Kirk Cousins: I Won't Finish Season as Vikings' Starting QB If INTs Continue

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistOctober 18, 2020

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) looks on in the first quarter during an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/David Berding)
David Berding/Associated Press

Kirk Cousins held himself accountable after the Minnesota Vikings' 40-23 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

The Vikings trailed 20-0 at halftime, with Cousins already having thrown three interceptions.

"It was not good enough, especially in the first half," he told reporters. "I'll take the responsibility for it."

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Kirk Cousins is the first player with 0 Pass TD & 3 interceptions in a half this season. Entering today, the Falcons had allowed the highest Total QBR (81.8) in the NFL, 15 Pass TD to just 2 Int, and had not held an opponent scoreless in the first half. The Falcons lead 20-0. https://t.co/0kdTJlmaPQ

Cousins, who now has 10 interceptions through six games, went on to imply he could be benched if he fails to turn things around:

"The reality is if the pace I'm on in terms of the interceptions, if that were to continue, I won't finish the season. I won't—you know what I mean? There's a little bit of, you got to improve. Whether it's them telling me, 'Hey, we gotta improve,' or them pulling me; we got to get better. That's what the rest of the season will be about for me, is trying to protect the football as best I can. Because when you turn the ball over, it really hurts your chances to win. I know that. I just need to improve as we look ahead to the rest of the season."

Cousins' final numbers (343 yards, three touchdowns, three interceptions) weren't terrible, but the three turnovers helped put the Vikings into a big hole early in the game. Atlanta turned those picks into 17 points.

Rolling up a ton of yards on one of the NFL's worst defenses in garbage time doesn't necessarily say much about Cousins, either. The Vikings scored 16 points after Atlanta built a 30-7 lead through three quarters.

This defeat dropped Minnesota to 1-5—not where the team wants to be after winning 10 games and reaching the divisional round in 2019.

Cousins unquestionably deserves some share of blame for the current state of the Vikings, and this is a microcosm of a larger issue for the franchise since it signed him to a guaranteed three-year, $84 million contract in 2018. The 32-year-old is paid like an elite quarterback (his current average salary ranks seventh among QBs) but doesn't appear to be raising the team's ceiling that much higher.

Proven starting quarterbacks generally don't hit the open market, which allowed Cousins to cash in two years ago. With that deal winding down, he leveraged the Vikings' 2019 success into a two-year, $66 million extension.

That contract seemingly makes it impossible for Minnesota to make a quarterback change this year or next.

Going to backup Sean Mannion wouldn't make things any better, and releasing Cousins this offseason would mean eating a significant amount of money whether he was designated as a pre- or post-June 1 cut.

Cousins has never thrown more than 13 interceptions in a season, so this current pace is an outlier for the 2019 Pro Bowler. Even if he gets back to his usual self, it might be too late to make a difference.