I hate to be the bearer of bad news, my beloved Skoldiers. But we’ve been duped, hoodwinked, and bamboozled by Kirk Cousins.
Following a storybook 2017 with the Vikings just a game away from hosting Super Bowl LII inside the freshly christened US Bank Stadium, the Vikings let their quarterback triplets that went a collective 13-3 — Sam Bradford, Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater — walk.
Instead of running it back with at least one of those cost-effective signal callers, Minnesota backed up the Brinks truck for a quarterback who had never won a playoff game, nor won 10 games in a single season, all while accumulating a record of 26-30-1 as a starter.
As we all know, the Vikings signed Cousins – the quarterback version of Jeff Fisher – to a 3-year/$84 million fully guaranteed contract in March of 2018. With Cousins using his garbage time success to pad empty stats (we saw plenty of this during Week 1’s blowout against Green Bay) throughout his career in Washington in order to take full advantage of the quarterback marketplace throughout the NFL, the Vikings appear to have fallen victim, once again, to yet another quarterback blunder.
With Cousins entering the final season of his 3-year deal, Minnesota handed Cousins a 2-year extension through the 2022 season, fully guaranteeing an additional $66 million for the below average quarterback in order to create cap space this season.
Must I remind you of the disaster that was Cousins’ first season as the Vikings quarterback back in 2018? Again, after going 13-3 with an offense that was built around sustaining drives through running the football effectively, the Vikings were league leaders in rush attempts, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns in 2017.
Now, fast forward to 2018 and you’ll notice the drastic philosophical shift in the Vikings offense, and the pitfalls that resulted. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur took the New York Giants head coaching job that year, and Minnesota replaced him with John DeFilippo — the former Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach.
With the franchise looking to show off their new toy, the Vikings decided to do a complete 180 on their offensive scheme. Instead of adhering to the age old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the Vikings self-sabotaged their franchise by having the offense go through Cousins. Instead of leaning on their run game, Minnesota quickly became a pass happy offense, ranking sixth in the NFL in pass attempts.
It’s important to note that Mike Zimmer held up his end of the bargain with his defense, ranking in the top-10 in points allowed and in the top-5 in yards allowed. And with Zimmer irate over the mediocre offensive output that resulted in a .500 season, DeFilippo was fired following Week 14’s 21-7 loss at Seattle.
Make no mistake about it: Coming off a 13-3 season where the league wide narrative was built around this franchise being “a quarterback away,” Year 1 of the Cousins experiment was a colossal failure.
After falling flat on their face in 2018, the Vikings were forced to go back to the drawing board in 2019. Minnesota brought in longtime inside/outside zone run game specialist, Gary Kubiak, to serve as the assistant head coach and mastermind the offense.
By spending a third-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft on RB2 Alexander Mattison, the writing was on the wall for yet another drastic schematic shift in the Vikings offense. With Stefanski calling Kubiak’s offense, the Vikings pulled another 180 and reverted to a run-dominant scheme, ranking 30th in the NFL in pass attempts, despite having one of the best wide receiver combos (Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen) in the league. It was obvious that with just one season under their belts, the Vikings no longer trusted their $84-million-man to be the focal point of the offense. In order for the team to be successful, Kubiak and Stefanski’s offense had to take the ball out of Kirk’s hands and commit to the running game.
Now that we’ve got the history lesson out of the way, let’s shift our focus to Cousins’ abysmal play here in the 2020 season. It’s appears that the Vikings envision Cousins as the quintessential “Game Manager Quarterback.” They want to limit his exposure to mistakes, whether that’s by limiting unnecessary sacks and/or turning the ball over. By no means has this gone according to plan, as it’s been much of the same for Cousins and the Vikings through the first two games.
In both games against the Packers and Colts, the Vikings were backed up near their own end zone in the second quarter of each game. And in both games, Cousins was sacked in the end zone, resulting in safeties for the Vikings offense. These are mistakes that simply can not happen from a “Game-Managing Quarterback” whose sole job is to not be the reason why the Vikings lose a football game.
I’m assuming that most of you are familiar with the phrase “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” correct?
Not to beat a dead horse here, but if you’re going to be a game-managing quarterback, you simply can not turn the ball over in the midst of a two-minute drill when the opposing defense smells blood in the water.
I get it, the Vikings went into New Orleans and won a playoff game last year with Cousins leading the way. But as we saw the following week against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Divisional round, Kirk Fisher — excuse me, Kirk Cousins — reared his ugly head.
It’s up to the individual to determine if the 2019 season was a successful one for the Vikings, being that they went on the road and won a Wild Card Playoff game against the Saints. But if you were to tell the typical Vikings fan in March of 2018 immediately following the Cousins signing that Minnesota would not win a division title in his first two years, miss the playoffs entirely in his first year, and squeak out a Wild Card overtime victory before getting blown out in the Divisional round, would that qualify as success for the Kirk Cousins Era?
I think not.
As a Vikings fan, are you thrilled at the idea of Cousins being your starting quarterback until the 2023 season?
In order to perfectly illustrate just how Cousins landed a 5-year/$150 million fully guaranteed contract, take a look at Cousins’ 2020 splits below. Now, pretend that you didn’t watch a single second of the Vikings first two games and you can only go off the numbers that you see below.
Unfortunately, it’s time to call it like it is: Cousins is a game-managing quarterback who has a propensity for filling up empty box scores.
And he’s signed through 2022.