This week, ProFootballNetwork.com featured Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins as the “emperor of garbage time” in an article that detailed which players thrive when a football game is essentially lost. The metric for garbage time was defined as a team trailing by 16+ points in the second half of a game. For instance, when Cousins and the Vikings marshalled a 20-point comeback versus the Denver Broncos in 2019 — that was borne of garbage time and nestles fittingly inside ProFootballNetwork’s metric. The same is retroactively true for the New England Patriots Super Bowl LI triumph over the Atlanta Falcons – a tale birthed from garbage time.
That’s the baseline for the metric – the second half, trailing by at least two scores, and the numbers compiled during performance under those pretenses.
The Vikings indeed trailed in the second half during several games in 2020. The team finished 7-9 and manufactured its worst season under head coach Mike Zimmer. So, when Cousins’ name arose as the culprit for garbage time in 2020 – the label of “Garbage Time Emperor” was slapped onto his resume.
The makeshift analysis makes absolutely no mention of his performance outside of its self-defined garbage-time parameters. And that is bizarre when assigning the emperor title. Objectivity be damned.
Most 2020 TDs in 2nd Half of Extremely Tight Games
While the Vikings endured their fair share of shellackings during the pandemic season, the organization also participated in some close games. In fact, Minnesota was the only NFL team to encounter more than two games that were determined by exactly one point.
How did Cousins perform in 2020 during tight games? Well, he only led the league in passing touchdowns.
Here’s the deal: one cannot be labeled as a garbage time anything when performance is at an optimum during non-garbage-time situations. There is a stark malfunction of brainpower if one cannot impartially recognize this.
Had Cousins collapsed in tight-game moments and registered a number like “1” or “2” touchdowns during the within-three-points metric – then garbage time would be a reasonable term to assign. But Cousins didn’t do that. He led the NFL in touchdowns passes in games within three points during the second half. His output in those circumstances was the antithesis of garbage time.
4th-Most TDs, Score Margin within 10 Points since 2018
A temptation percolates to surmise something like, “So what? He threw some tight-game touchdowns in a single season.” But Cousins’ production in non-garbage-time timeframes predates the 2020 season and even the three-point metric.
Cousins joined the Vikings in 2018. Since then, here are the leaders in another anti-garbage time metric:
Most Touchdown Passes in 2nd Half / Score Margin of Game within 10 Points / Since 2018:
Patrick Mahomes (36), Russell Wilson (36), Kirk Cousins (33), Deshaun Watson (30)
This is relatively decent company.
It proves that Cousins is among the NFL’s best when games are somewhat close in the second half of games. If one’s eye-test or narrative refuses to acknowledge it, bias is apparent. What generally happens for Cousins when a talking point is shattered? Naysayers pivot to others like “QB Record,” “Super Bowls,” “Monday Night record,” or “Dink and Dunking.”
It is the treatment that mystifyingly follows Cousins and has done so since around the time the Washington Football Team was deciding to franchise-tag the quarterback or extend him.
The Logic Disconnect
The only way that anti-Cousins venom adds up is if the person delivering it carries a preordained disdain for the player. Another spicy dialogue that surrounds Cousins titles him an “8-8 quarterback.” Interestingly, a team quarterbacked by Cousins has never finished 8-8. He has led teams in six full seasons and never missed a game to injury. Not to mention – the “8-8 quarterback” designation blatantly disregards the performance of the other 52 men on a football team.
Cousins cannot be labeled a garbage-time savant when he thrives in close-game situations. The two realities are incongruent. What’s more, what should a quarterback do when his team is trailing by “16+ points” in the second half? Sit out? Explain to his team that he will not be joining the group for the second half? Sabotage himself with interceptions as to avoid a garbage time label?
No. The only thing he can do – if this garbage-time stuff matters at all – is succeed when games are outside of garbage-time parameters. That is what Cousins does, and it is flushed out in the numbers.
To put it layman’s terms: Cousins is good in garbage-time situations, Cousins is good in close games, and he is good in the middle of those two boundaries.