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Vikings Off-Season Evaluation: QBs

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NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Kirk Cousins was the talk of the off-season last year for the Vikings, and the 3-year, $84 million guaranteed, no trade clause deal means he will be the Vikings QB the next two seasons unless he agrees to be traded.

Kirk Cousins - WYSWYG

Looking back at Cousins’ first season as a Viking, it was a continuation of what he did while in Washington. He put up good passing stats, but was inconsistent, produced too many turnovers and sacks, came up short in big games, and continued a horrible record against teams with winning records - now 4-25. A near .500 record is also consistent with his tenure with the Redskins.

Early on Cousins talked about leadership and was made a team captain - fairly standard for a QB - but one gets the impression he doesn’t provide the leadership needed on offense. Players don’t want to play for him as much as you’d hope they would, and I’m not sure how good his chemistry is with the rest of the team. These question marks were also with him in Washington.

Bottomline, the Kirk Cousins seen in Washington is the same Kirk Cousins in Minnesota. What you see is what you get. The problem with that is that the Vikings organization was hoping for more from Cousins once he got to Minnesota - and paid him accordingly. But so far Cousins has fallen short of those heightened expectations.

The hope was that with a better supporting cast - better receivers, running game, defense, coaching, franchise - Cousins would improve his performance in Minnesota. But for the most part that hasn’t happened. At least not this season.

What To Do With Cousins Going Forward

Cousins’ performance this season was far from a disaster - we’re not talking Blake Bortles here. But he failed to be the necessary upgrade to get the Vikings to Valhalla - aka winning the Super Bowl. What this means for now is simply that the Vikings overpaid for Cousins’ services. It’s not the end of the world - the Vikings and every NFL team overpays on occasion. Everson Griffen was overpaid this year, based on performance. So was Mike Remmers, Andrew Sendejo, and perhaps Xavier Rhodes. But they underpay players too. Adam Thielen, Holton Hill, Anthony Harris, and MacKensie Alexander were underpaid.

Cousins is not a bust. But his performance needs to be taken at face value. WYSWYG. He’s probably not going to carry the team with his big play ability - although he’ll make some nice throws. He’s probably not going to dazzle much with great plays with his feet. He’s probably not going to be the best leader on offense. And he’s probably not going to be a QB near the top of the league in fewest turnovers.

But Cousins will probably be one of the more accurate passers in the league. He’ll probably continue to generate good passing stats. And he’ll probably continue to not make too many bad decisions. And he’ll probably continue to be in or near the top 10 QBs in overall performance. But he will remain more of a game manager than dynamic play-maker.

And the Vikings offense should be built around this type of quarterback. Not for this type of quarterback, but around this type of quarterback. By that I mean the play-making expectations and leadership should be taken off of Cousins, and placed elsewhere on offense. There are several candidates at the skill positions, and it would be even better if a bona fide team leader was acquired along the offensive line.

Cousins should be expected to deliver the ball accurately, make good decisions, and make the necessary calls at the line of scrimmage and do this well. He needs to continue to develop the chemistry with his receivers, and work with the coaching staff to optimize play calling. But he should not have the expectations that he is going to carry the team or make big plays in key situations out of a broken play. That’s not who Kirk Cousins is as a quarterback. He’s a good, not great, quarterback at this stage - and that shouldn’t be expected to change in the next two seasons.

If he does improve to be a great QB and playmaker who can deliver wins a la Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers, so much the better. But that should not be in the game plan or expectations going forward. In fact it would be better for the coaching staff to downplay his role in the offense- maybe even take the C off his jersey next season and/or have other players do the press conferences - which could serve as motivation and to take the pressure of delivering a Super Bowl off of him to some degree.

The Vikings can win a Super Bowl with a good, not great quarterback. But they won’t win a Super Bowl if they expect Kirk Cousins to deliver it for them. That’s not who he is, even if he seems to be paid that way. Matthew Stafford is, too.

Of course the Vikings have the option to trade Cousins without much of a dead cap hit, if he agreed to it, and a team like Jacksonville might consider it, but then who would replace Cousins? And how much better could he be? It’s a long shot to begin with, and could just prove to be a setback getting another QB established in the Vikings system.

Trevor Siemian

Fortunately the Vikings didn’t have to find out what they had as a backup quarterback in Trevor Siemian. He looked awful in preseason but somehow was given the backup job over Kyle Sloter, who looked much better.

Be that as it may, Siemian was on a one-year, $1.9m gig riding the bench. The Vikings should leave it at that and move on. Another off-season backup QB carousel should land the Vikings a better backup, but hopefully they will feel Kyle Sloter is ready to move up a spot.

Kyle Sloter

Kyle Sloter, at a minimum, has shown in two preseasons that he is a competitor who will give his all to get the win. He’s got all the measurables and passes the eyeball test, too. He needs more game experience to develop, but he should be groomed as a potential Cousins replacement down the road if Cousins value on the field doesn’t match his price tag when his contract is up in two seasons.

Whatever his shortcomings, that competitive spirit in the huddle can inspire an offense when the starting QB goes down. Case Keenum had that as a backup called into duty, and that helped bolster confidence and momentum when it was needed most.

It's more valuable to have a promising talent as a backup than a veteran has-been or never-was collecting an oversized paycheck riding the bench, and just going through the motions when called up. We know the Matt Cassel’s of the world, and whatever comfort they give a coaching staff, it’s overrated.

Time to promote Sloter to backup from third-string, and give him the extra reps that go along with that in the off/pre-season. If you’re gonna keep him to develop his potential, do it. Keeping him at third-string isn’t doing it.

Bottom Line

Kirk Cousins is likely here to stay for the next two seasons, so the Vikings need to find a way to maximize his strengths and mitigate his weaknesses. That may require a bit of a fresh approach.

Beyond that, I’m ready for the Vikings to have only two QBs on the roster, with the thought that if you’re on your third QB, the season isn’t likely to be going too well and you can get whoever you need to play out the season off the street. In the meantime, you’ve got an extra roster spot, and another player you can develop into something more valuable rather than switching out third string QBs every couple years.

Poll

Should the Vikings look to Kirk Cousins for more leadership next season?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    Yes- he's the $84 million franchise QB and he should lead the team
    (988 votes)
  • 55%
    No - he’s not there yet as a leader so why force him to do something he’s not good at ?
    (1245 votes)
2233 votes total Vote Now