Kirk Cousins’ Old Team a Cautionary Tale for Vikings

Kirk Cousins
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So far in the 2023 offseason, the Minnesota Vikings have not extended Kirk Cousins’ contract beyond next season, a signal the franchise could end the relationship in less than a year.

Cousins reportedly wasn’t asking for a market-shaking extension, either.

The Star Tribune’s Andrew Krammer said on the Access Vikings podcast last week, “I had also heard that he wasn’t asking for $40 million. He wasn’t asking for that much, in terms of what Daniel Jones got, who is obviously much younger but much less accomplished. Cousins’ camp was kind of surprised I guess, from what I heard, at the Vikings not jumping or at least accepting what they were asking for.”

Kirk Cousins’ Old Team a Cautionary Tale for Vikings

And because the Vikings appear ready to explore the Cousins afterlife, oodles of draft pundits have forecasted the team selecting shiny rookie quarterbacks like Will Levis or Hendon Hooker in next month’s draft. If they do so — or when they do so — general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah faces high stakes in “getting it right,” as Cousins’ former team, the Washington Commanders, offers a cautionary tale.

Old Team a Cautionary
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.

CBS Sports’ Doug Clawson tweeted some perspective Wednesday, “The Commanders have had an NFL-high 12 different starting QBs since Kirk Cousins signed with the Vikings in the 2018 offseason.”

Twelve different starting quarterbacks since the start of 2018 is abysmal, and if the Vikings don’t hit on the draft choice at QB after Cousins, a similar fate could await. Moreover, that’s all on top of the Vikings notorious “finally find our quarterback” woes that have beset the franchise since Fran Tarkenton left about 50 years ago.

Vikings Going Down
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Of course, this shouldn’t derail Minnesota from shooting for the stars via Cousins’ replacement. It’s just a quintessential easier-said-than-done task. Cousins habitually accounts for 4,000+ passing yards and 30+ touchdowns per season — like clockwork — and the folks ready to move from Cousins tend to believe that production is readily available from a man in the draft or the free-agent market.

It is not — and the Washington Commanders can tell you all about it.

A faction of Vikings fans and media are giddy and eager to replace Cousins. The sentiment is all over the digital stratosphere.

Yet, the weird part is this: if the “next guy” can’t approach 4,000+ passing yards and 30+ touchdowns as Cousins accumulates rather easily each season, the Vikings will scour the open free-agent market in about four or so years trying to find a “sure thing” proven quarterback. You know, like Cousins.

This is Vikings football since Tarkenton retired. Tommy Kramer and Daunte Culpepper, organic Vikings draft picks, provided solace and promise, but neither guided the Vikings to a Super Bowl. And when rookies like Christian Ponder flamed out, free agency was the counterpunch to solve the Vikings endless QB riddle.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports.

Since Cousins left Washington, the Commanders have registered a 32-49-1 (.396) record, rank 29th in passing touchdowns, 29th in passer rating, and 31st in passing yards. Their mindset in parting ways with Cousins at the time was to find a quarterback on a rookie deal to get out from underneath Cousins’ alleged mediocrity.

Sound familiar?

They found Dwayne Haskins one year later. The get rid of Kirk for something better on a rookie deal plan flopped. Undeniably flopped.

All told, they’ve auditioned Kyle Allen, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Garrett Gilbert, Dwayne Haskins, Taylor Heinicke, Sam Howell, Josh Johnson, Case Keenum, Colt McCoy, Mark Sanchez, Alex Smith, and Carson Wentz after Cousins. Everything failed, with the exception of Howell, who awaits a verdict.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

That list of 12 men sure looks like a Vikings QB hodgepodge from about 1992-2017, doesn’t it?

Adofo-Mensah must hit on the QB draft pick after Cousins. Otherwise, the Vikings risk replicating the 2018-2022 story of the Commanders, a team that threw Cousins in the trash because he wasn’t good enough.

If Adofo-Mensah does not nail the pick, the Vikings will be back to a wildly familiar tale — quarterback instability. Ironically, in the scenario where the Vikings rookie quarterback is a whiff, fans would feverishly hope to find a guy who puts up Cousins-like numbers. And back to the free-agent drawing board Adofo-Mensah or the next general manager would embark, searching for the safest best.

It’s the neverending, cyclical tale of Vikings football.

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,’ and The Doors (the band).

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