Following the ecstasy of a thrilling victory over the Green Bay Packers, it’s safe to say that Minnesota is riding high into Turkey Day. Not only are the Vikings on the right side of the playoff picture, but Kirk Cousins’ approval rating is setting all-time records. He’s got a 21:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, 68.2% completion percentage, and is firmly in the MVP conversation. There’s no doubt the Vikings would be able to dig itself out of the hole it created without him, something even Captain Kirk is starting to realize.
Cousins has been playing at a high level all season long. But when you couple his performance with recent results, it’s exactly what Vikings fans expected when he was forked over the first fully guaranteed deal in NFL history. There’s an entirely sound argument to be made that Cousins is finally starting to play up to the lofty expectations that were set upon his arrival.
This year’s stats speak for themselves, but that hasn’t ever been a huge issue for him. You can look back to any of Cousins’ previous seasons donning the purple and gold, and his stats are respectable enough. However, his leadership of the team and his performance in clutch moments have left more to be desired.
“It’s a razor’s edge between winning and losing,” reiterated Cousins on multiple occasions after Sunday’s win against the Packers
This has been the case this season for Minnesota and during Cousins’ entire stay in the North Star State. His lack of killer instinct has been a problem previously. Maybe losing all those close games finally gave him a knack for it.
The timing of Cousins’ metamorphosis couldn’t be any better, either, with the current opponent coming up. The San Francisco 49ers are coached by Kyle Shanahan, who has always had glowing things to say about Cousins from their time in Washington. Earlier this year, potential trade scenarios were thrown around surrounding a possible QB swap between Minnesota and San Francisco.
We’ll never know whether actual trades were ever discussed, but thank goodness a swap never happened. The Vikings are currently on the rise because of their quarterback play. Conversely, the Niners are being held back by their signal-caller.
This season, Jimmy Garoppolo was named the starter after a pseudo-training camp battle for the position and has been the textbook definition of mediocre. He’s not somebody who is going to turn over the ball a bunch, but he’s also not somebody who can bring your team back. He only has one fourth-quarter comeback all season, and recently some are calling for Marshall native Trey Lance to take over.
On the other hand, Cousins has led Minnesota to three fourth-quarter comebacks out of its five wins. This included a ballsy drive against the Packers to set up a game-winning field goal after the defense was torched by Aaron Rodgers on a single play.
“You know it’s just life in the NFL,” said Cousins when asked about the last few minutes of Sunday’s game. “It’s exciting. I certainly understand why people want to follow it and watch it.”
This may have been the most badass thing that Cousins has done in his entire life. After you lead a big drive to pull your team from suffering its umpteenth heartbreaking loss to the season against your rival, your simple response is that it’s just life in the NFL?
Say what you want about him, but Cousins has developed his own dad swagger, and it’s what Minnesota has been looking for. There are plenty of quarterbacks in the NFL that you can throw in there to put up a decent stat line. But when you pay for the position, you’re paying for things that aren’t as tangible.
You can point to specific moments where Cousins has brought the proverbial sauce to the team. His game-winning drive against the New Orleans Saints in the 2019 playoffs would be a perfect example. Never, though, has Cousins done it with any sort of consistency.
Minnesota was sitting at 3-5, with a head coach who seemed on his last legs, an offensive coordinator who didn’t know how to properly utilize his stars, and an aging defense that suffered blow after blow with injuries. It would have been very easy to fold right then and there. Clean house and move into a mini rebuild.
In that moment, Cousins became the true leader of this team and now has the Vikings back in the playoffs after two extremely hard-fought wins.
Many fans have used Cousins as the scapegoat for the Vikings’ deficiencies, but recent performances point the exact opposite direction. Cousins has been a great leader, while maintaining superb on-field performance. Minnesota wouldn’t be in the playoff picture without him, and it’s time to recognize that maybe he’s performing right up to the lofty expectations that were set upon his arrival.