Can Kirk Cousins Win MVP?

Photo: Stephen Maturen – Getty Image

Debate surrounding the viability of Kirk Cousins as the leader of a playoff-caliber football team is waging across the internet and in group text message circles yet again. It was Kyle Brandt of NFL Network who brought on the 293,847th version of the same battle we’ve all taken part in over the years. Some more often than others.

On Good Morning Football, Brandt gave his answer for a segment asking for 2022 ‘dark horse’ NFL MVP candidates and he knew some controversy would follow his selection. Who was he choosing? Minnesota Vikings quarterback, Kirk Cousins, of course. Brandt’s 1-minute campaign speech included Kirk’s van, Outback Steakhouse and Creed playlists.

“Is the world ready? Is the Internet ready for Kirk Cousins as the NFL MVP? Because damn it, I am. Get in there, Kirk! Let’s do it! Everybody get in your conversion vans and drive them to Outback Steakhouse where you will pay with a gift card. I’m ready and I think the Vikings are ready.

Listen, this is a guy, in the day Kirk Cousins could be counted on to flirt with 5,000 yards passing, whether it be with Washington or Minnesota. Nobody in the NFL has better receivers, yes I said it. I think there are some great ones. I don’t think I can clearly say anybody’s better than the guys he lines up with, especially with Dalvin Cook.

And remember, everybody. the Zimmer era is over. We have a young, square-jawed offensive head coach who is going to unleash hell across that field turf at US Bank Stadium. He’s got his Creed playlist. He’s ready.”

Kyle Brandt – GMFB (video above)

Can Kirk Cousins win MVP?

Yes, Kirk Cousins could win MVP. But only if Kevin O’Connell is able to unlock a version of Cousins that we have never seen before. Kyle Brandt is 100% correct about Kirk’s arsenal of high powered weaponry, his throwing ability and the stats he’s been able to put up.

The unknown, which Brandt mentions as a sure upgrade, is new head coach Kevin O’Connell. Yes, Mike Zimmer is gone and Kirk Cousins should be playing in a much more QB-friendly offense. But until we see it, we can’t know if it will mend the weaknesses that have held Kirk back for his entire career.

We know what holds Cousins back from being the best version of himself when he walks onto a football field. Kirk doesn’t play well off script and he’s often too afraid of risk. He doesn’t have ELITE leadership qualities, either, and the game can move to fast for him in big moments. Fixing these (mostly) confidence issues is the key to how viable of an MVP candidate Kirk Cousins can realistically become.

Confident Kirk?

Leadership is bred in confidence. The more confident a person is, the better leader he or she can potentially be. It’s what the kids call “swag” and what the 30-year-olds like me called “swagger”. Whether it’s better leadership or more responsibilities at the line of scrimmage, among many other things that Kirk Cousins has historically lacked, O’Connell is the key to empowering and unlocking it.

All of the great quarterbacks of our time — Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Patrick Mahomes — all have autonomy to call timeouts, change plays and move things around at the line of scrimmage, when they feel necessary.

Not Kirk Cousins with the Minnesota Vikings. Why? When asked, Kirk has told media that he prefers it that way. He’s supposedly worried about adding another responsibility to his plate come gameday.

“I just let Zim handle the timeouts,” Cousins said after the Minnesota Vikings’ loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, “because I never know quite what the coaches want to do with what they’re thinking, a play ahead or what that may be. So I was just gonna let them handle that and call the next play if one came in.”

Kirk Cousins (via ZoneCoverage.com)

O’Connell is the Key

Now, is this Kirk Cousins being honest? Does he really want to avoid these kinds of responsibilities? Because if so, nobody is following that guy into battle. How can his teammates have confidence in Kirk Cousins if he doesn’t have requisite confidence in himself?

Or, was Kirk just playing it cool with the media, when he gave that answer on what he can and cannot do at the line of scrimmage? We do not know what was happening behind the scenes. Given what we know now, would it be shocking if Zimmer & Co didn’t allow Cousins the same type of autonomy that other established quarterbacks around the league have?

If Kevin O’Connell can empower Kirk Cousins in a way that previous coaching staffs have not, then we could absolutely see an MVP performance from the Minnesota Vikings QB. But many would call unlocking Kirk Cousins impossible. That, if he had it in him, we would have seen it by now. And they could be right.

Is it September yet?

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan