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Mike Zimmer 'Didn't Like' Kirk Cousins, Former Vikings LB Ben Leber Says

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJuly 17, 2022

Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Mike Zimmer and Kirk Cousins may not have been on the same page when the former was coaching the Minnesota Vikings.

Former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber said Friday on The Zach Gelb Show that Cousins could excel under a new head coach and referenced the difficult relationship between Cousins and Zimmer.

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Ben Leber believes Kirk Cousins can win a Super Bowl and says <a href="https://twitter.com/KirkCousins8?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KirkCousins8</a> will benefit from actually having a coach that likes him this season.<br><br>Full <a href="https://twitter.com/ZachGelb?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ZachGelb</a> Show chat with <a href="https://twitter.com/nacholeber?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nacholeber</a> here: <a href="https://t.co/CV0a4ZpVMp">https://t.co/CV0a4ZpVMp</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Skol?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Skol</a> <a href="https://t.co/2MMNbneB6V">pic.twitter.com/2MMNbneB6V</a>

"I think he's gonna finally thrive—really thrive—in a system and a coach that actually respects him," Leber said. "It's not like I'm breaking news here that Mike Zimmer did not like Kirk Cousins. I think that showed in the way that Kirk behaved and the way that he carried himself."

Leber's comments echo reporting from The Athletic's Chad Graff in February. According to Graff, Zimmer "complained openly in coaching meetings about Cousins" and "didn’t feel the quarterback made enough 'winning plays.'"

Zimmer's sentiments are shared among plenty of Vikings fans.

Cousins is coming off his third Pro Bowl appearance after throwing for 4,221 yards, 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions. But his limitations were clear in a divisional-round defeat in 2020, when he finished 21-of-29 for 172 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

To this point in his career, the 33-year-old has epitomized perfectly fine. He has an overall record of 59-59-2 and a quarterback rating of 98.6.

The problem for the Vikings is that winning a Super Bowl is much more difficult when you have a pretty good quarterback rather than an elite one. It's not a total coincidence Minnesota has only one playoff appearance since Cousins signed in 2018.

Perhaps more of the blame should fall on the shoulders of Zimmer, who certainly shared plenty of culpability for the team failing to meet expectations year after year. At the very least, he wasn't setting his quarterback up for success when his disdain for Cousins was so widely known.

The hiring of Kevin O'Connell as head coach probably won't turn Cousins into Patrick Mahomes, but it could help him make the kind of gains that in turn raise the Vikings' postseason ceiling.

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