Ex-Vikings QB Kirk Cousins Gets Honest about Return to Minnesota as a Foe

MLB: Texas Rangers at Atlanta Braves
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins will visit his old stomping grounds at U.S. Bank Stadium in Week 14, and the new Atlanta Falcons quarterback shared his initial thoughts about it since the NFL schedule release on May 15.

“It’ll be a unique experience,” Cousins told ESPN’s “NFL Live” on May 15. “So many familiar faces, so many people that mean so much to me and my family, so many great memories in that stadium, in that city. It’ll be a mix of emotions.” 

“We’ll see once we get there, but that’s certainly a game you’re aware of when the schedules come out,” Cousins added.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings
Oct 23, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) warms up before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Cousins joined the Vikings as an $84 million free agent in 2018, and he played for the team until 2023 before an Achilles injury cut his season short. He became one of the franchise’s all-time passing leaders amid his 23,265 yards and 171 touchdowns.

Cousins left Minnesota for a four-year, $180 million deal with the Falcons in March. While he raised his family in Inver Grove Heights, going to Atlanta placed his family closer to his wife’s family in Georgia.

“A lot of emotions do hit you,” Cousins said regarding what he thinks it will be like to play Minnesota as a visitor. “As you touch down, land in the plane, bus to the hotel and you realize you’re going to the away hotel, not the home team hotel.” 

“As you head to the stadium and you see different security guards around the tunnel, the entrance that used to be for you, and now they’re against you,” he added. “Obviously, during warmups, you see so many people – support staff, teammates, coaches – that mean so much to you, now on the opposing team.”

While the game has already received hype since the schedule release, Cousins noted the goal stays the same.

“If you do win, it’s a great feeling walking off,” Cousins said.

Cousins has done it before in his career. He spent the first six seasons of his career with Washington, and Cousins led the Vikings  to a 20-17 victory in his lone return to the nation’s capital in 2022.

Vikings Starting QB Remains Unknown

Jan 1, 2024; Pasadena, CA, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) throws a pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first half in the 2024 Rose Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Who the Vikings will start at quarterback in Week 1 let alone Week 14 remains unknown. Minnesota signed veteran journeyman Sam Darnold in free agency and then drafted J.J. McCarthy out of Michigan. 

That quarterback battle could become a major storyline during training camp in July. However, Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune explained on KFAN during a May 14 broadcast that it will come down to more than McCarthy out-playing Darnold.

“I don’t think that their approach to the job is based on: is he better than Sam Darnold,” Goessling explained. “I think the threshold they are looking at is: is he ready to take the job and run with it and do all of the things that we want to see done by an elite quarterback in this offense?” 

“And if it’s not there yet, or if it’s not there consistently enough yet, let’s wait. I think it’s about much more about that than this year,” he added.

How the season plays out could determine whether McCarthy or Darnold will start for the Vikings by Week 14. 

Kirk Cousins vs. Brian Flores Defense

Kirk Cousins
Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores watches his team play against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Cousins going up against the Vikings’ Brian Flores-led defense will provide the most intrigue in Week 14 versus who starts at quarterback for Minnesota. A few of the Vikings defensive players went up against Cousins in practice for years, and Flores served as defensive coordinator during Cousins’ final season with the Vikings.

Cousins will likely get to throw passes against familiar safeties Harrison Smith and Camryn Bynum plus cornerback Akayleb Evans. Conversely, Cousins will see an almost all-new defensive front seven when he faces his old team.