Rick Spielman started his offseason press conference earlier this week by putting a stop to any questions marks regarding who the signal-caller would be for the Vikings next season.
“Kirk Cousins is our quarterback,” said Spielman. “[We] look forward to him having another year in this system. Excited for him and what he’s going to bring to our team next year.”
What stuck out to me was Spielman’s reference to “another year in the system.” You can pick apart the numbers all you want, but the current system hasn’t been working lately.
Analysts put a lot of blame on the defense, but the other side of the ball is culpable too. Sure, the offense put points on the board last season, but how many times did you ever see them go on a 10-play, eight-minute drive during crunch time?
The answer is zero, and the reason is straightforward: The Vikings haven’t fully bought into their franchise guy.
This may seem asinine considering the amount of money they’ve invested in Cousins, but that doesn’t tell the story. When a franchise finds its quarterback, they do everything in their power to construct the entire roster around him.
Think about what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did once they signed Tom Brady prior to last season. Instead of rolling with the set of weapons they had, which included two top wideouts, they went and got him his best buddy at tight end, a former All-Pro wideout, and a stud left tackle in the draft.
Minnesota has dipped into this approach at times and seems to shy away, leaving the whole situation in limbo.
For example, in the 2020 draft the Vikings selected an elite wideout in Justin Jefferson with their first pick, which was especially important after losing Stefon Diggs. But in that very same draft they had a record number of picks, and conventional wisdom suggested that they’d use that capital to trade for Trent Williams to strengthen the line.
Instead, Spielman used each pick to get later selections, with much less value, until they had four seventh-round picks. It doesn’t take a football genius to know that the Vikings could have used Williams on the field a whole lot more than four guys who will never get playing time.
Even if Minnesota lost out on Williams, there still should have been a bigger push to get Cousins a decent line. The unit has been among the worst in the league since his arrival, and all the team has done to improve their pass protection is to draft Garrett Bradbury and Ezra Cleveland. Both are good enough players, but the whole unit has to perform well to keep Cousins upright.
Frankly, Vikings fans should consider themselves lucky that Cousins is one of the most durable quarterbacks in the league. Otherwise, we’d be seeing a lot more Sean Mannion, and I don’t think anyone wants that.
It’s not all on the offensive side. If we’ve learned anything about Cousins, it’s that he’s a much better quarterback when he doesn’t have to try and win a shootout. But Mike Zimmer continually trotted out rookie starters every week just to get burned. The injury bug hit the team hard, and that’s not their fault, but going into the season without many veteran corners set the team up for failure.
This isn’t to say Cousins isn’t responsible for performing through adversity. You’d hope that someone making as much money as he does could make up for things the team is lacking, but that’s not the reality of the situation. Cousins needs time in the pocket and the ability to look at all of his reads. If he doesn’t get that, as we’ve seen, he tends to force decisions.
That’s fine if Captain Kirk will be your guy, but you have to understand what you’re signing up for. If you don’t, it isn’t good for both his own play and the team’s performance as a whole.
For the fourth year in a row, we hear the same “Kirk is the guy” spiel, but it’s starting to get old. It’s either time for the Vikings to finally buy in or start building towards the future.