Kirk Cousins is Looking Better Than Ever

Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) prepares to throw a pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Not too long ago, Josh Dobbs looked like a threat to Kirk Cousins’ future in Minnesota.

With essentially no time to prepare, Dobbs pulled off a gritty victory against the Falcons. He then led his squad to a win over a hated foe: the New Orleans Saints. People in Minnesota were feeling good, energized by the unlikely rise to five-straight wins. Seeing a scrambling QB was exciting, a welcome development for those who had grown accustomed to immobile passers.

Nov 5, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joshua Dobbs (15) reacts after running for a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The consecutive defeats — one occurring on Sunday Night Football, the other occurring on Monday Night Football — have certainly led to no shortage of concern about Minnesota’s current QB. Against Denver, Dobbs played a part in a pair of turnovers. Against Chicago, Dobbs played a part in four turnovers. He was guilty of intentional grounding penalties in each game.

Backbreaking moments. No doubt about it.

With the margins in these games being so small — the pair of losses came with a combined -3 point differential — it’s fair to wonder if Kirk Cousins could have done better. No guarantee, but there’s little doubt that he’s the superior quarterback. When Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks into his crystal ball, does he see a future with Cousins, Dobbs, or someone else?

Kirk Cousins, Josh Dobbs, & Minnesota’s QB Conundrum in 2024

Mr. Cousins was progressing toward an All Pro honor. He was playing that good, folks.

He was completing 69.5% of his passes on his way to 2,331 passing yards. The 18 touchdowns in 8 games are impressive, especially since he only had 5 interceptions (last game, Dobbs piled on 4). Put differently, 1.6% of Cousins’ throws resulted in INTs; for Dobbs, the number sits at an ugly 3.9% in his games for the Vikings.

Oct 8, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) passes against the Kansas City Chiefs in the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

A top-10 NFL QB, Cousins is far from the perfect player. He has sometimes shrunk in huge moments and he, too, has been prone to fumbling at various points. Sometimes, he has been content with good plays rather than great plays, putting a ceiling on what his offenses have been able to accomplish.

What no one can debate, though, is that he was somehow finding a way of continuing to get better as his career progressed.

Even at 35, Cousins was adding new layers to his game. He has become adept at shuffling around the pocket, offering a bit of wiggle to elude the pressure for long enough to make a play. He was even willing to test tight coverage, trusting his sneaky strong arm to get the ball into his receivers. And clutch? Just go re-watch the end of games in 2022.

Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) stiff arms Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis III (24) in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

And what about all of those records Justin Jefferson was smashing? Those came with Cousins delivering the pigskin. There’s something to be said for that, folks. Whoever is taking the snaps will need to be proficient at tossing the ball in Jefferson’s direction (as the head coach knows). Cousins has a proven record of being able to do so.

Dobbs, perhaps, could prove to be excellent at getting the ball over to Jefferson. The new QB hasn’t had the luxury of having Jefferson in the game. One wonders, though, if he’ll even get the chance to connect with Jefferson. There’s a very good chance that Nick Mullens is given the start coming out of the bye.

Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall are the pair of QBs who are under contract for next season. Kirk Cousins and Josh Dobbs will be free agents. Keeping all four seems highly, highly unlikely.

Aug 3, 2023; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks Nick Mullens (12) and Kirk Cousins (8) talk during warm ups at TCO Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

For a little while, Dobbs was making his case to be the man. He offers increased mobility and youth. The more affordable price tag was an added bonus. What’s clear, though, is that he doesn’t possess the same poise or arm talent as Cousins. The deep passing game simply isn’t there with Dobbs and neither is the ball security.

Cousins has proven that he’s capable of thriving in the Kevin O’Connell offense. In fact, he may be uniquely qualified to do so. A prerequisite for being O’Connell’s QB is having a huge brain and accurate arm. Dobbs certainly nails the first item on the list, but his turnovers in recent games have been brutal.

At the end of the day, the only thing that will matter is wins. If Dobbs manages to stick around as the starter and starts pulling out wins, then the Vikings will have a difficult decision to make when the time comes in 2024.

Every rough game, though, makes Kirk Cousins look better and better.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.