The Netflix docuseries Quarterback changed the way that people look at the position. While fans see the players who play the most important position in sports lead their team to victory on Sundays, Quarterback showed who these guys are off the field and what it takes to play such a demanding role.
The show was successful, racking up 3.3 million views in its first week of streaming, but it also had an unintended effect on two of its subjects. While Kirk Cousins and Patrick Mahomes entered the series with a certain public perception, each signal caller saw their persona change after the docuseries. It created the NFL’s version of “The Double Turn.”
The Double Turn is a booking strategy in professional wrestling where a bad guy (or a heel) goes up against a good guy (or a babyface). A series of events happen during the match, and by the end, the bad guy is now the good guy and the good guy is now hated by most of America.
One of the most famous examples was a submission match between “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Bret “The Hitman” Hart at WrestleMania 13. Austin entered as the bad guy, and Hart was one of the biggest good guys of the 1990s. Hart’s hatred for Austin reached a fever pitch until he locked Austin in the Sharpshooter until he passed out. Austin became one of the biggest stars in professional wrestling history, while Hart played the bad guy for the remainder of his career.
Think of this in the context of what Cousins and Mahomes were before Quarterback. Cousins wasn’t necessarily a ” bad guy, ” but Vikings fans didn’t universally belove him. His fourth-and-eight check down to T.J. Hockenson in a playoff loss to the New York Giants had many among the Purple faithful eager to move on. Even the organization showed reluctance to make him a franchise quarterback when they failed to reach a contract extension.
Even with his “Kirko Chainz” persona, Cousins didn’t seem willing to fully be himself in the aftermath of his tenure with Mike Zimmer. He came off as robotic and awkward and had the vibes of someone who just punches the clock and goes home.
Meanwhile, Mahomes was everyone’s favorite quarterback. He made plays that nobody else could and led a team to new heights that hadn’t had success since the Super Bowl era began. A cheeseburger-loving head coach and a party-animal tight end flanked him. Mahomes inspired younger quarterbacks to play the game like he does. Mahomes was the man in the NFL.
Then the documentary happened. Cousins showcased his affable personality off the field, reading bedtime stories to his kids and waving to Vikings fans on the highway. Viewers saw how much the loss to the Giants ate at him. His Kohl’s-inspired wardrobe screamed “Midwest Dad of the Year.”
By the time Cousins got to training camp, he seemed like a different person. He was still giving the behind-the-scenes pep talks that made headlines in previous camps but now appeared loose in front of reporters.
Cousins reached the next level that many had prophesied in the first eight games of the season, posting career-highs in several categories before tearing his Achilles in a win over the Green Bay Packers on October 29. The tone of the locker room after the game showed how much Cousins’ teammates loved him. Even a brief cameo by the “Passtronaut,” Joshua Dobbs, couldn’t make people forget about their quarterback.
At the same time, Mahomes’ perception also changed. Mahomes didn’t do anything wrong during the docuseries, but he came off as the star you would expect him to be. Armed with a foul mouth, a big house, and an aggressive attitude, some became turned off by his persona but still how he played the game.
Kansas City continued to rack up wins, but it wasn’t the feel-good story it used to be. Some got sick of one team dominating in the same way Tom Brady made the New England Patriots one of the most despised dynasties in NFL history.
Still, there was an admiration for Mahomes until a December 10 game against the Buffalo Bills. Mahomes pulled off an incredible last-minute play to Travis Kelce, who lateraled the ball to Kadarius Toney for what appeared to be a game-winning touchdown. However, the officials called the play back after ruling Toney offsides.
The moments after the call put plenty of heat on Mahomes. He slammed his helmet, complained to Josh Allen, and went scorched earth in the press conference. Suddenly, America was sick of the Chiefs.
Cousins and Mahomes have embraced their new personas after the two events. The Chiefs are back in the Super Bowl, and America is torn. The fatigue for Mahomes and his team is so real that some people are cheering for a mid-40s man in a flat-brimmed hat (Kyle Shanahan) and a quarterback (Brock Purdy) who seems even more robotic than Cousins did before starring in Quarterback.
While many wanted to see Mahomes win a title the first time he squared off against the San Francisco 49ers, those same people are rooting against him. It would almost be fitting if Mahomes walked out of the tunnel smirking and admiring the boos of those who just want to see someone else hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Meanwhile, Cousins’ star turn has continued in Minneapolis. He showed up on one leg to a Halloween trick-or-treat event days after his injury and dished out meals on crutches like he was Tiny Tim at Thanksgiving. Cousins carried a giant boombox on the sideline as Nick Mullens chucked four interceptions during a Christmas Eve loss to the Detroit Lions and whipped the crowd into a frenzy when he appeared alongside his son to blow the Gjallarhorn before the showdown with the Green Bay Packers.
After the season went in the tank, a growing number of people want to bring Cousins back. Kevin O’Connell, Justin Jefferson, and Brian O’Neill have all supported Cousins. Some may even believe there isn’t life after Kirk despite the fact he’s approaching his age-36 season and coming off a major injury.
Kirkomania is running wild in Minnesota, while Mahomes is one of the most despised football players on the planet. It’s a complete 180 from where both quarterbacks stood a year ago, and it’s why Quarterback served as a Double Turn that even non-wrestling fans could admire.