First of all, let me begin by saying how much pain I am in as I write. This article isn’t about my Kirk Cousins fandom, but as a brief summary for those who don’t know me, I’ve been Kirk Cousins’ biggest fan since he entered the league.
I’m not a Spartans, Redskins, or Vikings fan, I’m a Kirk Cousins fan because I love the way he played and acted as a leader dating back to his college days at Michigan State. I have defended every single Cousins interception, fumble, and loss throughout his career, and he let me, and a whole lot of people, down again yesterday vs Chicago with a trip to the Postseason on the line. So here is the unbiased truth on Kirk Cousins from someone who has watched almost every snap of his career and rooted for his success.
Before I get into the narrative everyone wants to hear about how Cousins is a loser because of his 5-26 record against winning teams and 5-14 record in nationally televised games, let me say, Kirk Cousins is a damn good quarterback. He is the only quarterback with an active streak of four years with 25+ touchdowns and 4000+ yards. Now I know those passing milestones don’t mean what they used to because of how the league’s rules favor the passing game, but it is still impressive given the number of bad quarterbacks we’ve seen grace, or disgrace, the field since 2015. Having a quarterback who you can pencil in for 16 games and be top 10 in every major category is a luxury most NFL teams would love to have. I know this isn’t the time to be defending Kirk Cousins, and I’m not, but I wanted to be fair and acknowledge that he is a very good quarterback and at least a top 10-12 guy at the position.
Now onto the tough part: Kirk Cousins games have become so predictable that it’s funny, while also winning me some good money. He will beat up against bad teams, other than the confounding loss in Week 3 vs Buffalo, but he will almost always lose to the good teams. The usual Kirk Cousins game against an opponent over .500 goes like this: the game is fairly close for the first half with Kirk’s team usually down one score, it will stay competitive, the other team will score making it a two-possession at some point in the fourth quarter, Cousins will pile up some stats and eventually fall short. This has happened almost without fail for four years. In the NFL, quarterbacks often get too much of the credit when they win, but too much of the blame when they lose.
In his time in Washington, I could go on and on about dropped passes by Josh Doctson vs Kansas City, and the defense allowing Drew Brees to score two touchdowns in four minutes. In Minnesota, I can point to how Dan Carlson missed two field goals in overtime in Lambeau, or how the defense allowed four passing touchdowns from 19 yards or more. All of these points are valid, and in a vacuum, would let Cousins off the hook considering how well he played in those games, but when it keeps happening, it can’t be his teammates’ fault every time. There comes a point where the quarterback has to pick up the slack and lead his team to victory through adversity.
The pressure is getting to Cousins, literally and figuratively. He signed a fully guaranteed contract worth $84 million which instantly put the spotlight on him. In the literal sense of pressure, Cousins was one of the most hurried quarterbacks in the league, being protected by one of the league’s worst offensive lines. Minnesota also had the 30th ranked rushing offense which did little alleviate the burden on the quarterback. However, Cousins situation is far from “woe is me” as he had arguably the best wide receiver duo in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen who each eclipsed 1000 yards receiving.
A part of the Vikings Week 17 disaster that will likely be overlooked is Cousins postgame press conference where he almost nonchalantly shook off the soul-crushing loss. When addressing a question as to whether the Vikings had the talent to be better than they were, Cousins replied by saying, “I think that question’s hard to answer. You know, 32 teams set out, in April, to win the Super Bowl, only one does, 31 teams go home unhappy.” Not only do the words Cousins says come off as if he doesn’t care, but his body language also appears as if he expected to not win and he’s okay with it. That is unacceptable and probably what hurts me most as a Cousins defender. I wish he came out and took full responsibility the way Juju Smith-Schuster did when he fumbled against New Orleans. Cousins knows the pressure he’s under and just deflecting questions about his failure makes him look like he doesn’t care enough about winning football games.
The truth is Kirk Cousins has choked time and time again in key situations. While he has certainly been let down by teammates on some occasions, the same can be said for every signal caller in the league. Other than Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, all great quarterbacks from Drew Brees to Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers have missed the Playoffs and came up short in big games, but Cousins needs to win first to get the benefit of the doubt when he comes up short. He simply has not. He took over a team that was in the NFC Championship Game a year ago and missed the Playoffs. That is simply unacceptable and inexcusable.
I will continue to lay out fair arguments as to how Cousins is still a very good quarterback and not solely responsible for his team’s shortcomings, but I will not be blind to the fact that Cousins has yet to demonstrate the ability to win a game of significance. Kirk Cousins will be in the NFL for a long time, and he will continue to pile up stats and Pro Bowl appearance. However, his ability to win big games will determine his legacy, and right now, he is coming up short.