I’m a bandwagon Kirk Cousins fan but loyalty to this Minnesota Vikings quarterback won’t matter by the time you finish reading/watching this blog. Kirk’s time in Minnesota has been a boring roller coaster ride and the wild drops seem to be way lower and more surprising than any of the higher and much more exciting loops that keep people coming back.Against the Atlanta Falcons, however, the Kirk Cousins Coaster hit rock bottom.
During the game, it’s often difficult to tell how open receivers are down the field. Because of that, it’s difficult to know how much blame you can place on a quarterback when you can’t see if anyone is open. But the NFL Game Pass “Coaches Film” ($$$) recently released and… Sunday was so much worse than I thought it could have been.
I went through each of Kirk Cousins’ snaps vs the Atlanta Falcons and pulled the most egregious misses on the day. When I say “misses”, I’m not talking about missed throws. I’m talking about guys he never saw, that were (mostly) wide open.
Let’s start with INT #1
This first interception is just weird, even for Kirk Cousins. His INTs aren’t usually because of bad timing. Normally, he’s pressured and hurried into making a decision (more on that momentarily). He had Jefferson right off his break in this play and if he misses that window, he should be looking elsewhere.
The Michigan State alum’s other two interceptions in the first half came because of pressure, which is something we are more used to seeing with Cousins. On these two plays, there is pressure coming and he can feel it. Because of that, he locks onto his early read and tries to fire into tight windows.
On the second pick, he’s hoping the CB drops back to cover Irv Smith’s deep comeback route. Instead, the CB breaks off and jumps Jefferson’s “sit” route. The 3rd interception is tipped but, again under pressure, Kirk never peeps at Irv Smith Jr, who is wide open. Instead, he stares down Chad Beebe before trying to squeeze into a tight window.
Here is Cousins' 2nd INT. Pressure comes from the left and he throws into it. Had Irv Smith open running comeback on that side… but chose JJ.— Minnesota Sports Fan (@realmnsportsfan) October 20, 2020
On the right, Beebe and Rudolph were both open. #Vikings pic.twitter.com/3WsPAEs1gh
Here is Kirk Cousins' 3rd INT of the 1st half. Ball is tipped at the line but why he's looking at Beebe and not a WIDE OPEN Irv Smith (on the left corner route) is beyond explanation… #Vikings pic.twitter.com/IO4pKucBSw— Minnesota Sports Fan (@realmnsportsfan) October 20, 2020
Pre-Snap Kirk Cousins
Of course, there is pressure during a lot of these attempts. With the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line woes, that’s to be expected. It doesn’t mean, however, that Kirk’s responsibility for the breakdown is nonexistent. Many times vs Atlanta, even when pressured, Cousins had enough time to cleanly throw to his first or second read.
Unfortunately, a lot of those reads were covered. So whose fault is that? Part of the blame has to go on Kirk. As a $30 million quarterback, you have to pick your pre-snap read correctly more often. You might come to the line of scrimmage with Justin Jefferson as your first read. But by them time you get up there and the offense/defense get settled, your first read might need to change.
Maybe Jefferson has more coverage shaded his way or maybe his route doesn’t line up with what you see from the defense, so your 1st, 2nd, and/or 3rd progressions may need to change accordingly. I’m not going to lie and tell you that I’ve watched the “all-22” of every Kirk Cousins drop-back since arriving in Minnesota… but on Sunday, he was NEVER looking in the right direction after snapping the ball and receiving quick pressure.
3rd & 5 (3rd qtr): Cousins hits JJ for a 1st down but had Thielen and Beebe running parallel deep routes for easiest TD's in history.— Minnesota Sports Fan (@realmnsportsfan) October 20, 2020
Very next play, Kirk throws it away but has Irv Smith Jr WIDE OPEN coming behind rollout… #Vikings pic.twitter.com/mT1j6Hx0KF
Wrong reads Kirk Cousins
This version of Kirk is really hard to watch. It goes back to what we talked about during the 2nd and 3rd interceptions. When under pressure, Cousins just struggles to organize his brain and make the right decision. He seems to always be in panic mode.
This first drop-back, he throws one up in the back of the end zone (to the shortest WR on roster) instead of just hitting Justin Jefferson for a walk-in touchdown. Same thing in the second video… Kirk chooses a covered Beebe instead of a wide open Justin Jefferson, (this time) in the corner of the endzone.
Scared Kirk Cousins
There are two different types of “scared Kirk Cousins”. One is afraid of what’s about to hit him and the other is afraid to throw the ball to an open receiver. Lucky for us, both were on display vs the Falcons.
The first video below shows Kirk not throwing to two wide open receivers on the right side of the field (Thielen and Irv Smith Jr.), instead opting for a 4-yard outlet to Alexander Mattison. No pressure needed for this fear.
The Kirk Cousins who is so afraid of the impending pass rush, is on display for both of these last plays. Kirk has plenty of time, if he would just slow his brain down… but He can’t. He’s been frazzled by this point, and looks like he has ants in his pants.
Last one: Kirk "Happy Feet" Cousins is scared shitless, at this point. If he goes through one more progression, Bisi Johnson is wide open for a TD.— Minnesota Sports Fan (@realmnsportsfan) October 20, 2020
This was ruled incomplete. #Vikings pic.twitter.com/emYxtAkqt5
It’s not going to be easy to get rid of Kirk Cousins. His contract is massive and it doesn’t allow for him to be cut (in all financial reality). Nonetheless, they need to find a trade partner and move on ASAP. He just isn’t “it”… and Sunday vs the Atlanta Falcons should have been the nail in his Minnesota Vikings coffin.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan