Kirk Cousins is a top 10 quarterback. There, I said it. Every middle-aged couch coach would have a heart attack if someone ever told them that, but I’m serious. I’ll go even further. Kirk is easily the best QB to wear purple and gold since Brett Favre. Even with this rocky legacy, though, it’s time for me to face the facts. Kirk is old. He was in the same draft class as the likes of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Nick Foles. Two of those players retired multiple years ago (RGIII hasn’t officially retired, but come on dude you work at ESPN now, hang it up), and Nick Foles is still hanging on as a backup for the Indianapolis Colts. So, will the clock strike twelve and end Cousins’ tirade as the most disrespected quarterback in recent memory, or does Kirk still have a bit left in the tank?
An Unlikely Captain
Being selected by the same team that took RGIII in the first round meant that Cousins would be a developmental backup for the foreseeable future. That was true, to a certain extent. Griffin, as electric of a player as he was, started to develop a level of injury proneness that would lose him his job. In 2015, Kirk got his chance to start and blew everyone’s expectations out of the water. Over 4,000 yards, league-leader in completion percentage, he absolutely balled for his first full year. The rest of his time as a member of Washington would consist of putting up Pro Bowl numbers and dragging the team, kicking and screaming, into contention for playoff spots. A young, consistent quarterback was stuck in what’s basically football hell. What team would act as his savior?
$84,000,000 contract over three years, fully guaranteed. If there’s any surefire way to piss off the couch coaches I mentioned earlier, it’s to tell them that their team just spent about three high-end business jets worth of money on one player. It doesn’t matter if that player is Jerry Rice, crotchety old-timers will always think there’s better for cheaper. In a 2018 free agency that included illustrious quarterbacks such as former Minnesota Viking Sam Bradford, Jay Cutler, and Blaine Gabbert, Minnesota didn’t really have anywhere else to go. The Denver Broncos also had interest in Cousins, which is probably why the Vikings gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Even with the tumultuous signing and the polarizing opinion of him, Kirk continued to produce strong season after strong season, playing every game except for one in his four seasons so far in the north. His yearly stats are even more striking when you take into account he was forced to operate in Mike Zimmer’s archaic schemes. By the way, where is that old dude?
Sky’s The Limit
Gone, the higher-ups had him and Rick Spielman fired for doing almost nothing with a roster chock-full of talent for back-to-back years. To replace them, the team brings in new-age analytical general manager Kwesi Odofo-Mensah and reigning Super Bowl champ L.A. Rams’ offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell as the new head coach. Connell is the more important one in this instance, no shade on Mensah. I say this because last year’s Rams were an offensive juggernaut that ran mainly through the passing game. The biggest thing Kirk needed was an offense that spreads out and allows him to fire away. Obviously, Dalvin Cook won’t just be left to rot in the backfield, but I’m assuming the total of run-run-pass-punt drives will go down this upcoming season. As well as O’Connell comes a Vikings offensive line on their first upswing in years with Brian O’Neal, Christian Darrisaw, and rookie camp dominator Ed Ingram. All signs point to a season that could make or break his legacy in Minnesota. That was a whole lot of positives there, what could go wrong?
Old But Gold, I Hope
Like I said earlier, Kirk is getting up there in football age. 34 isn’t anything to scoff at, not everyone’s Tom Brady. I wish I could say that there’s no pressure on Cousins to perform well this season, but then I’d be flatout lying. Kirk is an aging quarterback who has loads and loads of critics ready to point out his every flaw. The Vikings are, I hate to say it, also getting old. There are a lot of major players on this team whose playing days are absolutely numbered. Now that this team finally has everything tailored to his play, if Cousins fails, it might be a painfully bitter close to a mostly strong era of Minnesota football. Do I trust him? Yes, he’s made the playoffs with much worse teams, has never had a major injury, and is only growing smarter as the years pass. I’m not the public, though. And I’m not the coach, or general manager, or owner. I can’t tell you how much trust those people have in him. This season is Kirk Cousins’ chance to finally, once and for all, silence the shade and solidify the team’s trust in him for a while.