Whoodathunkit. Quiet Kirk = Winning Kirko.

Whoodathunkit. Quiet Kirk = Winning Kirko.
Kirk Cousins

By every major quarterback ranking metric, Kirk Cousins is having his “worst” year as the Minnesota Vikings starting quarterback.

And still, the Vikings are 10-2 through 13 weeks, firmly in control of the No. 2 seed of the NFC’s playoff chase. If the playoffs started today, Minnesota would host the Seattle Seahawks in the wildcard round, with a chance to host an additional home playoff game if it knocked off Geno Smith and friends.

So, Kirk Cousins must be lighting up the world inside Kevin O’Connell’s new Cousins-friendly offense, right? Nope. Cousins has encountered his quietest year as a member of the Vikings from an individual statistical perspective. The “only” thing he’s changed in 2022 from 2018, 2019, 2020, or 2021 is the ability to rack up “game-winning drives” and “4th Quarter comebacks.” Although, Cousins accounted for those, too, in 2020 and 2021, but the Vikings kicker and defense often squandered the precious quarterback stats for him.

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Oct 30, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Here’s how Cousins ranked in 2021 per all credible quarterback metrics:

Kirk Cousins,
2021 Year-End Rankings:

4th in Passer Rating
5th in PFF
8th in DVOA
14th in EPA+CPOE
15th in QBR

And here’s how the Vikings QB1 sits via the same metrics through Week 13 of 2022:

Kirk Cousins,
2022 Rankings
thru Week 13:

15th in PFF
19th in DVOA
21st in Passer Rating
21st in EPA+CPOE
21st in QBR

Per PFF, the Vikings Top 2022 Players from Best to Worst: After Week 8
Oct 16, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings, as a team, have been night-and-day better during crunchtime of games — hence the lofty 10-2 record. But somehow, Cousins’ personal performance doesn’t quite mirror his 2021 production. It’s weird.

It’s so weird that some onlookers are absolutely convinced the 2022 version of Cousins is better than 2021 Cousins despite what the numbers suggest. But that’s what a team with a winning record does — mask shortcomings or ho-hum stats because the “only stat that matters” is winning.

Moreover, Cousins’ per-game output is teensy compared to any other season of his career. His big-game wherewithal via passing yards is down.

Kirk Cousins,
300+ Passing Yard Games,
by Year:

2015 = 7
2016 = 7
2017 = 5
2018 = 5

2019 = 4
2020 = 5
2021 = 6
2022 = 1*

*thru Week 13

And so are the touchdown passes:

Kirk Cousins,
3+ Passing TD Games,
by Year:

2015 = 5
2016 = 3
2017 = 4
2018 = 4
2019 = 4
2020 = 8
2021 = 5
2022 = 1*

*thru Week 13

Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) reacts after the game against the New York Jets at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

There is also a chance that Cousins will turn on the gas in the season’s final five games, careening his numbers to more closely align with his resume of years past. However, Cousins’ annual performance typically peaks in October and November while tailing off in December. If Cousins flips a switch, it will be against the norm in his career — but folks would love it.

Cousins continues his quest with the 10-2 Vikings this Sunday at Detroit. The Vikings play the Lions, a team that Cousins has posted a 21-TD to 2-INT against in his career.

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 Sal Spice. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).