This year is the most important year of Kirk Cousins’ Vikings tenure
This year is the most important year of Kirk Cousins’ Vikings tenure.
When we look at the QB landscape in the NFL, one of more popular talking points is how the NFC is incredibly weak at the QB position and the AFC is loaded top to bottom. The NFC looks weaker than it’s looked in years, and the Vikings path to the Super Bowl for the first time doesn’t feel like it’ll be impeded by QB play. Sure, Jalen Hurts and Dak Prescott are probably still better than Cousins, but the third-best QB in a conference is absolutely good enough to get to the Super Bowl or at the very least, make a deep playoff run. To understand why this year is so important, we have to analyze the QB position of the major Super Bowl contenders from the NFC versus the situation for the Vikings.
Right now, if you look at the NFC the teams with better odds than the Vikings are the Eagles, the 49ers, the Cowboys, and the Lions. The Eagles are the only team on this list with a QB that is by consensus absolutely ahead of Cousins and is a potential top 5 QB in the NFL. Jalen Hurts is an excellent QB, but compared to the top-end QBs of the AFC he’s still flawed. Hurts spent the tail end of last season injured, and his resume is really only backed by one excellent season. If at the end of the year, Hurts had some regression, or he was injured, would anyone be surprised? Make no mistake, Hurts deserves to be the clubhouse favorite to finish the year as the best NFC QB, but he shouldn’t be seen as an unscalable mountain for the likes of Cousins.
Then we take a look at the 49ers, a team who’s options are Brock Purdy off of major elbow surgery or Sam Darnold. The 49ers QB situation is probably the shakiest on the entire list because no one truly knows how Purdy will look. He was excellent in a limited sample size last year, but that was before his elbow injury and before teams had sufficient tape on him. Now that teams have seen his strengths and flaws and now that his elbow is perhaps not where it was last year, will his performance be the same? I think it’s safe to say it’s unlikely, and if a regression occurs where exactly would that leave the 49ers in a QB-centric league?
Then there are the Cowboys, the first and only team on this list to have a truly stable quarterback situation but there are still plenty of questions that don’t exist for Cousins and the Vikings. The play-calling situation in Dallas has changed versus last year, and for the first time in Prescott’s career it is outright expected that they make the NFC Championship this year. Prescott is also coming off potentially his worst year in the NFL, a year where he threw 15 interceptions while missing several games. Prescott at his best is probably better than Cousins, but I think if I had to choose I’d rather have the stability of Cousins over the questions presented by Prescott coming into this year.
Then finally there are the Lions, probably the member of this list that surprised me the most but still another team with an inconsistent commodity at quarterback. Make no mistake, if Jared Goff plays as well or better than he did last year a lot of people are going to be including him in discussions about top ten quarterbacks, but how likely is that to happen? Goff hasn’t strung together two strong seasons in his professional career, and the Lions are primed with expectations that feel very difficult to meet for a team that hasn’t carried that weight in years. Maybe Goff is as good as he was last year, maybe he’s even better! But the most likely scenario feels like regression.
In a league where the quarterback decides how far your team will go, the Vikings have two great strengths. Their quarterback situation is as stable as any in the league, and Cousins is a largely consistent Quarterback whose worst season (last season) was a more than passable 92.5 passer rating on a team that coasted into the playoffs on a 13-4 record. Cousins is never going to be mistaken for a top 5 quarterback, but he has had seasons where he’s been in the top ten and if he could get back to that point in a conference where the QB rooms have never been weaker? The Vikings could create a lot of noise off the back of the stability they’ve created at that position over the last 5 years. This is the Vikings’ best shot of the Cousins era, the NFC won’t stay underwhelming forever, and now it’s on Kirk to show why the Vikings have had so much faith in him.
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