O’Connell’s Trust in Kirk Cousins is Paying Dividends

PHOTO: ANTHONY SOUFFLÉ - STAR TRIBUNE

We knew Kevin O’Connell’s arrival in Minnesota would change the trajectory of Kirk Cousins’ career and we saw some of those day-to-day changes early on. More coach/QB meetings, more communication and more trust have all been demonstrated.

But in their week 5 win over the Chicago Bears, we saw just how much the relationship between Cousins and O’Connell is blossoming. On the field, in press conferences and behind closed doors, KOC shows his trust in Kirk Cousins on a regular basis.

Game planning with Kirk

Remember the headline-worthy weekly meetings between Mike Zimmer and Kirk Cousins last season? Under O’Connell, Kirk doesn’t have to beg for time with his coach or an input in game planning. Because he sits right in the middle of it. If Cousins doesn’t like a play or a means of attack, then KOC will mold it into something else or throw it out altogether.

After the win on Sunday, O’Connell talked about the trust he puts in Kirk when game planning every week and how it’s paying off for the offense.

“It just felt like he was playing really well and the ball was coming out. Very decisive. Really taking advantage of the plan that we put together. He’s going to continue to have comfort and also continue to have a say in what we do offensively. I want him comfortable with, not only the plays I do call, but him and I spend a lot of time together. And there are plenty of [plays] that I can take a red pen to or have gone to the old play graveyard, that’s ok too. But I want whatever comes out of my mouth on game day for him to have ultimate clarity. Because where he’s at and where he’s headed in this offense, I feel really, really good about Kirk Cousins.” Kevin O’Connell (postgame)

Play calling with Kirk

Kirk Cousins’ involvement with what plays the Minnesota Vikings’ offense is running doesn’t stop with game planning. We’re also seeing Kirk’s pre-snap responsibilities bumped to another level. Last year, when asked about his role in changing plays at the line of scrimmage, Cousins made it clear he didn’t really have a say.

This season, Kirk is changing plays and alignments nearly every down. His involvement really stands out when the offense goes into no-huddle mode. From the sounds of it, he oftentimes has a set of plays at his disposal before the snap. That allows him to choose the best one available, depending on what he’s seeing at the line of scrimmage.

Take the game-winning QB sneak, for example. Cousins started that crucial 3rd-and-goal in the shotgun, with Dalvin Cook on his left. Then, he sent Cook in motion, walked up to the line of scrimmage with a now-empty backfield and took it to the house himself.

When asked about that play in his postgame press conference, Kirk said he had a few different options at his disposal.

“Yeah, [on the sneak play], there were a few options there. There were a few options, so we were able to get that one in.” Kirk Cousins (postgame)

Different Kirk

The trust Kirk Cousins now has from the Minnesota Vikings coaching staff has empowered him. He’s barking orders at his teammates and seems like a different guy at the press conference podium. And he’s clutch Kirk now.

The transition hasn’t been completely smooth, under O’Connell, and many of Kirk’s efficiency statistics (completion %, QB Rating, QBR, etc) have dropped off because of it. But Cousins, unlike what we’ve seen throughout his NFL career, has shown up when the Vikings have needed him most.

We’re only 5 weeks into the season and Kirk has already led three game-winning drives to close games vs the Lions, Saints and this week vs the Bears. And because of that, the Minnesota Vikings are 4-1 and on top of the NFC North.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan