Vikings

Kirk Cousins Won't Find A Better Situation Than He Has In 2022

Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn (USA TODAY Sports)

Kirk Cousins has produced more questions than answers in his four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. Fans have been puzzled by his ability to take over in October but wilt in December. Pundits are confused how Cousins could line up behind the guard on a fourth-and-goal. Many people were baffled when the Vikings gave him an iron-clad, one-year extension.

But if there’s one thing that we know about Cousins, it’s that his success is tied directly to his situation.

Cousins is the NFL’s ultimate chameleon. He’s a Pro Bowl quarterback when he’s placed into a good situation. He turns into the 2021 version when anything is off, which is where pundits and fans brought his character and leadership into question.

Set to turn 34 in August, Cousins is what he is at this point of his career. But with the arrival of Kevin O’Connell and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Cousins may not find a better situation than what he’ll see in 2022.

It starts with the weapons the Vikings have on offense. Justin Jefferson has already blossomed into one of the top receivers in the NFL. Adam Thielen isn’t far behind. Dalvin Cook is a lock for 1,000 yards, and with the return of Irv Smith Jr., the Vikings should be able to move the ball.

Even with the questions along the offensive line, Cousins already has two quality tackles in Brian O’Neill and Christian Darrisaw. With Adofo-Mensah likely to sign a veteran or two in free agency, Cousins may have the best offensive line since he had Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff blocking for him during his final season in Washington.

The Vikings’ defense remains a problem, but it could improve over the offseason. O’Connell has already talked up the impact that Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks, and pending free agent Anthony Barr could have in a 3-4 scheme. Minnesota ready signed Harrison Phillips to a three-year deal. There’s also the possibility the Vikings add an impact rookie in the draft.

There’s also a chance that Adofo-Mensah could go all in to get a proven impact player. The Vikings had an opportunity to do this in 2019 when Jalen Ramsey became available. If a similar situation arose this offseason, Adofo-Mensah would be wise to pounce after making the win-now move to sign Cousins.

A front office looking to compete and a talented roster is a couple of reasons why Cousins was wise to stay in Minnesota. But perhaps the most significant reason was the change at head coach.

When Cousins arrived in 2018, Rick Spielman paired him with Mike Zimmer. A few months before, Zimmer had warned the Vikings about the dangers of having a highly compensated quarterback. Spielman signed Cousins anyway, and Zimmer and Cousins had a contentious relationship over the next four seasons.

Last season Zimmer agreed to a weekly film session with Cousins. The sessions were reportedly 45 minutes and may have been contingent on whether a defensive positional meeting had run long. But these meetings didn’t help their relationship on the field. After an overtime win in Week 5 win over the Detroit Lions, Cousins grabbed Zimmer to celebrate. Zimmer’s response made it seem like he wanted to finish the celebration in a back alley.

Cousins led a two-minute drill against the Dallas Cowboys a few weeks later. With time ticking away, Cousins decided not to call a time out. The result was a standoff that eventually sent the Vikings into the locker room without any points.

The final blow came in Week 17 when Cousins missed a crucial game against the Green Bay Packers after testing positive for COVID. Zimmer was prescient when the NFL forced Cousins to quarantine after Kellen Mond tested positive during training camp. After the game, Zimmer looked despondent and knew the end was near.

The Cousins-Zimmer relationship was a big reason the Vikings fired Zimmer. When they searched for their new head coach, they presumably wanted someone who could get the best out of Cousins.

That’s where O’Connell comes into play.

O’Connell’s previous experience serving as Cousins’ quarterback coach in Washington helped give a different perspective during his interview. Four years later, his work with Matthew Stafford helped the Los Angeles Rams win a Super Bowl. Many analysts put Stafford and Cousins in the same tier of quarterbacks, so O’Connell seemed like the man for the job.

Minnesota’s decision to hire O’Connell also comes at a time where Cousins’ physical tools may be as good as they’ll ever be. With Tom Brady as the only quarterback to defeat Father Time, Cousins’ skills could start to erode as he enters his late 30s. That makes this the perfect time to strike.

Cousins will have everything he needs to succeed in 2022. He has a supporting cast that could transform into a top-10 offense. He has a front office willing to get him the pieces he needs to be successful. And he has a head coach that literally has a signed, framed, and autographed jersey from Cousins hanging in his office.

The Vikings haven’t been over .500 in 794 days. Extending Cousins seems like putting a fresh coat of paint on Camp Crystal Lake. But for somebody who needs the perfect situation, this might be his best chance to prove everyone wrong.

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