The Kirk Cousins Debate Shouldn’t Exist

Kirk Cousins Riddle
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It has been a tumultuous offseason for the Minnesota Vikings. Longtime staples Eric Kendricks and Adam Thielen had to pack their bags and leave because of salary cap limitations.

The regime around Kevin O’Connell and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will make many more tough decisions, and fans won’t like all of them. Losing players fans admired for years is never easy. However, an NFL team must move forward and plan for the future. The fans’ emotions are necessary for the sport, they make the sport great, but sometimes they take it too far and should take a step back to evaluate a situation objectively.

The Kirk Cousins Debate Shouldn’t Exist

The Kirk Cousins Debate Shouldn't Exist
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Debates about the franchise passer of the Vikings are ongoing — ever since he stepped into the building in 2018. Teddy Bridgewater and Case Keenum were let go. Both were absolute fan favorites for different reasons. Keenum was the starting quarterback of the most successful team of the 2010s. The club went to the NFC Championship game. The Vikings drafted Bridgewater, and he was supposed to be the guy in Minnesota for a decade. A knee injury ended that dream.

In addition, both players are likable guys, without any diva behavior in them. On the football field, however, neither has significantly impacted a different organization in the five years since their departure. Both had some spot starts, but the teams were happy when they moved on to a different passer.

That’s exactly what the Vikings did in free agency in 2018 when they signed Kirk Cousins. He was the best free agent QB in years. Usually, those free-agent signal callers are either hurt or much older, so the Vikings opened the bag and spent a lot of money on their new franchise quarterback.

Cousins has fulfilled the expectations on the field with his annual top-10 play, sometimes slightly better, sometimes slightly worse. The team’s success didn’t match his production, which led to incredibly toxic debates in the state of Minnesota.

New Wrinkle for Kirk
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Of course, a QB can only do so much to influence the outcome of a game. He doesn’t play by himself. Others have to do their jobs. Cousins still came up short in some games, but that can be said about every quarterback in the league. He improved in some areas. The late-game heroics of a supposed non-clutch QB in the last couple of years were outstanding and a huge reason why the Vikings were competitive.

Cousins, meanwhile, didn’t improve in other areas, like his mobility and playmaking ability outside of the structure. Those areas will never be a strength and limit his potential.

The debate often revolves around the contract. Cousins certainly hasn’t been cheap, and the contract structure of fully-guaranteed deals didn’t help the organization. Nevertheless, good and consistent quarterback play is not cheap.

Open for Business
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Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell must make the decision about the passer in the next 11 months. While they didn’t extend him in 2023, a new deal could still be signed next offseason if they want to keep him in the building. It seems unlikely at this point but not impossible.

The team tried to insert a better QB on a good team in 2018 and tried to win the chip in the first two seasons with that strategy before the roster aged, and many players departed. Since 2020, the Vikings have tried to build a good enough team around Cousins, but too many misses in the draft led to a roster that is probably not good enough to be a real contender.

After trying the Cousins experiment for five years, entering the sixth, it is time for something new. That new chapter shouldn’t start in 2023 after a 13-win season, though, because the team might actually be good, and the success is not a fluke.

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Cousins is the starter in 2023, and everyone knows it. The Vikings leadership has always confirmed this, but some folks don’t want to believe it. There is a new made-up trade scenario every week. The hope is to be as good as possible in the upcoming season, with a hopefully upgraded defense, and Cousins is undoubtedly the best option in the forthcoming season.

But why should the Vikings even move on if Cousins is good and the team is best with him under center? The answer is easy. He is expensive, starting to be one of the older QBs in the league, and he isn’t one of the league’s elite QBs.

All of that is enough reason to try to find a successor. The emotions in the controversy are totally overblown. He’s good, it’s hard to find a better quarterback, and the Vikings still have to try.

Even Cousins’ supporters should agree that he most likely won’t play at his usual top-10 level for much longer. He might have another year or two left, but the decline of QBs starts at some point after turning 35. Tom Brady is still the outlier.

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On the other hand, Cousins’ naysayers must agree that he is a good player with some limitations, and it will be hard to replace him. Annual Pro Bowl candidates with 30 passing touchdowns don’t grow on trees.

Both sides took it too far. The truth is somewhere in between. After combining those two arguments, Vikings fans should enjoy the next year with him under center because there’s a good chance that the next QB will be worse, especially in his first year as a starter.

However, long-term, a new quarterback is the only logical way unless Tom Brady has somehow defeated father time for good and Cousins stops aging. Vikings fans shouldn’t fear the next quarterback, especially because there isn’t any alternative to trying to find one. The next guy could be the real deal.

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Minnesota is scheduled to be on the clock with the 23rd overall pick, which is probably too late to find one of the top QBs in the draft. Kevin O’Connell is in the building to identify the next franchise passer. There have already been some Cousins-like debates surrounding Hendon Hooker on social media. While he has some flaws, if O’Connell believes in him, the Vikings should pull the trigger. If he doesn’t, they shouldn’t force anything.

Guys like Tanner McKee, Clayton Tune, Jaren Hall, or Dorian Thompson-Robinson could also be in play in later rounds. The luxury of still having another year of Cousins is that there will be another draft class next year, and the Vikings can enter this year’s draft without any pressure.

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