Kirk Cousins’ pre-game speech at Lincoln Financial Field a week ago went viral. His message to the team in an empassioned huddle before kickoff: Finish the game. And they did just that en route to a 23-21 win.
So why mess with a good result?
Pre-game speech organizer Linval Joseph looked at Cousins during last week’s plane ride home and gave him a simple instruction: “You got it next week.”
When Joseph pointed to Cousins before Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, the pulpit was his. Cameras captured the quarterback giving some encouragement to the defense, telling them to “suffocate” rookie quarterback Josh Rosen. “Make him miserable!” Cousins told the boisterous group.
Rosen was. The Vikings sacked him four times and held the top-10 pick without a touchdown pass.
The obvious question: Will Cousins get a third straight assignment to deliver the hype next Sunday in New York?
“It’s [Linval’s] show,” said Cousins. “I just do what he tells me. Try to keep him happy.”
Now over seven months into his Vikings tenure, Cousins has transitioned to a new level of leadership. The $84 million quarterback was given a huge amount of responsibility through his groundbreaking contract, and with it, a voice that teammates will listen to.
“I think we’re past tiptoeing in,” Cousins said. “I think April, May you kind of feel your way through things. Maybe a little bit in July. But once the season gets going, it is full steam ahead, and I have to be me and lead anyway I can and be assertive.”
It’s been a while since the Vikings had a quarterback with enough stake in the team to take full ownership. Teddy Bridgewater was a soft-spoken player who was just finding his voice when a knee injury cost him his job. Sam Bradford came to Minnesota via trade, and his run as starter only lasted 16 games. Case Keenum was a journeyman who found himself thrown into a unexpected championship push as we was routinely second guessed.
The fact that Cousins came to Minnesota by choice as an established veteran starter filled a need the Vikings had lacking.
“There was a while I thought Teddy was going to be my guy for the rest of my coaching career, and he would still be here and I’d be fired,” said Zimmer. “Then I thought Sam was going to be the guy. Then I thought Case was going to be the guy.
“I knew Kirk from playing against him. The thing
that I love about this guy is his passion for the game, his intensity that he has.”
Cousins professes to not loving the spotlight, but like it or not, he might be tasked with the so-called pre-game preach until he either loses a game — or his voice.
“My temperament is one that usually is not being very self-promotional and just do my part,” he said. “At times, if I feel my need to speak up or share my opinion, I will certainly do that. I am more of a reluctant leader. When given the opportunity or asked to, then yes, I will step up.”