NFL

Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins Displays Great Leadership During Tough Times

The criticism of Kirk Cousins won’t let up until he leads his team to a Super Bowl – and perhaps not even then – but the quarterback is calling the right plays to get the Minnesota Vikings ready for the 2020 season amidst uncertainty over when official workouts can start.

Kirk Cousins is better than critics claim

Kirk Cousins registered his first career playoff victory last season, driving the Minnesota Vikings 75 yards in nine plays for a 26-20 victory over the New Orleans Saints in an NFC wildcard game at the Superdome. Cousins went 4-for-5 for 63 yards on the winning drive, hitting Kyle Rudolph on a 4-yard touchdown to wrap up a 242-yard day.

The triumph in his second career playoff start put a muzzle on some of the quarterback’s critics who point to statistics like Cousins’ 0-9 record as a starter in Monday Night Football contests. Cousins also gets ripped for his enormous contract, but that qualifies as misguided criticism; the guys on the other side of the negotiating table had to offer the money before Cousins could accept it.

Cousins’ numbers have been solid in two seasons with the Vikings. He threw for 4,298 yards and 30 touchdowns when the Vikings went 8-7-1 in 2018, then tacked on 3,603 yards and 26 touchdowns to steer the Vikings into the playoffs last fall.

The 2019 season marked a shift in the Vikings’ approach on offense. With the running game being prioritized and receiver Adam Thielen missing half a dozen games, Cousins threw less often but more effectively. His 107.4 passer rating and average of 8.7 yards per attempt were career-best numbers by far.

In fact, what he’s accomplished in two seasons in Minnesota – 56 touchdown passes and just 16 interceptions – confirms that prior blame for pretty much any aspect of 26-30-1 record as a starter with the Washington Redskins requires giving Cousins the benefit of the doubt now.

Let’s get it started, Kirk Cousins says

Although the NFL has not been disrupted in the same fashion as the NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball, the league’s 32 teams are itching to get started on offseason preparations ahead of training camps’ scheduled opening in July.

But that can’t happen in the normal fashion. Work in the weight room and film study were put on hold when the NFL shut down all team facilities during the coronavirus pandemic. The league has set up a rigid protocol to follow before teams can open the doors again.

That isn’t stopping quarterback Kirk Cousins from trying to keep things running smoothly. The Minnesota Vikings’ third-year quarterback told ESPN recently that he wants to put together the pro version of captains’ practices that athletes remember from their high school days.

“I think there’s going to be a buffer … where NFL facilities are not going to be open, but society will be open,” Cousins said, “so we need to take advantage of that time and try to get together the best we can at a high school field and have a minicamp, if you will, that’s player-led and try to figure out what that could look like.”

One reason the quarterback wants to get started

The Minnesota Vikings offense is going to have to break in a key new member at the skill positions. The team traded star receiver Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills before the recent draft but selected receiver Justin Jefferson out of LSU in the first round.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins is understandably eager to begin integrating Jefferson into the offense’s scheme. The feeling apparently is mutual.

“I want to be the best receiver to ever play the game,” Jefferson told The Pioneer Press in St. Paul. “That’s just something I’ve been looking forward to my whole life.”

Jefferson, who led FBS receivers with 111 catches last season, is eager to work alongside fellow receiver Adam Thielen and the rest of the offense.

“I want to be one of the main guys from Minnesota, and I want to do whatever it takes to get us to a Super Bowl,” he said. “If it has to do with starting or if it has to be playing on special teams, it’s doing whatever to help my team win.”