Love or Hate Him, Kirk Cousins is Our Guy—Maybe We Should Start Loving Him
Admit it: a lot of you have kind of just been waiting for the Kirk Cousins era in Minnesota to end. Whether the Vikings win or lose (and we all are hoping they win), you figure he won’t get fans where they want the Vikings to go, so you watch the games and silently hope it ends soon with a fresh new face at quarterback. No matter how you come down on Kirk, deep in your heart you feel things will be better when the Cousins era ends.
But something happened along the way to the top of the NFC North with Kirk. Forever accused of good stats and a bad team record (both of which can be verified), Cousins has flipped the script in 2022 and that has us all slightly confused when we sit down at the keyboard to lodge our complaint (or compliment). Kirk’s personal numbers have slipped this season, but his won-loss record (and the debate as to whether that should be a quarterback stat is for another time) is well above his career record that hovers around .500. What are we to make of that?
Before the season, I weighed in on Kirk Cousins and what lay before him. (Full disclosure: the number .500 is a fairly good way to describe how I have always been on Kirk. I think he is an above-average NFL quarterback, but not above-average enough to get the Vikings to the Super Bowl. He is not as bad as people say he is nor do his numbers indicate that he is better than his ardent supporters insist).
But before this season – which has seen the Vikings climb to a 7-1 record and atop the NFC North by a good margin – I maintained that this was Kirk Cousins’ prove-it year. Everything was in place for him: a new, very supportive and offensive-minded coach, a strengthened offensive line, numerous weapons around him, and a defense that has certainly improved. It was on him. If he doesn’t prosper in this environment, then all his detractors can feel a little more emboldened and his supporters need to re-examine things in just a little more of an objective manner.
Now, of course, preseason predictions are a bunch of hooey—we only hear about them a second time if the predictor somehow gets things right (almost like getting Wordle on the first guess, luck is the biggest factor)—a lot of things can happen in the NFL season to mess up the best-laid guess of prognosticators. But I felt that if Kirk failed when all the stars were lining up for him, and continued to do so (Packer problems, NFC in a down year, the first half of the schedule favorable), we would be able to see what we have in him and could (or at least the GM and head coach could) make a sound and verifiable decision on what to do with him going forward.
The end result of this season near its halfway point is that we all have to take a better and more objective look at the 11-year QB and admit that Kirk Cousins has been instrumental in bringing this team to where they currently are. He has snatched several wins from what would have been the jaws of defeat last season and has done so in dramatic last-minute fashion. He has not wilted in crunch time and he has this team ascending rather than just spinning its wheels around .500 hoping the Vikings would sneak into the playoffs and steal a game from a superior opponent. We have to admit that.
Yesterday in Washington, Kirk led his teammates back to his starting point, where he and his kumbaya coach Kevin O’Connell first teamed up. He didn’t play his best statistical game (22 of 40 for 265 yards, a pick, 2 TD passes, and an 81.8 rating), but when push came to shove he made the plays necessary to win the game—the team’s sixth one-score victory in a row (they lost eight of those games last season). He feathered a pass to running back Dalvin Cook (who made a wonderful catch) for the game-tying touchdown, and then got them into position for the game-winning field goal. He has been doing this all season, and there is no reason to believe (since the players believe) that he can’t continue to do it. Cousins is leading his team to wins even though that team doesn’t look like they should win some of those games.
Therefore, I would submit that we should change our conventional thinking just a bit on Kirk Cousins. I am not saying the haters have to love him and the lovers have to temper their fervor—that is never going to happen. But we have to be able to say that Cousins needed a different support staff around him, from the GM and head coach on down to a backup who pushes him more than the previous one, and he has responded to it with flying colors. I said “prove it,” and, thus far, he has.
Will it all be enough to take Vikings fans to the promised land? That remains to be seen—I, personally, still don’t have enough data to change my mind on that yet. But in the next three weeks, the ascending Purple will play three of the better teams in the league. Where Kirk Cousins will lead us at the end of the season will begin charting its course through teams making their homes in Buffalo, Dallas, New England and New York. If Minnesota weathers those difficult waters, we can begin to look forward at the Vikings with increased expectations of lofty heights rather than faint hope of just hanging on.
And we should be able to feel the same way about our quarterback, Kirk Cousins, and his ever-increasing gold chainmail bling around his naked neck.