By Mike Marek
Kirk Cousins came into his fourth season in Minnesota a pariah. “He’s paid too much,” “He can’t get it done in prime time,” “He’s not a team player.” These are just a few things that were being murmured up and down the Minnesota Vikings fan base like school children gossiping on the playground. Ultimately because of this “bad” reputation, Kirk hardly ever gets his due as a top 10 quarterback in the NFL. From what I have been able to glean this all boils down to two things as to why he doesn’t get his just due. The first being that Vikings fans have a lot of baggage accumulated from years and years of suffering without finding the promised land. The second is the stigma that he is paid more than he is worth.
The “paid too much” comment is one that seems to stick with any high-priced athlete that is brought into the Minnesota sports landscape. The biggest example (and ultimately sin) of this was Minnesota native Joe Mauer. When Mauer signed his huge contract with the hometown Twins he did it out of a sense of loyalty to the club, and for the fact that he was about to become the highest paid catcher in Major League Baseball. Coming off an MVP season he capitalized on his earning potential and got the Twins to commit to a big-money deal over several seasons. At first Minnesotans seemed to embrace this contract as a good investment. As the years went on, and the championships didn’t come, Mauer realized he missed the clause in his contract saying he had to not only play his position at an elite level, but also be lord, savior, and redeemer for the whole state. Cousins has a similar issue hung over him like an axe above his head. If he doesn’t find a way to win a Super Bowl, many will see his whole career in purple as a failure. Is this fair? Likely not, but as many others would say, that’s why he gets paid the big bucks.
The baggage issue is something that is not fair to put on Kirk Cousins. He wasn’t here for the blowout loss to the Eagles, he never rode on the love boat, he assumed 41-Donut was a local bakery, and he is young enough to be Gary Anderson’s son. Has he won a Super Bowl for Minnesota? No, he hasn’t. What he has done is put up top 10 quarterback numbers each year, won a road playoff game that was very much against the odds, and he did all of this behind a bad offensive line, and defense that hasn’t been seen since the first half of the Diggs Miracle game. To help yourself track on how much of a blessing Kirk has been for the Vikings, let me just throw out some of the other signal callers that played for the Vikings since our last solid quarterback (Favre) took the field: Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford, Shaun Hill, Josh Freeman, Matt Cassel, Donavon McNabb, Joe Webb, and everyone’s favorite quarterback, Christian Ponder. If that list doesn’t make you want to take a cold shower and count your blessings with Cousins, I don’t know what will.
All I am asking is that the next time you want to criticize the signal caller, take a step back and realize that it certainly could be worse. Does he end up winning every game? Can he play defense? No, is the obvious answer to both of those questions. But does he give us a chance to win in games even when we are down? This year specifically, the answer is yes.