The Kirk Cousins Primetime Narrative Was Never True in the First Place

General Opinion Has
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Some form of NFL media has inevitably told you that Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins crumbles under the bright lights of primetime.

Cousins’ teams particularly struggled early in his career on Monday Night Football games, on the way to an 0-9 record from 2014 to 2019 with Cousins as the Commanders and Vikings QB1.

The Kirk Cousins Primetime Narrative Was Never True in the First Place

But the problem was that wins and losses were never solely a quarterback measuring stick, no matter how much folks attached a win-loss record to an individual player.

Primetime Narrative
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

For example, Warren Moon tabulated a 102-101 (.502) “QB record” in his career. Was he a totally average quarterback? If your answer is yes, QB wins are a valid metric. A no, however, would mean you should toss the statistic in the trash.

Cousins has been painted as a struggle merchant in primetime games, especially on Monday Night Football, for about 5-6 years, but nobody peels back the curtain. Folks see the Commanders or Vikings win-loss record and finger-point Cousins as the lone culprit.

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports.

It’s just really bizarre no prominent NFL media source has ever thought, “Wait, how bad are his numbers in these situations?”

If they did — do some diligence and examine Cousins’ alleged primetime troubles — most would horrified or shocked to see the details. Cousins, in fact, is not bad or anywhere close to it in primetime showdowns and may actually improve as a passer in pressure-cooked nighttime football.

Cousins’ Vikings have won three of their last four MNF matchups — no Cousins detractor says this out loud or cares — but his performance on primetime pre-dates the Vikings recent success. Cousins has started 31 primetime contests in his career and scaled to a 17-game season, this is what his end-of-year numbers would look like:

  • 4,740 Passing Yards
  • 33 Passing TDs
  • 14 INTs
  • 68.0 Comp %
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

And what on earth is problematic about that? That production should be strived for or exalted, not bashed by television talking heads as “unable to get it done in primetime.”

Cousins’ primetime numbers almost exactly mirror his non-primetime output; it’s just that the masses don’t seem to investigate beyond the Commanders or Vikings — as teams — win percentage. They attach wins and losses to the quarterback, much like a tennis player who is a team by herself.

Watch for Kirk Cousins
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports.

At all times, Cousins is a pretty damn good quarterback — not elite — and perhaps the win over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 7 will provide clarity.


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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.

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