Only Kirk Cousins Could Be an $84M Bust and an MVP Dark Horse at the Same Time

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterDecember 5, 2019

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 02:  Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 02, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Abbie Parr/Getty Images

It's not easy being two people at the same time.

Take Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. There's the player the NFL sees...

"He is far better than people in the media give him credit for," an NFC East scout, said.

"He's a top quarterback," added an NFC East front office executive. "One of the best. Look at his numbers."

"...A top-five quarterback" in terms of physical talent, an AFC Central scout said.

"There are 20 teams that would want Cousins," an AFC South scout claimed.

Then there is the Cousins many fans and others see...

Erratic, coming up small in big games and incapable of putting a team on his shoulders the way the greats in the league, such as Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson and Tom Brady, often do.

After the Vikings lost to Seattle on ESPN's Monday Night Football this week, the network tweeted out a remarkable statistic and interesting piece of snark:

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

Kirk Cousins is now 0-8 on MNF. The worst record in NFL history. https://t.co/m9A5trVGXu

The message from ESPN was an example of how many people in the media and the viewing public see Cousins versus how hardcore football people in the NFL perceive him.

This is the Cousins paradox. We see what we see with him, but many in the game see something else.

Just look at Monday night. Cousins has had plenty of bad moments, but his game against the Seahawks was not one of them. He threw for 276 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Solid numbers, and not the reason Minnesota lost. For that, you'd have to point a finger at a defense that gave up 444 yards total and 218 on the ground.

Cousins doesn't play linebacker.

But the loss, and the ESPN tweet, gave rise to a question that keeps popping up regarding the Vikings quarterback: What exactly are we to make of Cousins?

While his $84 million fully guaranteed salary makes him a target (and it should), it's also true that Cousins is held to a higher standard than a lot of QBs, and league sources who back Cousins say it's an impossible one.

His supporters say Cousins has been ill-served by erratic play-calling and an injured receiving corps (Adam Thielen has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury), and he doesn't have the coaching genius that players such as Drew Brees or Brady can draw upon.

Cousins also plays a position that has become a walking inkblot test in the NFL. To people in the league, the role of quarterback is immensely complicated, and there are numerous variables in evaluating it.

To fans, and even to media, the judgments are much more primal, simplistic. Jackson: great. Brady: great. Wilson: great. Mitchell Trubisky: bad. Baker Mayfield: overrated. Jared Goff: yuck.

Media and fans also tend to mostly see bottom lines, and not only is Cousins failing to make Super Bowls, he's also only made the postseason twice (in 2012 and 2015) since he entered the NFL almost eight years ago.

It's a track record that is held over his head like a guillotine blade. It's fair...to a point.

But this year Cousins has played well. He's completed 69.3 percent of his passes, thrown for 23 touchdowns, tossed only four interceptions and has a 111.9 quarterback rating.

Kirk Cousins has an 8-4 record as the Vikings starter this season and has recorded a career-low 1.1 interception percentage.
Kirk Cousins has an 8-4 record as the Vikings starter this season and has recorded a career-low 1.1 interception percentage.John Froschauer/Associated Press

Yet the loss to the Seahawks, despite his reputable showing in the game, dredged up all the usual critiques, culminating in the notion that it was Cousins who lost another big contest.

There is one thing, however, that's not in doubt. If Cousins wants to shut people up, playing well in Minnesota's final four games might do it, particularly since three of them are at home against NFC North rivals Detroit, Green Bay and Chicago.

If he can beat them, including the king of the division in Aaron Rodgers, the entire Cousins story might change for a while.

If not, we all know how that Cousins story will end.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.