Vikings

Will 'Receiver' Do For Justin Jefferson What 'Quarterback' Did For Kirk Cousins?

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

A year ago, Kirk Cousins was unknown off the field to most of the football world. The casual fan knew he played for the Minnesota Vikings and may have helped them win their fantasy football league. However, they didn’t know who Cousins was as a person or the work that went into being one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the NFL.

The Netflix docuseries Quarterback changed all of that. Cousins became a fan favorite and showed his work ethic on the field and his personality off of it. As a result, some of Cousins’ harshest critics have a soft spot for the guy and a new appreciation for what he offered.

But things have changed this summer. Cousins signed with the Atlanta Falcons, and Netflix has pivoted from Quarterback to Receiver. Justin Jefferson will be one of the main subjects of this year’s feature. Will the documentary provide the same residual effect that it had on Cousins one year ago?

One of the biggest differences between the two appearances is that Jefferson and Cousins are at different stages in their careers.

Cousins had a polarizing relationship with fans when Netflix released Quarterback, but Jefferson is already a megastar. Jefferson is one of the best players in the league and has created a dance that Midwestern wedding parties attempt to pull off on their special day. The only thing that could make Jefferson’s aura greater is if he were from Minnesota. Still, Vikings fans hold him in the same regard as Cris Carter and Randy Moss.

Jefferson’s status may lead you to believe he has nothing to gain or lose from this documentary, but that’s not true. If anything, you can compare Jefferson’s status coming into the documentary to Patrick Mahomes‘, the leading star of Quarterback.

Mahomes came into the documentary as a superstar. He had won two Super Bowls with the Kansas City Chiefs and was a living highlight reel every time he took the field. Many thought seeing Mahomes behind the scenes would be a good thing, but he was an absolute psycho.

That isn’t a bad thing. Think of Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant’s work ethic on the way to winning multiple championships. But Mahomes’ aura hit different, especially when he went nuclear during a loss to the Buffalo Bills last November. In many ways, Mahomes and Cousins pulled a double turn in the documentary. Mahomes went from the ultimate hero to the guy people want to see lose.

There’s little doubt that Jefferson has the same work ethic as Mahomes, but his story feels a little different. The Vikings have yet to win a championship, and Jefferson is trying to get his team to the top while Mahomes is already there.

There’s also a layer of adversity to Jefferson’s story. Jefferson was a zero-star recruit entering LSU and became one of the best receivers in the country. After falling to the 22nd pick in the 2020 draft, Jefferson racked up the most receiving yards of any player in the first three years of their career.

If Jefferson had a typical season in 2023, fans could expect to see more to the story of his rise than they already know. However, Jefferson’s season didn’t go according to plan.

Jefferson’s season began with a contract negotiation that was “unbelievably close” to getting a deal done before he decided to bet on himself. The Vikings started the year with a 1-4 record before Jefferson suffered a hamstring injury. Rehabbing the first significant injury of his career, he watched from the sideline as Cousins tore his Achilles tendon in Green Bay.

The Vikings rattled off five consecutive wins to get back into the playoff race. While there was an argument for Jefferson’s return, the Vikings waited through the bye and difficult losses to the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears before bringing him back for a game against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Even then, things didn’t go to plan as a “hospital ball” ended Jefferson’s return in the second quarter. He spent the rest of the season trying to will the Vikings into the playoffs but came up short in a fiery display against the Detroit Lions in Week 18.

Jefferson’s story may inspire sympathy among casual fans. However, it could also elevate his star power to a new level compared to some of the other subjects on the show.

Vikings fans may have some disdain for Amon-Ra St. Brown as a division rival, but this documentary could elevate those feelings. St. Brown has already noted he remembers the names of every receiver taken before him in the 2021 draft, and his work ethic comes off as more Mahomesian than Jefferson’s “kid playing a game” approach.

Watching Davante Adams mope through his time with the Raiders could also be revealing. His story could be interesting after Vegas ousted Josh McDaniels and replaced him with Antonio Pierce. However, his attitude toward the situation in Las Vegas could also turn fans off.

Deebo Samuel and George Kittle could be fun, but they also play for the San Francisco 49ers machine. While Samuel could show off all the charisma in the world, and Kittle brings a unique perspective as a tight end, one droning speech from Kyle Shanahan could turn everyone off from the Niners.

That leaves Jefferson as the potential star of the docuseries. It might not have the same effect that Quarterback had on Cousins a year ago. Still, it could make everyone want Jefferson to succeed, even as the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL.

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