Vikings GM Analytically Praises Kirk Cousins

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The Minnesota Vikings, in the person of general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, must make a decision about their quarterback in the next few weeks. There are multiple options available. An extension would ensure more flexible cap numbers while playing out the final year of his contract on a high cap hit is also a viable option and the beginning of the end of Cousins’ tenure in Minnesota.

Of course, many factors play into that. Cousins has a say in the negotiations, and it also depends on how highly the decision-makers of the purple team think of him and the players in the upcoming draft class. If they like one of the QBs in the draft, one who is realistic to get, the likelihood of Cousins’ departure rises.

Vikings GM Analytically Praises Kirk Cousins

Vikings GM Analytically Praises Kirk Cousins
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback Kirk Cousins is an ongoing topic in debates on social media and TV and radio shows. Some claim he’s not good enough to win big, others that he is good enough and deserves more respect, some talk about the high cap hit and how he is overpaid, while others claim his price tag is about right. At the end of the day, the only opinions that matter are those of the big names in the Vikings organization — ownership, front office, and coaching staff.

From day one, head coach Kevin O’Connell praised Cousins as the leader and signal caller he wanted. Adofo-Mensah had a cold-blooded, objective, and emotionless take — He is not Patrick Mahomes, and he is not Tom Brady — but he’s a good quarterback.

At the start of the NFL Draft Combine, general managers and head coaches across the league stop on the podium, many for the first time since their final season press conference, and chat about their players and off-season plans.

Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah at the 2023 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, IN. The Vikings finished 13-4 in the first year under Adofo-Mensah’s general management.

Adofo-Mensah had some media appearances and his personal press conference. Among other topics, he obviously had to address the elephant in the room — his team’s quarterback.

He was asked how he evaluates the QB position numbers-wise and how he forms an option about it. His answer was, common for him, the usual general manager talk mixed with an analytical approach.

Let’s go full numbers, we talk about necessary and sufficient conditions in math; a necessary condition is having a starter-level quarterback, a quarterback above a certain threshold. Now that doesn’t mean for sure you’re going to win, that’s not the only thing you need, but that is one of the things you need. Having a good-level quarterback is a necessary condition. Kirk [Cousins] meets that threshold, we know that.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

Long story short, an NFL team needs a good quarterback, and that is what Cousins is. His annual production, like clockwork, 4,000 yards, and 30 touchdowns, can’t be denied. He is playing at a high-level year in and year out. The criticism is that the teams led by him are not winning and have frankly not been even close to winning a Super Bowl.

The Vikings 4 Realistic
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Adofo-Mensah’s take on that is the logical one — a team needs more things than just a quarterback. Defense, offensive line, receivers, special teams, and coaching are all part of the game. While some criticism should be put on the offense, the majority of the letdowns in recent years happened in other parts of the team than the QB position.

Ok well now, how do you build the rest of the team around him to make sure you can win that way? Different quarterbacks require different things around them, but we know for sure, [Kirk Cousins] meets that threshold.

While he hasn’t been flawless in the past, the Vikings didn’t do a great job surrounding Cousins with what he needs. No team invested more in the offensive line than the Vikings, but it’s still a significant weakness. Cousins was hit more in 2022 than any other passer in the league. He is a pocket passer, and those need protection. The receiving corps was always a strength of the team, but another dynamic receiver would’ve helped in the last couple of years.

Mike Zimmer Pops up
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Defensively, the Vikings have been a disaster in the last three years. There’s no other way to say it. Only three teams allowed more points since 2020. Missing draft picks frequently can’t be the foundation for a functional unit. And the final point is coaching. Mike Zimmer wanted the team to run a rush-first offense, while the team should’ve unleashed the passing game more often. Teams are allowed to win 35-30. They don’t have to win 21-17. The organization understood that in 2022 with the hiring of Kevin O’Connell.

However, Adofo-Mensah didn’t really commit to Cousins long-term.

How long does he meet that threshold? Those are the things we need to answer. Is there a chance to add somebody maybe with different skillsets? These are all questions we got to answer so there’s not one right way but I do know one thing, he is good enough, he meets that first threshold. That’s a lot of people can’t answer with a yes, so we have to make sure we treat that in the proper importance that it is.

The final two sentences suggest that the Vikings know he’s a good player and want to keep him around. The first two sentences, meanwhile, indicate that they also look into the future and have to make a change at some point. Cousins will turn 35 — an age that lost some importance in the last few years with Tom Brady playing another decade after that — but it is still the time when QBs are confronted with their human aging process and diminishing skills.

DENVER, CO – OCTOBER 4: Peyton Manning (18) of the Denver Broncos passes the ball for a gain of 27 yards in the first quarter. The Denver Broncos played the Minnesota Vikings at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO on October 4, 2015. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

Cousins’ pocket-passing playing style could extend his career, but it is not a given. Good quarterbacks lost some of their skills in the last decade. Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger all struggled in their final campaigns. Their football IQ compensated for some worsening arm talent, but it can only get a QB so far. At some point, he has to hit the receiver 40 yards down the field.

In addition to that age, Cousins is a true pocket passer in an era in which the NFL teams are looking for the next Patrick Mahomes and not the next Peyton Manning. Escaping the pocket and creating plays with the legs are huge parts of the modern NFL QB play. Cousins improved his pocket presence and is one of the better players in that area of the game, but he will not suddenly start to scramble to the sidelines and throw off-balance lasers from a running platform.

Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) warms up before the game against the Eastern Washington Eagles at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Sunday, October 2, 2022. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun. USA TODAY NETWORK.

Adofo-Mensah mentioned the possibility of bringing someone in with a different skill set. Players in the draft like Will Levis, who is drawing some Josh Allen comparisons, and Anthony Richardson, who is compared to Cam Newton and Justin Fields, offer a different skill set. It is certainly possible that the Vikings will be in the QB market in the upcoming draft or 2024. Adding a passer in April’s draft would mean the rookie had one year to develop behind Cousins.

Cousins is under contract for one more season, and Adofo-Mensah made it clear that he meets the threshold of a QB that can win in the NFL. An extension or the grooming of a successor are both possible ways. The next few weeks should be interesting concerning the future of the Vikings quarterback position.

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