What do Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, Tua Tagovailoa, Jameis Winston, and Cam Newton all have in common?
It’s not their respective wardrobes, style of quarterbacking, or even their statistics. If it was statistics, Cousins would blow these three men out of the water.
Instead, it is MVP odds for 2021 — all four men are slated as 66/1 chances to win the 2021 NFL MVP award by BetMGM. Patrick Mahomes leads the field (6/1), followed by Aaron Rodgers (8/1) and Josh Allen (12/1) to win the league’s most prestigious individual award. The only non-quarterbacks with reasonable MVP odds at this juncture are Christian McCaffrey and Derrick Henry, who have around 33/1 odds depending on the sportsbook.
On the Cousins-Tagovailoa-Winston-Newton connection, this means that these four players are around the 17th-most likely quarterbacks to win the recognition in 2021. The BetMGM list of odds should not be considered a true-blue power ranking of quarterbacks, but they’re also not too far off from the popular opinion of quarterback supremacy.
Cousins is notoriously underappreciated by the national media and even some Vikings fans. He has somehow accrued a reputation that “everything must be perfect” around him for his team to thrive. This is an example of an argument stretched to its gills — exaggerated, even — to prove a point. Most believers in Cousins frankly state that his life is easier when his team’s offensive line is not wretched (29th for the Vikings in the NFL via pass protection in 2020) or his defense isn’t stinky (also 29th in the league via points allowed).
The Vikings and Cousins face a make-or-break campaign in 2021. It’s difficult to foresee him as the team’s quarterback in 2022 and beyond if Minnesota arrives the 2021 season, only to encounter a miserable record of 6-11 or something close to it. Truth be told, the Vikings probably have to win a playoff game for head coach Mike Zimmer and Cousins to get a greenlight for 2022.
Another member of the 66/1 club, Cam Newton, is embarking on a similar pivotal year. Unless the New England Patriots draft a quarterback like Mac Jones at the end of the month, Newton must prove that he is capable of leading the Patriots to the postseason. He is supported by Bill Belichick — who most folks consider the greatest football coach of all time. The Patriots were the splashiest players during free agency, so Newton, in theory, should be set up to win some football games in September. But they must reach the postseason — or Belichick will throw Newton in the trash.
Jameis Winston is also ready for a prove-it season. The former 1st-overall pick from the 2015 NFL Draft will lead the life-after-Drew-Brees Saints in about five months. Winston is coached by Sean Payton, who many feel is a quarterback whisperer akin to Andy Reid out in Kansas City. Payton gets a true test in 2021 with Winston. Why? Because Winston looked moronic in 2019 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, tossing an ungodly 30 interceptions.
The outlier in the 66/1 club is Tua Tagovailoa. This young man is just exiting a gridiron womb. He started nine games in 2020 while compiling an admirable 6-3 quarterback record (for those that put stock in that metric). It was his rookie campaign, and expectations for one’s first year are generally tapered. Tagovailoa rose to the occasion until the Miami Dolphins brass curiously benched him back and forth for the bearded Ryan Fitzpatrick. Now, Fitzpatrick has been fully jettisoned from the roster, packing his bags for the Washington Football Team in 2021. Fitzpatrick will seek to shore up quarterback consistency and continuity in the nation’s capital. Washington has not experienced quarterback stability since — you guessed it — Kirk Cousins left town in favor of the Vikings three years ago.
As a peculiar side note: Per the BetMGM MVP odds, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford has a better shot at winning the award than Russell Wilson.
Whooda thunk it?