Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman didn’t call quarterback Kirk Cousins before using a third-round pick on quarterback Kellen Mond, making him a great answer to a Vikings trivia question. Spielman did call Cousins the next day.
“I spoke to him Saturday morning and talked to his agent and just let him know that we want to make sure we have competition behind him, that there’s no doubt that Kirk’s our quarterback going forward, and that we want to create competition to see who’s going to be the backup,” Spielman recently told PFT PM. “Kirk was great. He understands. He knows he’s our guy, his agent knows he’s our guy. Right now, we’re just focusing on getting ready for this season coming up.”
For the season coming up, Mond’s role will be to compete to win the backup job.
“We wanted to create competition with all our young quarterbacks, with Nate Stanley, with Jake Browning, and now with Kellen Mond,” Spielman said. “To have those guys come in and compete and just see where it takes us.”
Barring injury (and Cousins rarely if ever has one), “where it takes us” won’t take Mond to the field in 2021, and probably not in 2022. Come 2023, Cousins could be gone, since his contract expires in March of that year and the Vikings won’t be able, as a practical matter, to keep him off the market. Spielman was asked whether the decision to take a quarterback was influenced by the reality that Cousins has significant leverage over the Vikings when it comes to trying to keep him around in 2023.
“You’re always kind of looking at your roster and where it may be two or three years down the road, but that’s hard to predict as much as you roster plan,” Spielman said. “Every rookie that we draft, we’re hoping that regardless of position that they’re going to be here, whatever role they end up carving out, they end up helping the Minnesota Vikings whether it be in the backup role, starter role, special teams role. We’re just trying to put the best 53 players together and trying to bring in young competition every year to compete with the guys that are currently on our roster. You’re always looking down the road, but you don’t know that until you get everything in the building and start working with these guys and let’s just see where we’re at down the road.”
Given the rumors and reports that the Vikings may have taken quarterback Justin Fields if he’d slipped through to No. 14, the ability to land Mond two rounds later arguably puts the Vikings in a better position, allowing Mond to develop quietly without the endless questions that would have arisen if the Vikings had Cousins as the starter and Fields as the presumptive successor, given that he would have been acquired in the top half of the first round.
“We spent a lot of time on the quarterbacks this year,” Spielman said. “The one thing that Kellen, it really stuck out to us on his progression from his rookie year to what he did his second year then this year I know seeing him performing that Florida game off the tape and how he won a close game. Then he goes down and wins a bowl game against North Carolina, who had a lot of great players on that roster who got drafted this past weekend. Then you go down to the Senior Bowl and it’s the first chance we get to see him live and see how he kept ascending through this process. How well he played at the Senior Bowl, we sent our coaches down to his Pro Day. Andrew Janocko, our quarterback coach, really liked his workout.
“In fact, I spent Thursday night and Friday watching our Zoom call again with our coaches and going through getting to know the kid because a lot of times this year for me personally, I didn’t get to talk to a lot of these kids because the month of March, I was traveling so much trying to get to as many Pro Days. But our coaches and our scouts and working together I think we did over 200 Zoom calls this year and we recorded them all so I can go back when I got off the road or this time when I had time in the evening to sit there and listen to these Zoom calls to get to know these kids, because I’ve never had an interaction with them except when I was down at the Senior Bowl. His interview was very impressive and our coaches think there are things that he needs to get corrected but they’re all correctable with coaching. He has some really natural athletic skills. He can throw on the run. He’s a great scheme fit here for what we’re trying to do.”
Throwing on the run is the key. The Vikings had that in 2017 with Case Keenum, who was able to buy time laterally while receivers sprung open — and it nearly popped the men in purple to the Super Bowl. They don’t have that with Cousins, who lacks the mobility to improvise when the play that’s called falls apart.
The Vikings, as we’d heard it back in 2018, preferred Cousins to Keenum because they wanted Keenum to resist the temptation to leave the pocket, under the belief that, if he’d stayed just a bit longer, bigger plays were there to be had than when he escaped. With Mond, the challenge for Janocko and offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak will be to get him to strike the right balance between exercising patience in the pocket and using his legs to buy time when the pocket collapses.