The debate rages around Brock Purdy in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. Purdy has led the San Francisco 49ers to the big game, but his detractors say he’s the product of a system and the All-Pro talent surrounding him.
Some discredit the 17-point comeback Purdy orchestrated to defeat the Detroit Lions in the NFC Championship game. Others think he’s the second coming of Joe Montana. This argument has no in-between, which is eerily similar to the one happening roughly 1,600 miles away.
Minnesota has engaged in a seven-year battle over Kirk Cousins‘ merit. Some believe he’s the best quarterback the franchise has ever had. Others believe he needs to be sent on the first flight to Atlanta or any other city willing to pay him top-of-the-market value. Few can acknowledge he’s a solid quarterback and that picking a side is the best bet to avoid confrontation.
But this isn’t a debate that only rages in two cities. Fans of teams across the NFL argue whether their quarterback is “the guy, ” which has become the biggest question of the Minnesota Vikings’ offseason.
One of the key points of this debate happened in the summer of 2022. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was in the opening months of his tenure as Vikings general manager when he sat down with USA Today’s Jori Epstein to discuss his philosophy. He introduced the world to the term “Full Rams” and uttered the thesis statement for the great quarterback debate.
“He aims not to take a shot at a quarterback coming off a 4,221-yard, 33-touchdown-to-seven-interception season and believes, indeed, that he has ‘a good quarterback,’” Epstein wrote. “But ‘we don’t have Tom Brady.’ Adofo-Mensah acknowledges, and ‘We don’t have [Patrick] Mahomes,’ which requires him to ask: Is the Vikings quarterback perennially sufficient?”
Cousins must have an elite supporting cast to compete. In 2018, Cousins had one after the Vikings inserted him into a nucleus that reached the NFC Championship game in 2017. The wrong offensive coordinator derailed Cousins, and they hired Kevin Stefanski to lead them into the playoffs in 2019.
The rest of Cousins’ tenure has become a game of “Whack-A-Mole.” In 2020, a bad defense and a porous offensive line led to a 1-5 start. The same thing happened in 2021 when Klint Kubiak’s offense and Minnesota’s defense short-circuited on the way to an 8-9 season. Cousins led the Vikings to a 13-win season in 2022, but an aging roster and bad defense helped them get bounced in the Wild Card Round.
All of these events could be used in defense or the prosecution of Cousins’s future. Regardless, it’s similar to what Purdy has experienced in San Francisco.
Purdy hasn’t had the lows that Cousins has experienced during his career, but he’s reaped the benefits of rolling with the NFL’s version of The Avengers. Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk are an All-Star stable of weapons, and Trent Williams gives him the level of protection an insurance company will boast about during a Super Bowl ad.
When Purdy is off the field, a top-10 defense and a head coach considered one of the brightest offensive minds in the game flank him. Some believe this makes Purdy’s job as easy as playing a game of three-on-three with LeBron James and Michael Jordan as teammates. Others point out that Purdy still has to make the throws.
If Purdy’s supporting cast wasn’t as great, there’s a possibility he’s just like Cousins – good enough to be competitive but not good enough to overcome adversity. That leads some fans to continue to push the league’s greatest bromance between Cousins and Shanahan, but it doesn’t just apply to San Francisco and Minnesota.
They’re having the same problem in Buffalo, where Josh Allen has taken his spot as a franchise quarterback but can’t get past Patrick Mahomes. And it’s happening in Baltimore with Lamar Jackson and even in Philadelphia with Jalen Hurts.
If you win, you’re the GOAT. If you lose, it’s time for the team to replace you.
It’s why Mahomes is the NFL’s final boss – a seemingly unstoppable force unfazed by what happens around him. It’s gotten to a point where some believe that Mahomes could win a Super Bowl if Taylor Swift was playing wide receiver, which might not be far off considering the group Mahomes has worked with this year.
It has led general managers to fall over themselves trying to find the next Mahomes. Even the Niners took a swing, trading three first-round picks and some change to trade up for Trey Lance, who was a bust. The New York Jets have taken multiple bites at this apple only to wind up like Snow White. It’s not just the Vikings that have PTSD.
That leaves the Vikings to wonder about their options with Cousins. Is Cousins a quarterlikear to Purdy, who can thrive with a strong cast? Or is he what some suggest – a passenger incapable of overcoming adversity?
Even if it’s the latter, that doesn’t make Cousins a disposable piece. But it’s something the Vikings must figure out as he approaches free agency.