Vikings Have a ‘Make or Break’ Candidate

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

In less than three months, Minnesota Vikings fans will begin to learn if the franchise encounters obvious regression from an unforeseen 13-4 record last year or matches the winning tendencies provided by first-year head coach Kevin O’Connell during his maiden voyage.

Vikings Have a ‘Make or Break’ Candidate

Sportsbooks believe Minnesota will experience the former, slating the Vikings for 8.5 wins — otherwise known as dreaded mediocrity.

And if the Vikings plan to stave off regression and win the NFC North for the first time in back-to-back seasons since 2008-2009, they’ll need an ultra-productive campaign from quarterback Kirk Cousins, according to

or Break
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports.’s Nick Shook defined 12 players on tap for ‘make or break’ seasons in 2023 — meaning the players must perform or else — and Cousins was included.

Shook explained about Cousins, “Cousins is a four-time Pro Bowler around whom the Vikings have built a contender. But Cousins is entering the final year of his contract. Minnesota hasn’t made any drastic moves to prepare for a future without him, preserving his chances of earning another deal that could put him in line to retire with the Vikings. He’s maintained a consistent level of play, completing 65.9 percent of his passes for 4,547 yards and a 29:14 TD-INT ratio in 2022 for a team that won 13 games and the NFC North title.”

Will NFL Pundits Admit
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.

The upcoming season is indeed scheduled as Cousins’ last in Minnesota unless general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah extends the passer next February or March.

Shook continued, “However, Minnesota’s Super Wild Card Weekend exit from the playoffs was followed by the departure of several veteran playmakers this offseason. The team has moved on from Adam Thielen, Za’Darius Smith, Eric Kendricks and Dalvin Cook, among others. Danielle Hunter could be next. Will it be Cousins’ turn in 2024?”

Kirk Cousins Becomes
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Cousins tied an NFL record for most game-winning drives in a single season last year and is on deck in 2023 for same-playcaller continuity since 2015-2016 when Sean McVay offensively coordinated Cousins’ Washington Commanders.

“If the Vikings decide they like what they have in fifth-round pick Jaren Hall, perhaps the team will turn the page. If they don’t wish to go in a different direction under center, Cousins might get one more deal with the franchise that made waves by fully guaranteeing his first deal in Minnesota,” Shook concluded.

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports.

Shook is correct — regarding future planning, this is it for Cousins. If he balls out and flings 35-40 touchdowns while the Vikings effectuate a meaningful deep playoff run, Cousins will probably be back for a year or two after 2023. Yet, if the club flops again before or during the playoffs, Adofo-Mensah will likely find ‘his guy’ at QB1 in the draft.

Other make-or-break candidates per Shook? Ryan Tannehill (QB, TEN), Michael Thomas (WR, NO), Dak Prescott (QB, DAL), and Russell Wilson (QB, DEN), among others.

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 Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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