Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has been under persistent duress since he arrived the franchise in 2018. The team is 25-22-1 (.531) during Cousins’ tenure with one playoff victory and two underwhelming campaigns.
In the face of a shaky pass-protecting offensive line, Cousins has delivered 91 touchdown passes – the fifth-most in the NFL during the last three years. There is no way to determine how many more the 32-year-old would toss with an average or good offensive line, but it would undeniably be more.
Cousins isn’t the league’s only passer that is frequently besieged by defenders. Other oft-sacked quarterbacks include Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, and Matt Ryan. Yet, none of those men are thrown to the ground as often as Russell Wilson. The Seattle Seahawks signal-caller has been sacked 394 times during his career – more than any player in the NFL since 2012.
Wilson sounded off this week with resentments about the tendency.
Russell Wilson to reporters today: “I love playing for Seattle. Loved it for years. You just never want to get hit. I've been sacked almost 400 times. We’ve got to get better. I’ve got to get better. … I’m frustrated with getting hit too much.”
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) February 9, 2021
In reality, this is probably a diplomacy tactic to force Seattle’s hand in obtaining better offensive line personnel. The franchise notoriously skimps with offensive-line spending. But Wilson went on to leave questions about trading him unanswered and vague. He parked the matter back at the doorstep of Seattle’s management.
If Wilson is frustrated and open to a change of scenery, Kirk Cousins could hop right on this bandwagon with ease. Although, it is unlikely that Cousins would cause a fuss.
In his three years with Minnesota, Cousins has been sacked 107 times – the fifth-most leaguewide. The aforementioned Watson (155), Wilson (146), Ryan (131), and Wentz (118) are the only players to encounter more sacks than Cousins.
So, there’s a paradox. Cousins provides the fifth-most touchdown passes while getting sacked the fifth-most often. It’s rather odd.
Indeed, some accountability for sacks can be sent in the direction of quarterbacks, as holding onto the football too long is problematic. But on the whole, the culprit with this sacks stat-metric is the quarterback’s offensive line. The Texans are infamous for a shoddy offensive line. So are the Seahawks. The Vikings obviously eternally live in this category. Remember the 2020 Philadelphia Eagles – trashy offensive line.
There is a theme here. Quarterbacks that get sacked ad nauseam all seem to be discontented with their current situation — or they are the topic of trade rumors. Scroll up and re-read those names.
The Bottom-Tier Pass Protection
This tweet became a VikingsTerritory staple because it is so damning.
Vikings team pass block grade and rank since 2014:
2014: 72.4 (23rd)
2015: 67.9 (28th)
2016: 64.7 (30th)
2017: 71.9 (17th)
2018: 63.6 (27th)
2019: 63.0 (27th)
2020: 55.5 (29th)
— PFF MIN Vikings (@PFF_Vikings) January 14, 2021
In a nutshell of indictment, this stat defines the Vikings longstanding woes in the offensive trenches. The team run-blocks quite well, but the pass protection is nauseating. And it’s been that way from the day Mike Zimmer was hired. It popped up and gave a halfway decent performance in 2017 – and the team only reach the NFC Championship as a result. Actions have consequences. In this case, the consequence was delightful.
Cousins should not want to play for a team that showcases a bad pass-protecting offensive line every damn year. If Wilson or Watson miraculously played in Minnesota, they would voice similar frustration – just as they are doing in Seattle and Houston.
Watson has never vocally finger-pointed at his offensive line, but he made it crystal-clear in the last month that he wants the hell of Houston. And now he’s on the trade block. Perhaps a brawny offensive line could have changed Watson’s mood. It seems too late for that now, though.
No Such Musings from Cousins
Cousins is not a prima donna. Hence, he has not forced his way out of Minnesota. Instead, the team has members of its fanbase that outlandishly disregard the offensive line woes when evaluating Cousins’ production – and point to Cousins personally as the problem. Bizarre.
He is producing 30 touchdowns per season with the NFL’s fourth-worst offensive line via pass protection. Wilson and Watson don’t stand for it – each man is effectuating change albeit with different methods.
Cousins is content. He said last week that he wants to finish his career with the Vikings. Yet, if he emulated the attitude of Wilson and Watson based on like-minded offensive line situations, he’d want out.
Don’t necessarily “count your blessings” because maybe it is Wilson and Watson that are too critical. Maybe not. Is every good quarterback deserving of an at-least-average offensive line? If so, not Wilson, Watson, nor Cousins are not experiencing it.