ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin shared Cousins' comments Wednesday about what he wants to achieve in his second year with the Vikings:
"I think the next level, really, is all about winning. I'm pretty much a .500 quarterback in my career so far, and I don't think that's where you want to be, and that's not why you are brought in or people or excited about you.
"If I don't play well, if I don't have gaudy statistics but we win multiple playoff games this year, the narrative will be I went to the next level. And I may not walk off the field everyday feeling like I did, but if we win, that's the life of a quarterback is you are at the next level. If I have my best year yet in 2018 but we're 8-8, I didn't go to the next level. That's the reality of it."
Cousins was referring to a statement from Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, who said the team was looking to take the 2016 Pro Bowler "to that next level."
Minnesota signed Cousins to a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million contract last offseason in the hope he was the missing piece to lead the franchise to a title. Cousins was the best quarterback available on the free-agent market, and he joined an offense that included Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph.
While Cousins set new career highs in completion percentage (70.1) and passing touchdowns (30), the Vikings went 8-7-1 and missed the playoffs. Football Outsiders ranked him 13th in DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement) among the 34 quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts.
Cousins alone won't determine how far the Vikings go in 2019, but he'll be one of the biggest factors behind the team's success or failure relative to expectations. If he fails to take a step forward, Minnesota will likely have another disappointing season.