I have no idea what it’s like, while stuck in a failing marriage, to attend a high school reunion and come face-to-face with your “what could’ve been” ex-girlfriend. I assume it has the potential for about three hours of regretful misery. Well this Sunday, Vikings fans might be in for the NFL version of that exact situation.
You would be hard-pressed to find a more divisive athlete in Minnesota sports history than Kirk Cousins.
Maybe it’s the gigantic guaranteed contract and subsequent extension. Maybe it’s that he arrived in Minnesota, fresh off the Vikings NFC Championship loss, and was seen as the final piece to a Super Bowl puzzle. Maybe it’s in his seemingly below average play in endless important moments. Maybe it’s that he has the personality of someone that even accountants would think is a nerd. Whatever the reason, Cousins is an absolute magnet for the haters. Every single opportunity to take a shot at the quarterback is lined up and taken.
From a likability standpoint, Teddy Bridgewater is the anti-Kirk. A fun, charismatic quarterback that even fans who weren’t a big believer in his talent will rarely spill a bad word about. This was the case even before his traumatic leg injury.
Truthfully, Bridgewater doesn’t possess the arm strength or natural quarterbacking abilities that Cousins does and although he’s had far less opportunity to this point, his statistical accomplishments don’t come close to Kirk’s. He possesses a mobility and pocket awareness that Vikings fans long for but beyond that, it would be hard to argue that he’s a superior quarterback from a pure talent standpoint. Yet his cool leadership ability and pension for coming through in the clutch are the exact things many Vikings fans are currently longing for.
While the well paid Cousins is asked, week in and week out, to be barely more than a game manager that helps Dalvin win, the lesser paid Teddy easily possesses the necessary skills for the same task. But when a game is on the line, Carolina fans can approach the situation with cautious optimism while Vikings fans bear down and get their best curse words ready.
Sunday afternoon, the Ghost of Vikings Quarterback Past will come face-to-face in US Bank Stadium with its present. The man the Vikings have, or are stuck with based on your viewpoint, will see the man that many would rather have under center.
In an incredibly tumultuous season where a lot of early struggles could be pinned on the quarterback’s mistakes, this is a moment where Kirk needs to come through. Even if only for his own sake.
Delivering a turd on Sunday would not only essentially eliminate Minnesota’s already slim playoff hopes but would ratchet up a fan base that is already geared and ready to shout about the QB and the GM who gave him his contracts.
There is little room for error here.
If Kirk plays poorly and Teddy plays well, the haters will get louder. If Kirk and Teddy both play game manager but the Panthers win, the haters will get louder. And heaven forbid, if Kirk fails to play well in an endgame situation and Teddy comes through in the clutch, you might as well avoid Vikings related conversations for a couple months. Cousins NEEDS to play very well this weekend or an organization and its fan base might find themselves standing by the punchbowl in the gymnasium trying to plot a way out of the horrible situation they’ve found themselves in.