Why do so many Vikings fans bend over backward to bash Kirk Cousins? [A retrospective/investigation]
I HAVE to figure out why, exactly, the Vikings fanbase loathes Cousins despite him doing things we prayed to Odin for our entire lives
I know, what’s my secret?
My first memories of the Minnesota Vikings were watching games with my dad in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s, and feigning the passion I’d be cursed with later, simply because if the Vikings ended up losing my dad would take an anger nap as opposed to… I don’t even know? It’s not like we played catch?
But I vividly remember Warren Moon coming to Minnesota and then Brad Johnson coming to Minny. Then ‘98 hit during my freshman year of high school at Minneapolis South, and I was HOOKED. I was more of a fan by then, or so ai thought, but after seeing Moss elevate the Vikings to a 4-0 pre-season record?
I remember getting caught trying to sneak into a dance at a school I wasn’t enrolled in, and while we were waiting for our parents to come get us all we could talk about was Randy Moss and the Super Bowl.
We were young.
If you’re a big enough fan to be reading this you know the story of ‘98 and Randall Cunningham, then Jeff George, and subsequently the closest thing this team has had to a draft and develop QB in my lifetime, Daunte Culpepper.
But I’ve always been in the camp that while his devastating knee injury really hurt his game, he was more of a product of throwing the ball to Randy Moss than some sort of top-tier quarterback. When he said at the Pro Bowl after the 2004 season, where he had 39 touchdowns, that essentially if Moss gets traded he gets traded and the team will move on.
Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
After Culpepper we were stuck with a team that people thought was a quarterback away from a Super Bowl shot. That was the T-Jack era, which was just awful. I remember specifically a game against the Colts in which my best friend and I had some amazing seats (which he always gets, which is the main reason I’m his friend) but decided to scalp the tickets and use the money on a disgusting amount of food.
I lived downtown near the Metrodome at the time, so, we thought it’d be less emotionally taxing to walk over to the stadium and watch the Vikings lose to Peyton Manning and the Colts.
However, for the first three quarters of that game the Vikings defense played like a unit possessed. The Colts were scoreless through four quarters as the Vikings dominated the time of possession. However, because T-Jack, the offense could only muster five field goals.
You already know where this is going.
That lead to the greatest Vikings moment ever in which Brett Favre decided that he didn’t care about that sweeeeet Brett Favre Steakhouse money anymore by turning his back/the flattest ass in NFL history on the entire state of Wisconsin.
Because lightening never strikes twice for the Vikings the magic that was the 2009 season was mostly gone during the 2010 season. After the saddest revolving door of has beens and what are they doings in terms of guys like Donovn McNabb and Josh Freeman, the team landed Matt Cassel.
Because of that it isn’t hard see why fans rallied around Teddy Bridgewater who, before his pro day, was considered the consensus best QB in the country. Because of his atrocious Pro Day Teddy fell to the Vikings, who apparently attempted to trade up for Johnny Manziel.
That would’ve been the most Vikings thing since Demetrius Underwood.
Now, I was never as sold on Teddy as other people clearly were or are, but I did recognize that he had potential. His best trait was that he did seem to have ice in his veins during two-minute drills, but even that was something that reflected his mediocrity outside of those moments, as Zimmer said repeatedly that the team was trying to get Teddy to play the first 58-minutes the way he played the final two.
Because of that potential, and especially how and when Teddy was injured, as he seemed to finally be correcting his throwing motion which appeared that he was finally adding a deep ball to his repertoire.
We had Tommy Kramer on our podcast a couple times but it was during his first appearance in 2016 that he essentially explained that Teddy had a slight side-arm throwing motion which limited the air he could out under the ball.
That lead to him overthrowing nearly everyone, just ask Mike Wallace, who on around ten separate occasions was open by five or more yards down field but was overthrown every time. That lead to him leaving for a “real quarterback” (his words) in Baltimore.
In Teddy’s first season he had < 3,000 yards and 14 touchdowns to 12 picks. His second season was a slight improvement despite having vintage Adrian Peterson (who had over 1,400 yards) as well as a rookie Stefon Diggs and an emerging Adam Thielen as well as Kyle Rudolph, all facets of the Air Coryellian system that Norv Turner wanted to run.
He had 14 touchdowns again, three less picks (9), and around 3,200 yards and an 88.7 passer rating vs. his rookie rating of 85.2.
He also made it to the playoffs, facing the Seattle Seahawks in one of the coldest games in NFL history. In that game, that the Vikings should’ve won, Teddy and company mustered THREE field goals. Imagine if Cousins and company lost the same way to the Saints last season?
People wouldn’t focus on the missed 27-yarder but rather the fact that they needed to rely on it in the first place.
After Teddy’s injury the team moved quickly to find a replacement by trading a first-rounder for Sam Bradford who also struggled to stay healthy. It was around this time that you’d hear similar things to what we heard during the T-Jack era. We just need a QB who can throw for 4,000 yards and 25 TDs!
After Case Keenum came in and the Vikings had that magical run, it was clear that the Vikings weren’t happy with the limited game-plans they ran with him under center. It was widely reported at the time that the team essentially gave Keenum two options each play (one short and one mid-ranged).
Keenum typically took the under, which worked for that iteration of the Vikings (who had a historically good third down defense). But like Mike Wallace before him/them, there were countless plays in which either Adam Thielen or Stefon Diggs were wide open down field when Keenum was focused on a five-yard gain to a full back.
Enter Kirk Cousins who, yes, changed how NFL contracts work. Cousins was a unicorn, a free agent franchise QB who just turned 30?
People were still caught up in the magic from 2017 while also proving what my dad always has said about Minnesotans. That we were the state that sold the most Oldsmobiles because “Buicks are too flashy”.
Despite the fact that Keenum’s post-Vikings career proved that 2017 was another lightening in a bottle moment, people were aghast by the contract Cousins received and thought that it’d lead to the team losing at least Stefon Diggs, Danielle Hunter, Anthony Barr or Eric Kendricks.
That didn’t happen, though, as the team still had enough cap space to sign free agent stud defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. Sure, the Vikings cap situation is still tenuous, but Cousins is making $21 mil against the cap this year which shows that this cap situation would’ve happened regardless of who was under center.
Cousins came out of the gate firing in 2018, breaking or tying records with Adam Thielen (in terms of the most 100-yard games in a row from the start of a season). He delivered over 100 balls to Stefon Diggs, finally getting him over the 1,000 yard mark. He also was a couple of missed field goals in Green Bay away from bringing the Vikings to the playoffs despite the defense being a shell of it’s 2017 self and Dalvin Cook being sidelined for the second half of the season.
Oh, and the Vikings arguably had the worst guard play in history of the NFL in coverted right tackle Mike Remmers and Tom “Straight Outta” Compton. 2019’s line wasn’t much better, with a final season ranking as the 27th-“best” pass blocking unit.
Things got so bad during 2019 that we literally were crucifying then offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski for not essentially getting Cousins out of the pocket on EVERY pass play. From Week 5 onward, you’ll clearly have forgotten, Cousins had a statistical run we hadn’t seen since… Well Cousins in 2018 (the first 4k yards, 30 TD, and 10 or under INT season in team history), but beyond that Favre in 2009 and Culpepper in 2004.
That is back-to-back statistical seasons, with zero pocket to pass from, that we had only seen TWICE since 2004. But somehow people bemoan Cousins as someone who needs everything around him to be perfect for him to be effective?
When has anything on this team been perfect? I’d actually argue that Cousins performs his best when his back is against the wall.
He had a bad start to his 2019 campaign despite carrying the team during the opening stretch of the 2018 campaign (something people forget). After the Week 4 Bears debacle? He had stats that mirrored Patrick Mahomes’ 2018 MVP salvo.
I’m tired of linking the stories and Tweets from national sites/NFL Insiders, so before you comment that I’m crazy for comparing the two? Google it.
It appears that the same thing is happening in 2020. While I’d argue that now four of his 11 picks weren’t on him, he still has had a rough start to his 2020.
That is until the Seahawks game which, outside of a pick directly after half-time, was a masterful performance by Cousins. The Vikings offense kept then MVP front-runner Russell Wilson on the sideline for most the game by orchestrating FIVE drives of 10 plays or more.
But because Zimmer and company decided to go for it on fourth-and-short instead of kicking a chip shot field goal, no one talked about that. While that didn’t carry over to the following game, it appears that Cousins is yet again doing everything this team is asking of him.
He already has deaded every negative narrative people who never wanted him here in the first place have used to discredit him (if you want a full breakdown of that…
… most recently by beating a team with a > .500 record, during Monday Night Football, without Dalvin lighting the field afire.
I posted the above article earlier today and decided to write this follow-up based on the responses it received on social media. People who clearly didn’t actually read beyond the headline saying things like “Respect is earned” (so tell me what Teddy did that Cousins hasn’t to earn it?), or that (and I kid you not) there are TWELVE quarterbacks that make LESS than Cousins that this reader would rather have than Cousins.
Keep in mind that Cousins is making $21 million this season, so, let’s hear it for at least five practice squad QBs!
I really, REALLY want to get to the bottom of why each time Cousins does something people say he can’t, week after week, while doing things we used to PRAY for, people bend over backward to bemoan his very existence and label him as mediocre.
You can say a lot about Cousins but mediocre is the last thing I’d call him. He has been masterful or, in shorter stretches, not great. He hasn’t been middle of the road, period. It was Cousins who elevated Diggs to the level of receiving a first-round pick (and more) as trade compensation.
It was Cousins who helped Justin Jefferson emerge as the best rookie wide receiver, and as one of the best receivers in the NFL. Could Teddy or Case make any of the throws Cousins made to Jefferson last night? How about that TD to Thielen?
Cousins is the second-most accurate passer in NFL history by nearly a full percentage point over the third entry on that list. He also has the seventh best QB-rating in NFL history.
I’m sure people will say “thems all garbage time stats!”, because Cousins doesn’t throw at all until garbage time, then he’s perfect! That’s a sarcastic way of saying that that’s not how completion percentages / percentages in general work.
I think I know why people are still hard on Cousins, but I hope I’m wrong. To me, it seems like there’s a large contingent of fans who never wanted Cousins here in the first place and who balked at his contract while ignoring all the subsequent contracts that made his deal much more palatable.
Those people jumped on the Vikings’ atrocious start to the 2020 season by retconning the past two seasons and basically somehow blaming everything on Cousins, which lead me to write this diatribe:
That contingent refuses to give Cousins any credit, in my estimation, because they’d have to go back to the summer of 2018 and delete their Facebook comments about Cousins being awful.
It’s a mixture of pride and outdated information. Which, is something I really hope I’m wrong about, but the only through line I see is talk about his contract and him not being “Super Bowl Caliber”, which is the last narrative they have left after Cousins has, again, deaded the rest.
But if the standard is that every QB that doesn’t win a Super Bowl is therefore trash? Yeah, then I guess Fran Tarkenton sucks now.
If you’re not a Cousins supporter I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! Comment below or via our social media!
I promise this is my last Pro-Cousins article for… well at least until I see the response to this one.