Kirk Cousins Designated ‘Dark Horse’ MVP Candidate for 2022

Kirk Cousins Designated 'Dark Horse' MVP Candidate for 2022
Kirk Cousins

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins will commence his fifth tour of duty for the team in 2022, the team’s longest-running QB1 since Daunte Culpepper in the early 2000s.

With Cousins, the Vikings are 33-29-1 (.531), an underwhelming win-loss split as Cousins is generally one of the Top 10 highest-paid players in the NFL.

But that record was achieved with former head coach Mike Zimmer, who fancied defense-first operations for eight seasons in Minnesota. Zimmer and his boss, Rick Spielman, were fired after a disappointing 8-9 season in 2021, and Kevin O’Connell was hired to lead life-after-Zimmer.

Perhaps with an offensive-minded skipper in O’Connell, the Vikings offense will attain its apex. That’s the working theory anyway, as Cousins is outfitted with weaponry like Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Irv Smith Jr., K.J. Osborn — and O’Connell’s brain.

Vikings Win
Nov 14, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

And a Cousins rise-to-superstardom isn’t wholly out of the question, according to NFL analyst Kyle Brandt from NFL Network. Brandt and his co-hosts selected “dark horse” MVP candidates for 2022, and per Brandt, he envisions a scenario where Cousins emerges as a contender for prestigious trophy.

Unsurprisingly, all of the theories listed by NFL Network are quarterbacks. A non-quarterback has not won the award since a Viking in 2012 — Adrian Peterson for his otherworldly campaign a decade ago.

Sportsbooks are not high on Cousins — or any of the four men above — to win the MVP award, though. Per, Cousins is the 18th-likeliest player to win the 2022 NFL MVP award with a +5000 moneyline, the same odds afforded to Trey Lance (who has never started a regular season game) and the aforementioned Jones from New England.

Aug 27, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Cousins’ numbers in the past are certainly compatible with Brandt’s hypothesis. Last season, he authored a 33-touchdown to 7-interception ratio, the same statline Brett Favre produced during the Vikings almost-storybook 2009 season. Without a playoff appearance or win, however, Cousins’ 2021 stats were swept under the rug as meaningless.

Moreover, Cousins will need at-least-average pass protection from his offensive line this season if he is to effectuate Brandt’s theory. Inside Cousins’ Vikings career, the best offensive-line bunch allotted to him is 27th in the league via pass-blocking. And that is code for sixth-worst.

Pass protection will be mandatory if Cousins wants an individual award and the Vikings want to reach the postseason for the first time in three years. Thankfully for Cousins’ sake, new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah signed Jesse Davis (MIA), Chris Reed (IND), Austin Schlottmann (DEN), and drafted Ed Ingram (LSU) to remedy the longstanding OL maladies.

If the pass protection isn’t horrid, Cousins will indeed have a puncher’s chance at the MVP award.

A Vikings quarterback has won MVP hardware one time — Fran Tarkenton 47 years ago (1975).

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).