cheap vet, or start from scratch with a rookie.

Those are the stakes.

Dustin Baker

Writer. Host of Bleav in Vikings Podcast w/B-Mac & Baker.

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