Meet the Vikings Most Underappreciated Player

NFL Analyst Criticizes Kirk Cousins
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Some Vikings players always fly under the radar and get snubbed in award races and Pro Bowl nominees. Fans of the purple team are used to it.

Justin Jefferson somehow wasn’t named first-team All-Pro in 2021 despite having the second-most receiving yards, and Brian O’Neill went to his only Pro Bowl in 2021 despite years of fantastic play. Harrison Smith is a one-time first-team All-Pro, and it could cost him his Hall of Fame induction.

Meet the Vikings Most Underappreciated Player

Meet the Vikings’ Most Underappreciated Player
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Another Vikings player isn’t getting the respect he deserves, according to Cynthia Frelund from NFL.com. She nominated quarterback Kirk Cousins for that honor.

Yes, I’m breaking one of the rules from the introduction, as Cousins, a former fourth-round pick, has four Pro Bowl nods. But given the constant narrative that surrounds this quarterback — and the fact that the Vikings are allowing him to play out the last year of his contract in 2023 — he just fits this “underappreciated” mold so well.

Cynthia Frelund

Cousins is one of the most polarizing players in the league. Many fans, especially casual fans who watch him once a year, swear that he is just a bad player. The stats don’t back that up, which is why they claim that the stats lie in the case of Cousins. Analysts regularly disregard the Vikings because of the quarterback, a player who undoubtedly helped the team to overachieve in 2022 and kept the organization competitive, even though outside of the final playoff picture, in 2020 and 2021.

Among the many problems in the last few years in the Vikings organization, Cousins hasn’t been close to the top of the list. A similar story was the lone playoff game in January. Cousins played an excellent game, arguably his best performance of the season, and all folks remember was a pass to T.J. Hockenson under heavy duress, the final Vikings offensive play.

Could he have made a different decision? Sure, he could’ve (maybe even should have) said Jefferson is down there somewhere, I’ll just throw it in his area. But the game was still only close because he played great, and nobody remembers that.

Year 1 of the O'Connell Era
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Frelund continued by presenting numerous fantastic statistics about the QB.

According to Next Gen Stats, Cousins had the most attempts (210), completions (111) and the second-most yards (2,367, a total only eclipsed by league MVP Patrick Mahomes) on passes of 10-plus air yards last season. Those are downfield throws, not ones that rely on YAC. He also ranked third in yards (3,197) and tied for third in touchdowns (22) on passes with a time to throw of at least 2.5 seconds. Another third-place ranking: Cousins’ 3.6 completion percentage over expected versus four or fewer pass rushers. Not to mention, he tied the single-season records for game-winning drives and fourth-quarter comebacks (eight apiece).

Cousins was phenomenal in the clutch in 2021, but the team couldn’t pull off as many victories in the same situation because of some defensive breakdowns, a missed field goal, and a Dalvin Cook fumble. Cousins also came up short a couple of times. His 2022 season was one of the all-time great clutch campaigns, and the numbers back it up. While he certainly didn’t have his best overall season, at least statistically, he played out of his mind late in close games.

These are all impressive figures for a quarterback with many skeptics. Does it help to have a receiver of Justin Jefferson’s caliber? Absolutely. Can you expect Cousins to match those robust figures in game-winning drives and fourth-quarter comebacks? No. Those were legitimately historic marks. But give credit where credit is due. The No. 102 pick from the 2012 NFL Draft has put together quite a career.

Cynthia Frelund

Nobody expected Cousins to have a career like that. He is a four-time Pro Bowler. Three-time Pro Bowler Jefferson helps Cousins, that shouldn’t be doubted, and Jefferson would be a great player with any quarterback. However, what can be questioned is if he was as good with a different passer. Cousins’ accuracy and ability to throw the ball to his star wideout possibly slightly increased his production. The duo has perfect chemistry, which is not a given with the next quarterback in Minnesota.

Why Has the Vikings Pass Defense Faltered Lately?
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Cousins is entering the final season of his contract, and he might play for a different team next year. A contract extension could still be done next offseason, even during free agency, but general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah seems confident about drafting the next franchise QB of the Vikings. He reportedly tried to trade up for Bryce Young in the draft.

Finding a young and talented quarterback will be exciting, but Cousins shouldn’t be taken for granted. Despite all his flaws, he will never be an elite quarterback and doesn’t create something out of broken plays. But his annual top-10 caliber play will be missed.


Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt

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