A year ago the Minnesota Vikings were one of the brightest surprises in the National Football League. The Vikings went 13-3 en route to winning the NFC North, and reaching the NFC Championship Game. The Vikings did this on the strength of one of the stingiest defenses in the NFL, as well an offense that wasn’t flashy, but efficient. The Vikings accomplished this with Case Keenum as their starting quarterback.
Coming out of the University of Houston in 2012, Keenum went undrafted by the NFL, while the Vikings were the third different franchise that he had played for. But when Keenum became a free agent last March, the thought within the Vikings front office was that they needed an upgrade at the quarterback position as they felt that he was not the guy to lead them to the promised land.
That sentiment led to the Vikings allowing Keenum to leave Minnesota to join the Denver Broncos which opened the door for the Vikes to shift their focus to Kirk Cousins.
Like Keenum, Cousins was an afterthought by the National Football League as he was selected in the seventh round by the Washington Redskins in 2012. Nothing much was expected of Cousins that year in Washington due to the fact that the franchise had put so much stock in quarterback Robert Griffin III who was the second overall pick of that draft. But injuries to Griffin opened the door for Cousins to be Washington’s starting quarterback, and he seized the moment.
By 2015, Cousins would become Washington’s full-time starting quarterback as Griffin would become a journeyman. That year would also see Cousins complete nearly 70% of his passes as he helped Washington win the NFC East for the first time since 2012.
Cousins and Washington appeared to have a marriage made in heaven as he gave them some stability at the quarterback position, but they were never able to agree on the finances.
On two separate occasions Cousins was set to become an unrestricted free agent only to have Washington use the franchise tag on him. Each time Washington attempted to work out a long-term deal with Cousins, but it never came to fruition. And when Washington acquired quarterback Alex Smith from the Kansas City Chiefs last off-season, all signs pointed to Cousins’ time with the team coming to an end.
But Cousins would land on his feet as the Vikings were intrigued by him. And when it was all said and done, Minnesota would give Cousins the first fully guaranteed contract in National Football League history as both sides agreed on a three-year deal for $84 million. The Vikings were willing to do this as they felt that Cousins was the missing piece to their championship puzzle in spite of the fact that his record was 26-30-1 in parts of six seasons as Washington’s starting quarterback, while also failing to win a playoff game. The Vikings felt that they had enough talent to put around Cousins in order for him to propel them to the Super Bowl, but with the regular season winding down, Minnesota might want to look into getting a refund for their investment.
Currently the Vikings are no closer to winning the Super Bowl with Cousins than they were with Keenum under center. Through 13 games, the Vikes are 6-6-1 as they are clinging to the final playoff spot in the NFC. The Vikings have never been able to rekindle the magic from last season, and the quarterback who was supposed to propel them to bigger and better things in 2018 has consistently come up short.
Yes, Cousins is completing a career-high 70.6% of his passes this season, while his 370 completions this season are leading the National Football League, but those numbers are deceiving. This season the Vikings are 0-5 versus teams who currently have winning records, while he has come up short in each game this season in games that could be described as a “season definer”.
In Week 2, Cousins was 35-of-48 passing for 425 yards with 4 touchdowns, but the Vikings had to settle for a 29-29 tie against the Green Bay Packers. This was followed by a disheartening 27-6 home loss to the Buffalo Bills where the Vikings were favored by 16 points. Cousins and the Vikings would also come up short versus the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints who are the top teams in the NFC this season, while as three of their last four games have resulted in losses, Minnesota has only produced a combined 37 points in those contests with the majority of that coming when the final outcome had already been decided.
For Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer, they gave Cousins the kind of money that should be reserved for Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. And as the Vikes thought that Cousins could take them to the next level, he is doing now what he has always been known for in the National Football League which is to be a mediocre quarterback. Cousins does not have the “wow factor” as he lacks career defining moments that will make you believe in his ability to carry a team. Cousins will never be an elite quarterback, nor will he lead the Vikings (or any other team for that matter in the National Football League to a Super Bowl Title).
And as the Vikings are a mediocre team this year, we cannot overlook the fact that they also allowed quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to walk last off-season as well. Bridgewater was a first-round pick of the Vikings in 2014 and he did enjoy some success with the team which included helping them win the NFC North in 2015. But a crippling knee injury just prior to the start of the 2016 National Football League season threatened Bridgewater’s career. And as the Vikings didn’t offer Bridgewater a new deal during the past off-season, he landed on his feet with the New York Jets before being traded to the New Orleans Saints after a strong showing in the preseason.
But the Vikings have had to find this out the hard way which has resulted in them being suckered by fool’s gold. The Vikings ineptitude has already resulted in offensive coordinator John DeFillipo losing his job, but at the end of the day you cannot overlook the man who has his hands on the football in his hands on each offensive play. Most of us knew that Cousins’ deal was going to be a make or break move for the Vikings, and as they are holding on for their playoff lives with just three weeks to go in the regular season, they’ve clearly overestimated the ability as well as the intangibles that Cousins brings to the table.