The Minnesota Vikings have had really inconstant quarterback play throughout the history of their franchise dating back to their inaugural season in 1961. Frank Trenton was their first starting quarterback ever and it is safe to say he was the best quarterback the franchise has ever had up to this point. Looking back at recent history, the Vikings have constantly chose to go with quantity over quality at the position.
Case Keenum had the best year of his career in his first year with the Vikings, leading them to the NFC championship game but Kennum is not a franchise guy. Keenum thrived in Pat Shurmur’s offense but you can say Keenum was average at best when looking back at his stints with the St. Louis/L.A. Rams and Houston Texans. While Keenum may just be a late bloomer, I would side with the argument that he is a system quarterback. Sam Bradford was brought in a few years ago when they gave up too much(a first and fourth round pick) to bring him in. He had a good 2016 leading the league in completion percentage, but the team did not make the playoffs. A year later, he struggles to make it on the field and once again proves that he is not a reliable option at quarterback.
Teddy Bridgewater was taken as the last pick in the first round of the 2014 draft in hopes of being the franchise guy for Minnesota. Before tearing up his leg during a team practice in august of 2016, Bridgewater was a decent game manager. He started 13 games during his rookie season, winning 6 games and throwing for 2,919 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. In his first full year as a starter in 2015, Teddy threw for 3,231 yards, 14 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. These numbers are not that great, but he at least showed his ability to be a game manager and lead the Vikings to 11 wins and a playoff birth, thought they were eliminated by Seattle after a missed field goal by Blair Walsh as time expired. The Vikings decided to look in a different direction as they decide not to make an effort to bring Bridgewater back not knowing how he would preform coming off a nearly two year injury.
From 2011 up to the 2014 draft, the Vikings went with a quarterback room that consisted of guys such as Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman and Donovan McNabb. Matt Cassel had a few good games when he was with the Patriots, but in no means imaginable was he ever going to be a starter in the league like he was in Kansas City for a few years and the games he started with the Vikings. Ponder was a first round pick who shouldn’t of been drafted in the first round in 2010 and though he was on the 2011 Vikings team that made the playoffs, Adrian Peterson was the reason why they made it there. Josh Freeman started one game with the Vikings and he quickly fell on his face and suffered a concussion that ended his tenure as the Vikings starter. Then there was Donovan McNabb, who was past his prime and should have retired after he parted ways with the Eagles and definitely after his unforgettable tenure with the Washington Redskins.
Brett Farve has been the best Vikings quarterback in recent memory, leading the team to the NFC Championship game during the 2009 season, but he was nearing the age of 40 and a year later regressed and concussion issues forced him to retire for good. Tavaris Jackson, Dante Culpepper, Jeff George, Randall Cunningham, Brad Johnson and Warren Moon add to the list of notable Vikings starting quarterbacks and they all have one thing in common: they all did not get the job done.
Fast forward to March of 2018, and the Vikings think they’ve finally found the guy that will be the face of their franchise and the quarterback who will finally lead them to not just a Super Bowl, but a Super Bowl Championship for the first time in franchise history.
Lets quickly take a look at Kirk Cousins career statistics:
Kirk Cousins thus far has had a pretty impressive career. He has not thrown more than 13 interceptions in a season, has averaged over 4,100 yards every full season he has played and has been very durable up to this point.
This signing makes the most sense for Kirk Cousins not just because the Vikings have the best chance to win, but uniting with new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. DeFilippoo had a historic year coaching Carson Wentz and Nick Foles last season in Philly. Carson Wentz was the front runner and unanimous league MVP up until he tore his ACL week 14 against the Rams. Nick Foles came in and at first struggled as the starter, but after more playing time and being used to running the offense, Foles had a historic playoff run and finished the year as a Super Bowl Champion. The reason why this is important is because of the type of offense he runs. John DeFilippo runs a West Coast style offense that is known for quick decisions, quick passes and play action plays mixed in with that. This style fits Kirk Cousins perfectly. Cousins has been put in a position in Washington where he had to hold the ball, especially with the lack of a running game and wide receivers who, for the most part, couldn’t consistently get open. Now in Minnesota, he has a few solid options at the running back position, a star tight end in Kyle Rudolph and two very good wide receivers in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. If you think that his numbers now are impressive, imagine what his ceiling could be in Minnesota with all of those things to go with a top three defense in all of the NFL and a phenomenal coaching staff lead by head coach Mike Zimmer.
However, the big thing with Cousins is that he struggles in prime time match ups. Up to this point, Cousins is 4-9 in thirteen career regular season prime time games. Obviously, that is not something Vikings fans are happy to hear. Kirk Cousins has also only played in one playoff game during his career, losing 35-18 in the wildcard round to the Green Bay Packers. In that game, Cousins was decent, completing 29 of 46 passes, 326 passing yards and 1 touchdown. He had one turnover that was a fumble as he was sacked six times in the game. That stat line is not great if you are trying to win playoff games, though it is not entirely his fault as the defense struggled late in the game and could not pressure Aaron Rodgers at all. Is it really safe to pay a guy who has only played in one career playoff game top dollar not knowing how he would really perform under pressure in the playoffs, especially with a sub .500 prime time record?
Th other big risk with this contract is that the deal is fully guaranteed for the next three years. Kirk is set to make 84 million dollars over the duration of the deal, with the average salary coming out to 28 million dollars a season, with a 24 million dollar cap hit per season. Imagine a scenario where Cousins does not play up to expectations and actually regresses, or the absolute worse scenario where Kirk Cousins gets injured in a similar way to Teddy Bridgewater. Now, Minnesota will not only have to find a viable replacement at the position, but pay a quarterback who is not playing who counts towards one fourth of their cap situation. Add this to the Vikings having to resign players such as Stefon Diggs, Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Kyle Rudolph, Andrew Sendejo, Trae Waynes, and Adam Theilen during the duration of Kirk’s deal. The Vikings right now have the ability to make a signing like this work, but looking towards the future, Cousins has to preform at a high level and stay healthy to just make this deal look reasonable.
Another big factor that fails to be mentioned is teams usually do not win championships with a quarterback that that team did not draft. There are exceptions but those exceptions are future hall of famer’s or the legacy of that teams defense. Looking back at the past ten years, every team with the exception of the 2009 Saints and the 2015 Denver Broncos won a Super Bowl with a quarterback they had drafted. Since 1987 the only other teams to win a Super Bowl with a quarterback they did not draft where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2001 with former Viking Brad Johnson, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens with Trent Dilfer, and the 1999 St. Louis Rams with Hall of Famer Kurt Warner(though this may not count as Warner was undrafted). Kirk Cousins may ultimately be an exception to this trend, but history is not on his or the Vikings side.
This signing is clearly a high risk move, but the potential results of signing a quarterback such as Kirk Cousins is high as well. The only way this deal will look like a success is if Cousins could finally take the Vikings over the hump and lead the team to their first ever Championship. A lot of things would have to go wrong to make a deal like this a disaster but anything could happen in the NFL. High praised and quality signings have failed before and they will fail again. Lets just hope for the Minnesota Vikings and the sake of their fan base that this one swings their way and their championship window closes on a high one, rather than a sour one as they have been accustomed to in the past.