The Minnesota Vikings are entering Thursday’s game off a 40-3 beatdown at the hands of the Cowboys on their home field. But that doesn’t curb their surprisingly impressive season under first-year coach Kevin O’Connell. In Kirk Cousins’ fifth season with the Vikings — this one playing under a prove-it deal — they’re 8-2 thus far and running away with the NFC North.
In his time with the Vikings, Cousins has become an enigma of sorts. His numbers have remained solid throughout his career, but his propensity to disappear in big games — especially primetime games, has led to people wondering about the Vikings repeatedly re-upping Cousins’ contract.
The most recent example was a one-year $35 million contract Cousins signed last offseason to keep him through the 2023 season, although monetarily that puts him in the reasonable company of Dak Prescott and Jared Goff. Cousins has just one career playoff win, a 2020 win over the Saints that finished 26-20 with a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph in the end zone.
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The Vikings really want to figure out if they can win a Super Bowl with Cousins at the helm, and O’Connell just might be the best coach to help them figure that out. They’re second in the NFC behind the Eagles at 8-2 and they’re standing above a fray below them. If they finish this season strong and manage to play two straight home games or, even better, put the road to Arizona through U.S. Bank Stadium, we might finally know once and for all if Cousins can lead the Vikings where they want to go.
This raises the question: How good has Cousins been, surface level? He may not have a Super Bowl win, but is he what one would consider outside of that? Here’s a look at Cousins’ career in a snapshot.
Has Kirk Cousins won a Super Bowl?
It should be easy to gather at this point that, no, Cousins does not have a Super Bowl win, as a starter or otherwise.
Washington made the playoffs twice while Cousins was on the team, once after he’d been named the starter, but it didn’t win a playoff game. The Vikings, meanwhile, have just one playoff appearance with Cousins at the helm. They won the first game of that traipse into the postseason but were beaten by the 49ers in the Divisional Round.
Cousins doesn’t have a Super Bowl appearance, let alone a Super Bowl win, but there is a rub when it comes to blaming Cousins. He’s had five offensive coordinators in five years, most recently Wes Phillips. He started with John DeFilippo in 2018, then he had Kevin Stefanski for the playoff year in 2019. After Stefanski was poached for the Browns, it was Gary Kubiak in 2020 and Klint Kubiak in 2021, which brings us to Phillips in 2022.
Whether or not he’s the answer remains to be seen, but O’Connell and Phillips have seemed determined to slow the game down for the Vikings. While that doesn’t always work, it certainly does for a team that has Justin Jefferson running routes.
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What is Kirk Cousins’ playoff record?
As a starter in the postseason, Cousins is 1-2 in the playoffs. He entered a game against the Seahawks in 2012 after the famously brutal injury to Robert Griffin III that would contribute to the end of his NFL career, going 3 of 10 in that game. In his first playoff start, Cousins completed 29 of 46 passes for 329 yards and a touchdown, but Washington lost to the Packers 35-18.
With the Vikings, it looked like playoff Cousins was ready to emerge. He completed 19 of 31 passes for 242 yards and a touchdown in a deadly efficient game in the win over the Saints, including orchestrating the game-winning drive in overtime that kept the Saints offense from ever taking the field. But against the 49ers, he turned into a pumpkin. Although he completed 21 of 29 passes, they went for just 172 yards and he finished with a touchdown and an interception as the Vikings were held to 10 points.
The fact the Vikings have repeatedly missed the postseason is also a source of consternation given the rosters they’ve had. In three of the past four seasons, they’ve had either seven or eight wins, keeping them in football purgatory.
It seems unlikely they’ll miss this year barring a collapse of epic proportions. If that does somehow come to pass, the conversations entering the offseason will be very different and very loud in Minnesota.
What is Kirk Cousins’ regular season record?
For his career, Cousins has been an above-.500 quarterback. He is 67-61-2 as a starter with both Washington and the Vikings.
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With just the Vikings, however, Cousins is more impressive. He’s 41-31-1, helped along by the 2019 playoff season in which he went 10-5 as a starter.
Cousins has a 66.6 percent completion percentage and 35,054 yards. He’s also fourth in Vikings history behind Fran Tarkenton, Tommy Kramer, and Daunte Culpepper with 16,664 yards in Minnesota.
With all of that in mind, it’s easy to see why the Vikings want to keep him around. But every year they’ve missed the playoffs, the pressure has continued to mount. This year, the expectations have shifted. The Vikings want to contend for a Super Bowl. With the way they’ve played, that doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. But as we’ve seen time and time again in January, teams go where their quarterbacks go.
Will he shrink away when the lights are brightest? Or will Cousins step up down the stretch this season? Only time will tell. But the expectations are high. And Cousins doesn’t have a lot of time to live up to them.