About the ‘Kirk Cousins of the South’

About the 'Kirk Cousins of the South'
Oct 4, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) tackles Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports.

Only a handful of NFL teams are embarking on the 2022 season will an eyebrow-raising plan at quarterback.

Arguably, those franchises are the Atlanta Falcons (Marcus Mariota), Carolina Panthers (Sam Darnold), Detroit Lions (Jared Goff), and Seattle Seahawks (Drew Lock).

Moreover, the Houston Texans could fit in the category, opting for Year Two of Davis Mills as QB1, a man who showed some promise in 2021. And some feel Mills possesses a Kirk Cousins-like trajectory.

Jan 2, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports.

The ESPN radio affiliate in Houston, 97.5, observed this week that Mills’ performance down the stretch of 2021, particularly his final five games as a starter, would precisely project to Cousins’ 2021 totals across the whole season. And indeed, 33 touchdown passes to just seven interceptions is salivating for any franchise — except for some fans of the Vikings who don’t classify that split as sufficient when it’s from the shoulder of Cousins.

ESPN 97.5 host Brad Kellner said on the Mills-Cousins comparison, “If you’re telling me Davis Mills is going to put up prime Kirk Cousins numbers in his first full season as a starting quarterback in the NFL, then I absolutely want it because I’m going to assume that Davis Mills is only going to go up from there.”

Kirk Cousins Called an "Issue" by Forbes
Oct 4, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The debate on Kellner’s show quickly evolved into “is this good or bad?” about Mills’ numbers emulating Cousins’. Kellner was ultimately fine with the numerical production but was skittish about the spirit of the connection, “If you’re asking if I’m cool with a Kirk Cousins ceiling for Davis Mills, the answer is no.”

And this is the eternal debate on Cousins. Is the 33TD-7INT ratio an excellent output for every quarterback leaguewide while Cousins is the lone exception? Cousins’ detractors usually find their way to an answer — through logical gymnastics to a yes or a yeah-but.

Cousins is often chided for accumulating numbers as a dink-and-dunker passer who throws the ball underneath. This is despite statistical evidence to the contrary:

Most 30+ Yard Completions,
Since 2016:

Kirk Cousins (135)
Tom Brady (135)
Russell Wilson (135)
Aaron Rodgers (132)
Matthew Stafford (128)

The other irresistible fallacy for Cousins naysayers is the notion he “only excels in garbage time.”

But in 2021, all of Cousins’ 33 touchdown passes occurred when games were within a 14-point margin. He effectively produced no garbage-time scores en route to 33 passing touchdowns, shattering the “only thrives when the game is out of reach” narrative.

Ergo, much like the debate on Cousins — it seemingly never ends — it’s in the eye of the beholder to decide if Mills’ Cousins-of-the-South label is a compliment, insult, or somewhere in the middle.


Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).