Everyone is Right About Kirk Cousins

Photo: Minnesota Vikings

How good of an NFL quarterback is Kirk Cousins? That’s the $45 million dollar question Minnesota Vikings’ ownership must answer sometime this offseason. But fans, especially those with internet access, have no offseason. And heading into this weekend, following Kirk’s poor performance vs the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday Night Football, fans and media are entrenched in discussions about what’s next for Cousins and the Vikings.

Some love him, others hate him and many just aren’t sure what to think of #8 from week to week. That’s because Kirk Cousins is an enigma. His worth as an NFL quarterback cannot be explained with statistics, his salary or the human eye test. That’s right. Ten years into his professional career, we’re still unsure of where Kirk stands among his peers.

But much like most things that involve dissension, the lines on his worthiness as an NFL quarterback have been drawn. Football fans must choose a side or be left behind. Is Kirk Cousins a franchise quarterback worth having?

The numbers love Kirk Cousins

Most QB statistics, no matter the situation, tell you that Kirk Cousins is really, really good. His 3,569 passing yards, 27 TD’s, and 5 INT’s all rank 6th, 5th and 4th in the NFL, respectively. But Kirk Cousins is an an advanced analytics darling, too.

Cousins ranks 6th in the NFL in QB Rating (103.5), 4th in PFF grade (88.3) and 5th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA (24.3%). ESPN’s “QBR” is the only advanced analytical system that shines anything but an elite quarterback light on Kirk, ranking him 10th among NFL quarterbacks (54.5). These numbers all fell after his poor performance vs Pittsburgh. He was 2nd in the QB Rating, PFF Grade and DVOA before that game.

Numbers are known to be deceiving but Kirk’s stats are so good that, if they are indeed lying, it’s one hell of a fairy tale story. See a few more examples HERE, HERE and HERE.

Well, not all numbers love him.

But don’t throw those numbers out to Kirk’s critics. When they talk numbers, the conversation revolves around wins and playoff appearances. All of those yards and touchdowns have led to a mediocre 122-117 career record and just two playoff appearances.

It’s true that Cousins has played on some bad teams and he can’t play defense or special teams. But, if you want to tout his greatness statistically, then it’s impossible to avoid the lack of winning over the course of Cousins’ 10-year career. Kirk stacks individual accolades that place him next to the best in the game. But for whatever reason, his huge numbers don’t lead to his teams winning.

Let’s Try The Eye Test

Sometimes you watch Kirk Cousins and you can’t help but think he’s elite. Far too often though, you wonder how in the fuck this nerd turned quarterback can possibly post the gawdy numbers he consistently does. That’s why ‘inconsistent’ feels like the wrong term to describe him, even if that’s what your eyes want to tell you. Cousins is too consistent to be labeled inconsistent.

The eye-test might not be as friendly to Kirk as statistics are, but some of the best quarterback minds in the world can still fall for Kirk’s tape. Here’s HOF Peyton Manning gushing all over Cousins’ pocket awareness and moveability just last week, two areas of constant criticism for #8.

This season is the perfect microcosm of Kirk’s career. He’s played a lot of his best football in 2021 and, multiple times, has actually carried the Minnesota Vikings to victory. But over the last few weeks, when given the opportunity to lift his team squarely into the playoff conversation while simultaneously killing negative narratives that have followed him for his entire career, Cousins found a slump and the Vikings have struggled to win.

Kirk Cousins has just five interceptions through thirteen games this season but three of those INT’s have been thrown in the last three games. Minnesota is 1-2 in those matchups and their only victory, Thursday vs Steelers, came despite Kirk Cousins for much of the game.

A normally cautious and extremely accurate quarterback, Cousins couldn’t hit open receivers vs Pittsburgh, throwing two interceptions and lumbering to a completion percentage under 50%. It was one of those rare nights where Kirk’s numbers matched what you saw with your eyes. And neither was good.

Everyone is right

Save your internet animosity for something worth arguing over. Because when it comes to Kirk Cousins, you’re already right. So are those you argue with. No matter where you stand on Cousins as an NFL QB, you are correct.

Kirk has the skillset and individual numbers to be a great NFL quarterback. Yes, he needs weapons surrounding him to be really successful but all QB’s need athletes they can feed the ball to. Whether they know it or not, most fanbases would be lucky to swap their quarterback for Kirk Cousins, just based on his throwing abilities and proven track record.

But there’s a reason why nobody realizes how good Cousins actually is and that’s on him. Blame whoever you want but winning games, making the playoffs and Super Bowl rings are what quarterbacks in the NFL are judged upon. That’s not anything new. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Joe Montana and John Elway are put on pedestals because they won multiple Super Bowls, not because they threw for 4000+ yards and 30+ touchdowns every regular season.

Time Still on Kirk’s Side

Kirk Cousins still has time to flip his own narrative. The greatest QB in Vikings history, Fran Tarkenton, didn’t make the playoffs until he was 33 (Kirk’s current age). He finished his career at 38 with five tournament appearances, three of which led to Super Bowls.

Cousins would be smart to start his renovation project immediately, however. Losing on Monday Night Football to a bad, injury and COVID-riddled Chicago Bears team will only affirm what doubters already believe.

Playing his best football during these final four weeks, thus propelling the Minnesota Vikings into the 2021-22 playoffs, would give Cousins a chance to show off and raise his stock in January. The only month where veteran quarterbacks can do such a thing.

When you get into your 30’s nobody cares about individual statistics anymore. And that’s the only thing our starting QB has. Get your team to the playoffs on a consistent basis and come out with a Super Bowl or two. That’s what the next tier of quarterbacks do. Whether Kirk Cousins ever becomes one of those guys is up to him. But finding a replacement who can do what Kirk does might be impossible. So let’s pray Cousins can take that next step very very soon.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan