The entire NFL landscape awoke about seven hours early on Draft Day 2021 thanks to some groundbreaking news that shook the league to its core. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the reigning league MVP and former Super Bowl champion, reportedly wants out and has told some people within the organization that he does not want to return to the team in 2021.
As more reports have surfaced throughout Thursday afternoon, it seems clear that Rodgers is set in his ways. He has played his last down as a Green Bay Packer.
With that said, the Minnesota Vikings haven’t made a pick yet, and this NFL Draft weekend is already surpassing expectations. In all likelihood, the Vikings will no longer have to face Rodgers twice a season. And suddenly, without Rodgers leading the Packers’ offense, the Vikings may just be the new favorites to win the NFC North.
As the Packers attempt to control the damage and identify their new plan moving forward, the Vikings must also react accordingly and adjust to this news. Rodgers has been the most important player in the division for over a decade, and when healthy, the NFC North has run through Lambeau Field because of him. Now the division is suddenly wide open.
This creates a curious scenario for the Vikings. By acquiring Kirk Cousins and extending his lucrative contract, Minnesota’s ownership and front office has indicated that they have faith in Cousins and believe in his track record. Needless to say, his history isn’t super inspiring when it comes to the win column. His record as a starter has hovered around .500 his entire career, and he has one playoff win on his resume in nine years as a pro.
However, what Cousins does is keep his team relevant. Before joining the Vikings, Cousins always had Washington in the playoff mix for most of the season. And over the last three years that Cousins has been Minnesota’s starting quarterback, the Vikings have only played one game that did not have playoff implications. Minnesota has been roughly a .500 team during Cousins’ tenure and has earned a playoff berth in one of three seasons.
It appears as if the last thing the Vikings want to do is go through a rebuild, however badly it may be needed, to become competitive. Hence the reason Cousins received an extension.
Of course, the success of a football team is not decided solely by the quarterback. But the team’s success, or lack thereof, can often decide a quarterback’s job status. Minnesota’s outlook in the NFC North has improved dramatically, with Rodgers presumably out of the division. Let’s face it: Part of why the Packers have dominated the NFC North is poor competition. The Detroit Lions are still the Lions and have never sniffed the division in the 2000s. The Chicago Bears have been searching for a quarterback ever since Jay Cutler left town. And the Vikings tend to hover around .500 and never really threaten Green Bay.
With Rodgers on the way out, the NFC North has perhaps never been weaker, presenting a perfect opportunity for Cousins and the Vikings to vault to the top of the division. Cousins can then be awarded another extension for winning a subpar division.
Overall this news is great for the Vikings and their fans, of course. Rodgers will no longer torment this franchise twice a year with back-shoulder throws and infuriating smirks. But the news does provide Cousins a bit more job security now that he is the clear-cut best quarterback in the NFC North. As long as the Vikings can top the likes of Jordan Love, Jared Goff and Andy Dalton, Cousins’ job as the franchise quarterback in Minnesota is secure.