Vikings

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah Said the Quiet Part About Kirk Cousins Out Loud and the Loud Part Quiet

Photo Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The casual fan rarely saw press conferences in the old days of the NFL. If Bill Parcells wanted to sound off on his starting quarterback, it would have had 24 hours to breathe before the local paper printed it. By that time, the team would be preparing for the following week. The comment would be swept under the rug.

In today’s NFL, that news is delivered instantly. With social media platforms streaming press conferences as they happen, comments are available for immediate debate.

This is a lesson that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah learned the hard way. Last May, he sat down with USA Today’s Jori Epstein to peel back the curtain on some of his decision processes at the quarterback position. It was a refreshing contrast from his predecessor, Rick Spielman, but it also showed why Spielman was so reserved.

Adofo-Mensah didn’t say anything wrong. He just said the quiet part loud and the loud part quietly.

Any conversation that Adofo-Mensah will have in this role will revolve around Kirk Cousins. Some believe that Cousins is the steady hand the Vikings need after a history of rotating quarterbacks. Others think that he’s not good enough to lead the Vikings above the morass of an eight- or nine-win season. Whatever your opinion, he is the most divisive player on the team.

Adofo-Mensah started out okay, beginning the interview by stating the logistics of the quarterback position. He said that “burning it down” at quarterback was where teams get nervous. To that degree, he is right.

When the Minnesota Vikings entertained the idea of trading Cousins this offseason, there weren’t many options that provided a steadier presence. Is Matt Ryan markedly better than Cousins? Would rolling with Carson Wentz elevate the team? How about a one-year stop-gap like Marcus Mariota before diving into a weak quarterback class? Would that provide more upside? The answer is no.

That’s also how a team goes from a stable quarterback situation to a dumpster fire. Burning it down and restarting constantly leaves a team with no stability, eventually leading to a long stretch of futility. Ask the New York Jets how going from Sam Darnold to Zach Wilson has turned out. Or how the Detroit Lions are faring after trading Matthew Stafford.

So the Vikings did what they had to do. They signed Cousins to a 1-year, $35 million extension that keeps him through next season. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but it was easier to accept when many of the top quarterbacks fell into the third round of the draft.

That should have been the end of the argument. Adofo-Mensah even called Cousins “a good quarterback.” Pretty straightforward, huh? Then he took it a step further.

“We don’t have Tom Brady. We don’t have Patrick Mahomes. The Super Bowl is more likely to win if you have that quarterback. It is very unlikely to have that quarterback.”

Adofo-Mensah was correct in that finding Brady or Mahomes is a difficult task. But by the time he got to that point, he had already planted several lightning rods in the middle of a hurricane.

Any combination of “Kirk Cousins,” “Tom Brady,” or “Patrick Mahomes” and “Super Bowl” are four words that will get everyone within a 50-mile radius talking. With the bonus of saying Cousins doesn’t compare to his future Hall of Fame counterparts, Adofo-Mensah not only created a feeding frenzy for “Kirk Twitter” but national outlets that were there to pick over the bones.

Pro Football Talk, NFL.com, and the New York Post all jumped at the chance for a buzzworthy headline. Adofo-Mensah was suddenly “unenthusiastic” about bringing back Cousins. It sounded like it wouldn’t have been a surprise if Cousins’ bags were thrown in front of TCO Performance Center when he reported to training camp.

It wasn’t a good look. But it wasn’t the incorrect look.

Even the staunchest Cousins supporter will agree that he’s not on the same level as Brady or Mahomes. Some may believe that Mike Zimmer may have had a hand in this. But the popular opinion is that Cousins is a fringe top-10 quarterback who leans more toward the middle of the pack.

The Athletic’s Mike Sando polled several NFL assistants and executives, and they came to the same conclusion. Cousins is good enough to keep you afloat but not good enough to drag a team to the Super Bowl.

The problem was that the Vikings didn’t have an available option that could. The Seattle Seahawks ultimately traded Russell Wilson, but the Vikings didn’t have the assets to make that deal happen. Deshaun Watson was another name that popped up, but his price on top of a contract with $240 million guaranteed and off-the-field concerns made him an awkward fit.

Making a big deal – or going “Full Rams,” as Adofo-Mensah would put it in reference to the Stafford trade – wasn’t in the cards for the Vikings. It also spawned another interesting quote.

“The way you can screw up in this job is deceiving yourself that you’re there.”

If the Vikings believed that they had the infrastructure to make an upgrade, they probably would have. Once that failed, signing Cousins became their best option. Again, there’s nothing wrong with any of this logic. The mistake was that all of this became public.

Perhaps this is a general manager attempting to win over his fanbase. Or it’s a case of showing everyone that the Wilf family didn’t get involved in the decision. Whatever happened, it probably was the right decision, and the comment probably would have been fine in 1990.

But in today’s NFL, everyone has a voice. And when someone says something like Adofo-Mensah did, everyone can hear it.

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