If a Member of the Vikings Won the 2021 MVP, Who Might That Be?

Aug 24, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) hands the ball off to running back Dalvin Cook (33) during the first quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Three Minnesota Vikings players have earned MVP honors in the team’s 60-season history.

Most recently, it was Adrian Peterson, who disemboweled defenses for 2,097 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012. To date, he is the last non-quarterback to win the MVP award. All recipients since were quarterbacks. In 1975, Fran Tarkenton won the honor, accruing Pro Bowl and All-Pro recognition along the way. The first Vikings player to win an MVP was Alan Page, who was the league’s best player in 1971. Like Peterson’s uniqueness, Page is the only defensive lineman to win an NFL MVP

Could a Vikings player take home the trophy in 2021? Perhaps — it’s a longshot, per Vegas odds anyway.

These are the Vikings that could reasonably win the award.

Dalvin Cook

Dec 20, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) runs the ball in the fourth quarter against Chicago Bears defensive back Kyle Fuller (23) at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Peterson won it nine years ago — why not another Vikings running back in 2021? Stranger things have happened.

Cook was magnificent in 2020, a season clouded by a Minnesota defense that ranked 29th in the NFL for points allowed. On the other hand, the offense cooked with the Florida State alumnus leading the way. He dropped 1,918 yards from scrimmage, accompanied by 17 touchdowns. Both marks were second in the NFL behind Derrick Henry.

Two items stand in the way of a Cook MVP quest. First, health always looms for the tailback. He’s never played more than 14 games in a single season. During the last two years, 2019 and 2020, Cook participated in 14 games per season, a welcome sight for Vikings fans as he missed 17 games combined in 2017 and 2018 before that.

Therefore, Cook would necessitate a 15 or 16-game season to gain the trust of MVP voters. Then, the modern history of the award is a challenge. Somehow — the MVP trophy morphed into a quarterback-only award. The last eight hoisters of the hardware are quarterbacks.

Cook needs 2,000+ yards from scrimmage and 15-20 touchdowns for realistic consideration.

Kirk Cousins

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

While Cousins had “success” in garbage-time situations against the Atlanta Falcons, for example, his performance when games are out of reach does not define him. Cousins is effective in close games, medium-margin games, and garbage time.

So, if he can execute his best year to date — one that manufactures 40+ touchdowns with 10 or fewer interceptions — this just might be the year he garners MVP attention. In 2020, he scripted 35 touchdowns to 13 picks. That isn’t terribly far off the pace of an MVP-caliber season. The Vikings just have to win about five or six extra games to be taken seriously.

Cousins has all the weapons — the aforementioned Cook, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and Irv Smith Jr. The offensive line in front of him during the Minnesota era is unfortunate, but the franchise finally owns a youth-infused plan with Christian Darrisaw, Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, Wyatt Davis, and Brian O’Neill to change the dialogue.

MVP or no MVP, 2021 is Cousins’ defining moment in Minnesota.

The Goofy Stuff

Alexander Mattison

Jan 3, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (25) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, you’re smirking. But it’s not impossible. Taking into account Cook’s injury resume, Mattison is the next man up for a reason. The Vikings spent a 3rd-Round pick on the halfback in 2019, creating an insurance policy for Cook’s then-instability. Head coach Mike Zimmer absolutely insists on running the football. Ergo, if Cook was hampered for all of 2021 (for whatever reason), Mattison could assume the gig of RB1. Indeed, Mattison as MVP is a far-fetched pipe dream, but it is not inconceivable. Wide receivers winning the award is inconceivable — no pass-catcher has ever won an MVP.

Kellen Mond

May 26, 2021; Eagan, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kellen Mond (11) hands the ball off to running back Alexander Mattison (25) in drills at OTA at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

This is an even longer shot than Mattison. Let’s hypothesize that Cousins is finally beset by injury — he’s never missed a single game because of it in his career — it would be Mond time. The rookie signal-caller would be thrust into action, ushering in an early glimpse at the Vikings future.

In terms of theorized accolades, it would be easier for Mond to win an Offensive Rookie of the Year award. But, hey, the storybook scenario could entail a Mond rookie season for the ages.

And for posterity, Danielle Hunter probably won’t get any MVP attention. If Aaron Donald can’t do it, it is improbable that any Vikings defenders will break the mold.

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