Kirk Cousins, despite periodic bouts of Michael Scottishness on social media, has found true self-awareness when it comes to assessing his football fortunes.
“I’m pretty much a .500 quarterback in my career so far and I don’t think that’s where you want to be and that’s not why you are brought in or people are excited about you,” Cousins admitted last month.
He’s actually just below .500 for his career, with 34 wins, 37 losses, and a pair of ties. During Cousins’ first season with the Vikings, a Week Two tie against the Packers kept him barely above .500, finishing 8-7-1. For the second time in his career, however, Cousins had a Week 17 home game against a division rival that already had clinched a playoff berth, and yet he couldn’t deliver.
Yes, quarterbacks get too much credit when things go well and too much blame when things go poorly. But when a quarterback gets two years of franchise-player salary and then a three-year, fully-guaranteed $84 million deal, the bar moves considerably higher. Cousins failed to get over it in 2018.
Will he in 2019? Reasons exist for optimism, based on the retention of offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, a recommitment to the running game fueled by the arrival of Gary Kubiak as an offensive consultant, the drafting of center Garrett Bradbury, the full health of running back Dalvin Cook, the decision to devote a second-round pick on tight Irv Smith, and the ability to retain veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph. The defense still has plenty of potency, and an improved offense will make the defense even better.
But it all comes down to Cousins. He needs to not just generate big statistics, but to make big throws in big moments to deliver big wins, especially in prime time, when the Vikings are scheduled to play five of their 16 games.
Winning at night — and against the likes of the Bears and the Packers — will go a long way toward determining whether Cousins can lift himself, and his team, above .500 and into the postseason.