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Netflix Quarterback Series: A Review

Review of Cousins and the Netflix QB documentary

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I watched all eight episodes of the anticipated Netflix series “Quarterback” featuring Kirk Cousins, Patrick Mahomes, and Marcus Mariota throughout the 2022 NFL season. It was an interesting behind the scenes look into each quarterback, their personalities, and how they dealt with the all that happened to them and their team during the season. But it was Kirk Cousins who was easily the most compelling story of the three and without him the series would’ve been a flop.

Kirk the Compelling

I decided to look at some other reviews of the series to see if my take on it- Kirk being the most compelling narrative- was more my bias as a Vikings’ fan than an accurate view of the series- but it was the consensus view. For example, the Boston Globe had the following review:

“Quarterback” would have been an excellent, riveting series if the producers kept it to two or three episodes. And it would have been better off focusing on just one quarterback as he traversed an NFL season — namely, Cousins, who was the most forthright with granting behind-the-scenes access, and therefore produced the richest material for the series.”

That view wasn’t universal- CNN thought Mahomes was the MVP of the series- while USA Today and The Bleacher Nation thought Cousins was the standout and The Sporting News thought Cousins and Mariota came across well. Their review had this to say about Cousins:

“Cousins comes off as a nice guy with an edge. His competitiveness and intensity deliver, including his dedication to doing everything mentally (neurofeedback training) and physically (intense cold tub and massage therapy) to become the best QB possible. Cousins also is eloquent with natural narration and proves, like Mahomes, he has rare football intelligence to match a big arm. He brings one into the story with a relatable family life with wife Julie, including his dedicated Tuesday off-day.

Contrary to his viral “You Like That!” moment in Washington, Cousins is humble in spirit and deeply into his tenure in Minnesota. He makes it easy to get into his mind and body and makes a real connection. In the end of “Quarterback,” it’s hard not to root for the “QB next door” to fill the Lombardi Trophy void in his Murphy door-hidden memorabilia room.”

A big reason why Cousins carries the series for most reviewers is that he emerges as the most revealing and multi-dimensional personality of the three. That runs counter to the Cousins narrative of his being a boring suburban Dad personality who can also be difficult to relate to as a fan. Instead, he comes across as the most relatable and compelling of the three quarterbacks. All three quarterbacks come across as good people, but Cousins was easily the most interesting character of the three.

There are many examples. Cousins goes from sprinkles of self-deprecating humor to a shot

at his critics with a quote from Margaret Thatcher. He mixes in access to his sessions with the Vikings’ team psychologist, the ride home after the playoff loss, and details of regrets on plays in games with the high points after the wins against the Bills, Patriots, and Colts. He details the struggle to maintain his body throughout the season in which he was the most hit quarterback in the league, the analytical tools he uses to keep his focus, and the weekly grind along with his insistence on taking Tuesdays off to have a day away from football and be with his family. His detail of the ups and downs of a season and the mental and physical grind- and why he wants to keep playing- all prove to be the most compelling in a series meant to document that story of the most difficult and demanding position in professional sports.

By comparison, both Mahomes and Mariota come across as more one-dimensional.

Fans of Mahomes will undoubtedly be pleased with his uber-competitiveness and vocal cheerleader-style leadership of the team, but I don’t think I was alone in finding the Mahomes segments to be a shallow, one-dimensional portrait to the point where I wanted to skip past them. It didn’t help that the last episodes featured more of Mahomes either.

Mariota also came across as a bit one-dimensional- the nice guy who finishes last. Mariota clearly has the most laid-back personality of the three and didn’t really offer anything particularly memorable or compelling to the series. He was benched mid-way through the season, so he wasn’t featured in the last few episodes except for a brief epilogue at the end. That was probably a good thing.

Overall, it was up to each quarterback to decide how much access the producers could have and how revealing they wanted to be about themselves and the season. Cousins was the most willing to provide the most complete access and offered the most revealing takes and insights, which made his season story more compelling than the others. Mahomes’ segments seemed like they could’ve been produced by his public relations team, while Mariota just didn’t seem as engaged or willing to provide much insight beyond the standard takes we’ve heard many times before.

What We Learned About Kirk Cousins

Perhaps the two biggest takeaways from Cousins in this series is how much work goes into maintaining his body and the toll all the hits take over the course of the season, which hasn’t been talked about at all. Unlike top QBs like Mahomes, Brady, and Rodgers, Cousins has never really had good pass protection in his career- at least not since he’s been with the Vikings. And last season was no different. At one point in the series they said Cousins was the most hit quarterback in the league. But because Cousins has never missed a game due to injury in his career, we tend to think the punishment his body takes isn’t such a big deal. But that isn’t the case.

Cousins has been one of those quarterbacks that wear the bulky rib-protectors, and I was under the impression that they did a pretty good job of cushioning the blow of hits to that area. Well, they may do a good job of mitigating the damage of hits to the rib-section with helmets, face masks, elbows, cleats, etc. but there is still the brute force of 300-pounds of muscle impacting your mid-section- and rib protectors don’t do so much for that. And rib injuries- even minor ones- can be painful and impact QB performance over the course of a game and season- even for a quarterback as durable as Cousins.

One thought that immediately came to mind after watching the segments on Cousins and his rib injuries last season is that Aaron Rodgers doesn’t like wearing rib protectors and hasn’t worn them much over his career. And he could get away with it most of the time because his pass protection was that good. Cousins has definitely been at a disadvantage against most of the QBs higher than him on the league totem pole when it comes to pass protection.

Cousins The Analytical

It’s funny that Cousins’ most vocal critics are usually from the analytical community, and yet Cousins is perhaps the most analytical quarterback in the league- maybe even in league history among starting quarterbacks.

One thing that comes across in the series with all the quarterbacks is how much goes into preparation. It’s on-going, intense, detailed, complicated, and relentless. You have to be driven, smart, and detail-oriented to be successful at the quarterback position in the NFL, no matter what your physical talents are.

But with Cousins, at least in what he was willing to reveal, he takes his preparation to another level- particularly on the mental side. You could argue that Mahomes doesn’t struggle as much with the mental side, so therefore perhaps he doesn’t need to focus as much on that area, while Mariota could probably use it but simply doesn’t work at it as much.

In any case, Cousins has sessions with the team psychologist to help get his mind right in coping with whatever issues came up in the previous week, whether overcoming a bad game or not getting too complacent after a good one. He also shared that he puts some sort of electrodes on his head to monitor his brain activity in an exercise meant to help him maintain his focus better.

On the physical side, Cousins also goes the extra mile to maintain his body. One surprising aspect of the Kirko Chainz videos was that he was sporting a bit of a six-pack- which you don’t often see with quarterbacks- especially those in their mid-30s. But Cousins also picked up on Santana Moss’ body care program- bringing in a team of specialists to work out all his body issues each week- when he was a young quarterback in Washington. Now that he’s older, he’s implemented the same program to help him overcome the weekly wear and tear on his body over the course of a season. He told his team that if they can help him be 3% better, that would be huge- revealing his analytical rationale/goal for the program. Not every quarterback is as good at taking care of their body as Cousins has been, and that has shown up in his not missing any games due to injury. It may also bode well for his longevity too.

Cousins’ analytical mindset about his preparation and taking care of his body can be traced back to his college days. Not necessarily on the football field but his major: kinesiology. The Wikipedia definition for those of us not familiar with the subject:

Kinesiology is the scientific study of human body movement. Kinesiology addresses physiological, anatomical, biomechanical, pathological, neuropsychological principles and mechanisms of movement. Applications of kinesiology to human health include biomechanics and orthopedics; strength and conditioning; sport psychology; motor control; skill acquisition and motor learning; methods of rehabilitation, such as physical and occupational therapy; and sport and exercise physiology. Studies of human and animal motion include measures from motion tracking systems, electrophysiology of muscle and brain activity, various methods for monitoring physiological function, and other behavioral and cognitive research techniques.

It’s interesting that at one point in the ‘Quarterback’ documentary, Cousins talks about some players he knew saying they didn’t need to do well in college because they were going to play football and so it didn’t matter if they did well in academics or not. Cousins argued that you did need to do well- at least if you’re playing quarterback- because you need to be pretty smart to play the position well.

In Cousins’ case, he seems to be practicing his major in his approach to playing quarterback in the NFL, as he detailed in the Quarterback documentary and elsewhere. Cousins is also a spokesman for the S2 Cognition Test, which he has also taken and embraced, which measures visual processing, rhythm/timing, motor control, and instinctive learning.

But while Cousins takes a very comprehensive and analytical approach to his preparation and development, more so it seems than other quarterbacks, at times it feels like he does so almost to a fault. There are times when you get the impression that Cousins may spend a little too much time trying to get that extra little edge through some analytical preparation exercise, to the point where it makes it difficult for him to simply rely on his instincts and experience on occasion when his preparation didn’t prepare him adequately for a given situation.

Having said that, he does seem to have improved in that area in recent years- particularly last year. He’s also improved even more from the quarterback he was when he first arrived in Minnesota- one who tended to press in high leverage situations to one that was one of the better performers in them last season- chalking up an all-time league record of eight game-winning drives (tied with Matthew Stafford) in a single season.

What Does ‘Quarterback’ Foreshadow for Cousins’ Future?

I came away with the view that the arrow for Cousins was pointing up after watching the series. It also helped dispel some of the critical narrative that has followed Cousins wherever he goes. His performance last season helped on both counts as well.

His 13-4 record- despite having one of the worst defenses in the league- helped overcome the ‘he’s just a .500 quarterback’ narrative and seemed to help his confidence. Kevin O’Connell as his head coach- who went out of his way to dispel critical narratives about Cousins in the documentary- is also a big plus for Cousins going forward.

On the other hand, I can see opposing defenses making a point to hit Cousins in the ribs early and as often as possible each game after watching this series, putting more pressure on the Vikings’ offensive line to protect him. But by the same token, the Vikings’ offensive line may feel more urgency to maintain a clean pocket for Cousins and to cut down on the number of hits allowed.

But ultimately, I think the documentary helped give Cousins something he’s been lacking in the league since he first became a starter: respect. For all the quirkiness Cousins displayed in the series and over his career, players and coaches that viewed the series will likely have more respect for Cousins than they did before, and Cousins may build on that in the future.


Which quarterback’s reputation was most helped by this Netflix documentary?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Patrick Mahomes
    (20 votes)
  • 97%
    Kirk Cousins
    (1157 votes)
  • 0%
    Marcus Mariota
    (4 votes)
1181 votes total Vote Now