Former Vikings LB Believes Kirk Cousins Will “Thrive” in 2022

Sep 27, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) scrambles in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

It’s widely believed that Kirk Cousins and Mike Zimmer didn’t get along throughout their tenure together as QB/head coach. The two seemed to butt heads on a regular basis and went about football in completely different ways. Furthermore, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Zimmer expressed regular disdain for his players that did not get vaccinated.

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All of the head-butting and differing leadership styles culminated in what was one of the strangest celebrations/shoving matches we’ve ever seen after a Greg Joseph game-winning kick against the Lions:

And now former Vikings linebacker, Ben Leber, has all but confirmed what everyone has suspected. Here is what he had to say to Zach Gelb of CBS Sports Radio.

“I think [Cousins is] gonna finally thrive, really thrive, in a system and a coach that actually respects him. I mean, It’s not like I’m not breaking news here that Mike Zimmer did not like Kirk Cousins. And I think that showed in the way that Kirk behaved and the way that he carried himself. The team was never given to him, or he was never allowed to earn the trust of the team, because the head coach I think just didn’t like him.”

Ben Leber on the Kirk Cousins/Mike Zimmer relationship

Of course, when many would point out that when Kirk Cousins came to Minnesota, the Vikings were coming off a 13-3 2017 season under Case Keenum in which they made the NFC Championship Game. Cousins was supposed to be the piece that put the Vikings over the top, but instead, Minnesota took a few leaps backwards. In 2018, they went a very mediocre 8-7-1 and missed the playoffs after losing to the Chicago Bears, 24-10, in Week 17. Cousins was sacked four times in that game and finished the game with just 132 passing yards and a touchdown.

Certainly, that game did not go well for Cousins, but he is far from the only reason why have struggled in recent years. Leber went in depth on that as well:

“That was a top-10 offense last year, with a very green, first-time offensive coordinator [Klint Kubiak],” Leber said. “Where was their defense ranked last year? Thirty-first. The year before that, I think they were ranked 27th. So people can rail on Kirk and rail on this offense and say we can’t win with him or we can’t win with this offense. I say that’s total BS. We couldn’t win with the crap defense that we’ve had the last two years. We couldn’t stop the run, at all. Ever. And then in key moments of the games . . . we couldn’t stop any two-minute offense. So, to me, the biggest liability of this team has been defense. All this team has to do is play good team defense, finish in the mid-teens at the end of the season, and they’re playoff bound and they can make some noise.”

Ben Leber on the Vikings defense

The Vikings defense certainly has not been good in recent years. In this instance, I’m not sure where Leber is getting the 31st ranking for the 2021 unit, but the closest I could find was that Minnesota ranked 30th in yards allowed. They were also 24th in points allowed. No matter what the actual rankings are, I think everyone would agree that this isn’t good.

Leber makes an excellent point about the Vikings offensive situation as well. Klint Kubiak had never been in that sort of role before, and he had to do it with a defensive coach that wanted to religiously run the ball rather than open up the offense.

Even still, the Vikings offense ranked 12th in total yards and 14th in points scored. There’s cause for optimism with this new offense-first regime with two coaches from the Sea McVay coaching tree, O’Connell and Wes Phillips, running the show.

The Vikings offense should become a top-10 or even top-5 group in 2022 with the amount of talent they have on offense. If that is in fact the case, and Ed Donatell’s new defensive scheme can keep opponents guessing, this should be a good year for Vikings football.