Is Kirk Cousins the secret to tipping new hires in the Vikings favor?

In our house we often have to pull our boys aside and have conversations about having “big feelings” and how we can appropriately handle them. When it comes to Vikings fans and Kirk Cousins, I think we need to have this same “big feelings” conversation with everybody just to serve as a reminder as to how we should treat each other.

With two primary camps dug in on either side of the Kirk Cousins debates there’s a lot of nuance for both the Pro-Cousins and Anti-Cousins sides. But maybe there’s one thing that both groupings can find some common ground on.

It’s possible that having Kirk Cousins as a member of the Minnesota Vikings might be the asset that tips the needle for a top general manager or head coaching candidate in favor of the Minnesota Vikings. Follow me on this one.

When it comes to both the vacancy at general manager and the opening at the head coaching position, the Vikings might be the most attractive option for one of the available parties and embattled quarterback Kirk Cousins might be the deciding factor.

This would be a good time to remember that the interview process is very much a two-way street. The Vikings need to do their due-diligence to come up with the best candidate for the job. Likewise, the available candidates, specifically those who might receive interest from multiple teams, will be deciding for themselves where the best spot to land might be.

In this respect, the Vikings as an organization have a lot going for them. Brand new stadium, state of the art practice facilities, owners who are supportive but simultaneously hands off. Additionally, the Vikings are not in full rebuild mode. That level of competition carried into 2022 immediately gives them an edge above teams like the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars.

And then there’s Kirk Cousins.

You see, for both the incoming coach and general manager, winning games right away will be a positive thing. IT helps your track record, it keeps the fans happy and provides a better starting point for you to develop the franchise into where you’re taking it. So, no matter which side of the Cousins argument you’re on, his presence for the 2022 season offers so attractive possibilities.

If the incoming regime believes Kirk Cousins is the quarterback of the near future for this team, boom, he’s here. You’ve got a top 10(ish) quarterback on roster who has proven proficiency and will score your team points and keep you relevant beginning next year. There’s already rapport with Jefferson, Thielen and Cook and it’s not like he’s a bad quarterback. That competitive advantage puts Minnesota ahead of other teams like Miami, Denver and even Chicago who despite who they have on roster still have questions at the quarterback spot for next season. Cousins is a bonified NFL starting quarterback. Only Las Vegas has that to offer for the open positions, and Cousins is better than Derek Carr.

But let’s say that the next group of leadership isn’t on the Cousins train, best case scenario you have full autonomy to explore trade opportunities. We’ve heard the rumors of Cleveland or Pittsburgh being a good fit, those would be my first phone calls. If you’re able to move him you no have an open strain to find the quarterback you want through FA or the Draft and you have $35 million extra salary cap space to work with and build a team around them. And then the worst case if they don’t like the idea of Kirk…you’ve got one more year with him. Sure he’ll demand a lot of money for this one year, but again, he’ll win you games, he’ll put butts in the seats and he’ll keep your star players productive. Then for the 2023 season, when all those big name QBs are coming out, you kick the tires and really lay your stamp on the roster.

For those reasons, there is certainly an argument to say that Kirk Cousins as a Minnesota Viking could help sway a coaching or GM candidate toward Minnesota rather than the other options.

From there, it’s all on the coach and general manager to decide what the next steps will be and in what direction they will be headed.

The Minnesota Vikings are not partaking in the postseason this year – they were eliminated by the rival Packers a couple of weeks ago – but silver linings exist.

An era of change is underway, evidenced by the terminations of the team’s key leadership figures, general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer.

The next regime – the search is underway – will inherit two First-Team All-Pro football players, too. And the tally arguably could have been three men.

The NFL announced First-Team All-Pro rosters on Wednesday, plopping two Vikings on the squad with running back Kene Nwangwu and linebacker Eric Kendricks.

Kendricks, a player theorized to return with the Vikings in 2022, actually had a down year by his lofty standards. Per Pro Football Focus, Kendricks graded a 58.8, ranking 32nd of 88 qualifying linebackers. In 2020, Kendricks’ PFF score was 82.6. So, his grade dipped 29% in a single season.

Eric Kendricks
Nov 8, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings middle linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) celebrates with teammates after making an interception against the Detroit Lions during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

However, Kendricks did tackle folks like a madman. He accrued 143 tackles, the ninth-most in the business. Kendricks and the Vikings certainly won’t complain about the All-Pro designation, but the award might’ve been afforded to him in large part due to reputation. See: Xavier Rhodes as a Pro Bowler in 2019 despite a terrible 46.4 grade from PFF.

Kendricks’ teammate, Kene Nwangwu, was spectacular in his rookie season. His All-Pro trophy was assuredly warranted. Nwangwu became healthy in November and promptly scored two kick return touchdowns upon his arrival —  a feat rare for the Vikings after the exodus of Cordarrelle Patterson from the franchise in 2017.

All told, Nwangwu returned 18 kicks for 32.2 yards per return – tops in the NFL. And that’s why the man is now an All-Pro.

On a downer note for Minnesota, Justin Jefferson did not receive the All-Pro accolade. He was nudged by Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp, and ex-teammate at LSU, Ja’Marr Chase. Jefferson took notice, evidently peeved by the perceived snub.

Jefferson notched more yards than Chase in 2021, but Chase grabbed three more touchdowns. For voters, the extra touchdowns made the difference. Too, Adams and Kupp absolutely deserved the recognition. The decision came down to Chase or Jefferson, leaving the Vikings wide receiver on the outside looking in.

In the Spielman-Zimmer era, from 2014 to 2021, the Vikings drafted three First-Team All-Pro players: Kendricks, Nwangwu, and Stefon Diggs.

Jefferson is a lock for Second-Team All-Pro honors. He earned the same title last year during his first season.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. 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).