The consensus on Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins can be described as a mixed review. Some champion his consistency as Cousins is the only player in the NFL to toss north of 25 touchdowns passes in every season since 2015. Six straight seasons – nobody else has done that. Not Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Drew Brees – not anybody.
Others sneer at his performance and contract, asserting that his overall resume is nowhere near the aforementioned Brady, Rodgers, Wilson, or Brees. In reality, Cousins is a formidable quarterback but is, indeed, in a tier below most of those men.
As a result of the disagreement on his general ability, many Vikings enthusiasts would rather move on from Cousins and draft a rookie quarterback or procure an unnamed solution. To them, 35 touchdowns passes in a season – as Cousins delivered in 2020 – is not enough. He evidently needs to surpass the 40-mark (or something).
Tangibly, however, Cousins was a clutch performer during the pandemic season. In stating otherwise, one tactically disregards reality, mathematics, and reason. To be clear, Cousins orchestrated some dreadful moments. For instance, he was terrible versus the Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons. Yet, the Cousins naysayers will finger-point to those outings and exalt them as an absolute, standalone indictment of his entire body of work. It’s strange. His successful moments are seemingly ignored or peppered with yeah-buts.
By the numbers, though, Cousins was clutch last season. There is simply no way around it.
4th Quarter TD Passes, Score Margin within 3 Points
The Vikings uncharacteristically nestled into oodles of close games in 2020. In the past with Mike Zimmer as head coach, Minnesota normally tops its opponent by 10 points or more – or loses by 10 points or more. This will echo in the brains of folks that actually watch the games. Under Zimmer, there is a certain “vibe” to games. It is either going to be a good Sunday or a not-so-good Sunday.
Cousins led the NFL in fourth-quarter touchdown passes when the score margin of the game was within three points.
And the author of the retweeted post, “kirby fuckett,” later deleted his tweet or blocked the tweeter. Welcome to Twitter.
But there it is. Cousins dimed five touchdowns in ultra-tight games, and the numbers are undeniable. These cannot be flagged as “garbage time” or derided as false. The statistics do not lie in this case.
Better in 2nd Half than First Half
When Cousins was “off his game” in 2020, it typically occurred in the first half – not the second half. Of course, it is not ideal that Cousins was a struggle-merchant in some first halves of games, but he often made amends later in the contest.
In this following example, the statistical criteria was been narrowed to a “score margin within 10 points” because most Cousins detractors maintain that the bulk of his prosperity transpires when the game is out of reach. This is false.
The second quarter was Cousins’ kryptonite. There is no good explanation for this. He merely underperformed in the second quarter of games. Perhaps the 32-year-old can add that to his improvement plan for 2021.
But in the third and fourth quarters, Cousins was borderline marvelous – as the ranking among all other NFL quarterbacks signifies.
Three of Cousins’ 2020 game-winning drives were nullified by trashy defense – vs. Tennessee Titans, at Seattle Seahawks, and vs. Dallas Cowboys. In all three of the contests, he drove the Vikings downfield in the fourth quarter for lead-changing touchdowns. Then, the defense subsequently collapsed – a hallmark theme for the 2020 Vikings.
Those defensive choke jobs notwithstanding, Cousins tallied three game-winning drives last year. These took place at Chicago, vs. Carolina, and vs. Jacksonville. The one against the Bears was particularly enlightening as Cousins finally won at Soldier Field and notched a win on Monday Night Football – a pervasive narrative that followed him for more than five years.
Cousins registered the same amount of 2020 game-winning drives as Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, and Josh Allen. And he was responsible for more than Aaron Rodgers, Lamar Jackson, and Deshaun Watson.
Therefore, the game-winning drive metric is either faulty and not a good parameter to evaluate quarterbacks. Or Cousins is just a clutch performer — like the rest of the quarterbacks that are habitually applauded for game-winning drives.