The Vikings nearly got to the Super Bowl without Kirk Cousins. With him, they failed to make it to the playoffs.
But the organization still believes in its franchise quarterback, who is under contract to the franchise for two more years.
“I’ve never seen a guy work at it as hard as he does,” G.M. Rick Spielman said at his pre-draft press conference on Tuesday, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “He was the first one in the building [for offseason workouts]. “He is nonstop all afternoon into that film room. . . . There is no one as professional as Kirk Cousins is in the way he approaches this job.”
That’s great, but in a results-driven business, the results simply weren’t there. And while the inability of the offensive line to give him time to throw and the failure of former offensive coordinator John DeFillippo to complement Cousins’ passing skills with a running game can be blamed for the team’s struggles when it comes to scoring points, Cousins and his $84 million contract make him the obvious and easy target for criticism.
This year, the Vikings believe that their offense will perform more efficiently. Regardless, the challenge will fall to Cousins to make big plays in key moments, especially when performing under bright lights. The Vikings will appear in prime time on five occasions in 2019 (unless they’re flexed out of a Week 16 Sunday night game at the Chargers), and if the Vikings will have a chance to appear in significant games come January, they’ll need to win more of their significant games from September through December.
If they don’t, 2020 could end up being a lame-duck season for a quarterback who supersized contract comes with outsized expectations.
So while it’s good that he’s working hard now, that hard work needs to translate to enough victories to deliver a postseason berth, or the verdict will be that he’s guilty of not living up to the high bar that comes with a $28 million per year deal.