Sunday afternoon will be Kirk Cousins’ third season as starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. There’s no in-between on how people feel about the 32-year-old, who’s entering his ninth year in the NFL. Kirk’s either overrated and overpaid or he’s over-HATED.
We often hear the “captain hindsights” in the sports world, who claim a team “could’ve and should’ve done this or that,”. I’m not listening to those MMQB’s, when it comes to my favorite team or QB. The Vikings are exactly where they’re supposed to be, entering year-three of the Kirk Cousins experiment.
On March 15th 2018, the Minnesota Vikings officially agreed to fork over $84 million guaranteed over three years, and “Captain Kirk” became the league’s highest-paid player…. EVER. The football world’s reaction was all over the place. Some thought the signing solidified Minnesota’s Super Bowl aspirations, while others yammered and thought, “who and where can I hire Kirk Cousins’ agent?”
But the team’s new expectations were universally acknowledged. It became abundantly pellucid that the Vikings were officially of the “Super Bowl or bust” mindset.
In a sports society that anticipates instant success after a shiny free agent signing, a flashy draft pick or a sexy coaching hiring, “patience is a virtue” seems to fall on deaf ears. It shouldn’t
2018 Los Angeles Rams
Let’s examine the 2018 Los Angeles Rams, to prove my point. They identified a window of opportunity based on their own future salary cap constraints. Both QB Jared Goff and DL Aaron Donald were on their rookie deals, which was saving the Rams tens of millions of dollars, at the time.
LA used that money to franchise tag S Lamarcus Joyner, sign DL Ndamukong Suh on a one-year deal and then trade for WR Brandin Cooks, CB Aqib Talib and CB Marcus Peters. The Rams lost in the Super Bowl that year, went 9-7 the following year in 2019 (good for third in the NFC West). None of Joyner, Suh, Cooks, Taliq or Peters remain with the team.
Do you see it now? Franchises who go for the “quick fix” end up being stung the hardest. The Vikings didn’t go for the quick fix, they signed Cousins for three years plus an extension that keeps him in purple in 2023. Love it or hate it, winning takes time.
Winning Takes Time for Coaches Too
Ask Bill Belichick. He didn’t win his first Super Bowl until his seventh season as an NFL head coach. What about Pete Carroll? It took him eight years to win one. Andy Reid? How about 21 seasons to exercise his Super Bowl demons…
Back to Kirk now. Many have already thrown in the towel on Cousins, claiming it’s an already failed signing that Minnesota should’ve avoided. Oh really?
In year one (2018) of Cousins in purple, the Vikings fell in a deflating Week 17 loss to the Chicago Bears, at home, and failed to sneak into the playoffs. They finished with an 8-7-1 record. My expectation in year one was a playoff win, which didn’t happen. Tally one up for the Cousins haters.
Kirk Cousins: “You’re running like 40 yards downfield, which is like 35 yards farther than I can throw. Stop that.”— NOTSportsCenter (@NOTSportsCenter) December 30, 2018
Adam Thielen: “You’re making infinity dollars per year and you can’t throw it farther than that?”
Kirk Cousins: “…shut up.”
In year two, the Minnesota Vikings secured a Wild Card spot in the postseason. Cousins led them into New Orleans and delivered the throw of his career and a deafening Superdome was silenced in overtime. It was a 43-yard strike to Adam Thielen and it set up the game winning touchdown, lifting the Vikings to a 26-20 victory.
In round two, the Vikings got swallowed by the 49ers in the NFC divisional round. It was a 27-10 butt-whooping. My expectation, in year two, was an NFC title game. Yikes…. 0-2 so far.
Through two years my predictions on the Cousins’ led Vikings have fallen short, but not by much. And here’s my point, you can make the case that Minnesota is just a tad behind schedule. Winning takes time, and if you’re growing as a franchise like the Vikings have done through Cousins tenure, you’re going to put yourself in a position to kick down the door.
Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos
The best example are the Denver Broncos who had one of the most vaunted defenses back in 2011, but they were missing a quarterback. Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton just weren’t cutting it so Denver went out and signed free agent quarterback, Peyton Manning, as the final piece to their Super Bowl puzzle.
Did Denver win a Super Bowl in their first year with Manning? No. How about second? Nope. Ok the third!? That’s still a negative, ghost rider. Signing a Hall of Fame quarterback to an already stacked team didn’t produce a title until year-four.
In fact, in Denver’s Super Bowl winning season of 2015, Manning battled injuries and only started nine games. Brock Osweiler started seven. Do you now grasp what I’m preaching about? All pieces of a Super Bowl team have to fall together perfectly and rushing that process will only kill it.
I chatted with ESPN Green Bay reporter, Rob Demovsky, about Sunday’s matchup between the Vikings and Packers on ‘Wake Up Minnesota’, yesterday.
Kirk Cousins + Minnesota Vikings | Year 3
Cousins is now heading into year three. He’s not only here for this upcoming season, but is now under contract until 2023. Like it or not, Kirk’s not going anywhere, and each season with Cousins, the Vikings have tweaked, revamped and refined their approach.
My final mark of Cousins’ incumbency won’t be judged until after he finishes his tenure as the starting quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings. Don’t get it twisted, my expectation for Kirk is to pilot a Super Bowl home to Minnesota. However, fans need to embody that there’s a process on your way to the top.
Winning takes time, and good things come to those who wait. And I think we Minnesota Vikings fans might know a few things about waiting for something.
Stephen Strom | Minnesota Sports Fan