This title: For Cousins, the Highs are High and Lows are Low was written before Sunday’s action, which if anything, supports the below.
The Vikings were toppled by the Indianapolis Colts in Week 2 at the behest of several faulty aspects of the roster and coaching staff. The run defense was exploited by a robust Colts offensive line and rookie tailback, Jonathan Taylor. This allowed Indianapolis a “run to set up the pass” gameplan that the Vikings themselves typically execute on offense. The first offensive drive for the Vikings was promising, but ease in moving the ball downfield was squashed soon after the first possession. What’s more, Dalvin Cook became an afterthought with Minnesota’s playcalling as soon as the team lost the lead.
In games such as these – where nothing is going swimmingly – a quarterback is called upon to rescue the festivities. Kirk Cousins emphatically did not do that versus the Colts. Instead, he statistically suffered the worst game of his career, one that began in 2012.
Comprehensively, Cousins is a very good quarterback. His reputation is often linked to the Washington Football Team, and from that relationship, he is sometimes coined a “.500 quarterback.” Individually, though, Cousins owns the NFL’s seventh-best passer rating (98.9) in the business since he was anointed as a full-time starter in 2015.
The 32-year-old is a lightning rod for criticism, mainly because of the sizable contract attached to his affiliation with Minnesota Vikings. His stats prove he’s an apt signal-caller. His deeds down in New Orleans last January are worthy of big-time money. And, he’s the hallmark of durability – the man has never missed a professional football game due to injury.
A slight and illuminating knock on Cousins can be described this way: He furnishes a large number of terrific games and also provides some noteworthy stinkers.
First, the Marvelous Games
To achieve the league’s seventh-best passer rating in a five-year span, something very outward must occur. That is, Kirk Cousins is the beholder of plenteous magnificent performances. One cannot accrue a 98.9 passer rating in 80+ games on accident.
Here it is: Since 2015, Cousins has notched 39 separate games with a passer rating north of 100.0. This is the fourth-most in the NFL in the timeframe. Only Drew Brees (46 games), Russell Wilson (43 games), and Matt Ryan (40 games) have more. For perspective, in 48 percent of games played since 2015, Cousins has boasted a passer rating over 100.0.
This is a beacon of efficiency and vivifies a consistency of upper-echelon quarterback play. A player like Ryan Tannehill, sometimes referred to as a Spider-man meme of Cousins, has passed his way to a 100+ passer rating in 38 percent of games during the last five years. The temptation here is to surmise, “That’s only a 10 percent difference.” While that’s mathematically true, the ten-percent variance is striking when you consider the number of games it affects. It would indicate than Tannehill reaches the 100-mark for passer rating about eight fewer times in a five-year period than Cousins. That’s a lot when you take into account the emphasis on winning in professional sports.
So, Cousins has a lavish number of ultra-efficient games. What about the bad ones?
The Lows are…quite low
A disclaimer: Nearly every quarterback in the NFL not named Patrick Mahomes has poor games. This is a team-sport trait and can even be compared to life, in general, if you want to go super-global with the assertion.
A passer rating below 70.0 can almost universally be described as poor. A quarterback that hovers around this mark would not last in the NFL longer than a handful of games unless that man is a rookie who is allotted a generous leash. Since 2015, Cousins has finished 10 games with a passer rating below 70.0. That certainly is not a dastardly amount. A signal-caller like JameisWinston has 20 such games to his name in the last five years. Cam Newton is one behind Winston with 19 games denoting a passer rating below 70.0.
Yet, for Cousins, 10 bad games can be construed as too many. If he’s pumping out stellar games that emulate a production on the same scale of an elite quarterback, his naughty performances should be minimal. This is what separates Cousins from the upper strata of quarterback rankings.
In the same five-year period, Drew Brees has only five games below 70.0. Russell Wilson has seven. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady have eight apiece.
In application to Cousins’ time with the Vikings, he has scripted three such games. Two of them have occurred versus the Green Bay Packers – that’s a problem. The other one took place last week in Indianapolis – a moment when Minnesota desperately needed Cousins to rise above the fray.
What does this mean?
The only facet of his game segregating Cousins from unabashed stardom is the quasi-disappearing act he conducts in certain meaningful games. Maybe you’ve heard about his Monday Night Football record. Perhaps you’ve been frustrated with his play versus the Bears and Packers. These are all big spots where Cousins has come up short.
Now, he does have magnum-opus showings under his belt. The 2019 postseason game versus the Saints is his crowning jewel for now. The comeback versus the Broncos in the same season displayed grit and heroism. The Sunday Night Football game in Dallas last year was commendable. In Washington, he dropped the “You Like That” moment on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He has it in him. For his sake and the sanity of Vikings loyalists, the substandard performances in high-tension games must be lessened.