Vikings

Should Kirk Cousins Be In the MVP Conversation?

Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn (USA TODAY Sports)

The NFL’s Most Valuable Player award has changed over the last few years.

By definition, the NFL MVP should be given to the most valuable player in the league for that particular season. As NFL football has rapidly progressed into a pass-oriented game, the award has become focused on the quarterback position. The last eight NFL MVP awards have been given to quarterbacks. Adrian Peterson was the last non-QB to win the award, way back in 2012.

It is essentially given to the quarterback who possesses the best combination of statistics, wins, and popularity. Over the past eight seasons, the MVP has led the NFL in at least one of these categories, and in many cases more than one.

Last season, Aaron Rodgers comfortably led the league with 48 passing touchdowns, eight more than anyone else, while carrying the Green Bay Packers to a second consecutive NFC Championship game. In 2019, Lamar Jackson led the NFL in passing touchdowns and the Baltimore Ravens finished the season with a league-leading 14 wins. Patrick Mahomes took the NFL by storm in 2018, tossing 50 touchdown passes to lead the NFL and help the Kansas City Chiefs host an AFC Championship game.

Additionally, the popularity of each of these players speaks for itself. Watch football for an hour on Sunday and you’ll see these guys during at least one commercial break.

This year, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is off to a tremendous start. He’s thrown for 1,769 yards and 13 touchdowns with only two interceptions. He has been especially effective in crunch-time scenarios, lifting the Vikings to narrow victories in back-to-back weeks against the Detroit Lions and the Carolina Panthers.

His hot start is overshadowed by two narrow losses to open the season in which he engineered game-winning drives that were ruined by a Dalvin Cook fumble and a missed 37-yard field goal, respectively. Cousins has been superb overall, and this start is arguably the best of his career.

The hot start has prompted a small corner of the Vikings’ fanbase to opine that Cousins has vaulted himself into the MVP conversation. Cousins has hardly sniffed the award in his career. Could this be the career year he needs to finally claim the NFL’s most prestigious individual award?

As noted previously, the MVP award is almost surely going to be given to a quarterback every year for the rest of time. At a minimum, Cousins has that going for him. But how does he stack up through six weeks in statistics, wins, and popularity?

Cousins is currently seventh in the NFL in passing yards and ninth in passing touchdowns. Six quarterbacks (Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Matthew Stafford, Dak Prescott, and Justin Herbert) all are ranked higher than Cousins in both categories. Another four quarterbacks (Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow, and Derek Carr) rank ahead of Cousins in one of the statistics.

Meanwhile, Cousins’ 3-3 record doesn’t stack up well with the aforementioned quarterbacks. Everyone listed above, except Mahomes, plays on a team with a better record than the Vikings.

In terms of popularity, well, Cousins is trailing quite a bit. According to NFLShop.com, Brady was the top jersey seller in September. Others like Allen, Mahomes, Prescott, and Herbert were in the top-10 NFLShop jersey sales.

In short, Cousins has a long way to go in order to truly find himself in the MVP conversation. There are several names that have built a much stronger case through the first six weeks.

Sure, in context, Cousins may have a stronger case for truly being the more valuable player than many of these quarterbacks given his recent late-game heroics. But the NFL MVP award is rarely given to contextually the most valuable quarterback. It’s given to, for a lack of a better term, the biggest quarterback name of that season.

With that said, Cousins has the opportunity to vault himself into the discussion. Minnesota will go head-to-head against four MVP candidates in a row, starting with a primetime matchup against Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys on Halloween night. It’s a tough four-week stretch for the Vikings, who will likely be underdogs in each matchup. But if Cousins can step up and lead the Vikings to victory while filling up the stat sheet, more eyes will tune in to the Vikings and his impressive 2021 season.

In the meantime, it’s best to temper expectations for Cousins’ MVP candidacy until he starts climbing toward the top of the statistical categories and Minnesota’s record improves.

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