E Point Perfect

Kirk Cousins Evidently Scapegoated for Vikings Loss


Reinforcements Hit the
Dec 26, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) and guard Oli Udoh (74) and center Garrett Bradbury (56) and guard Ezra Cleveland. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings lost what amounted to an offensive shootout on Sunday, with Minnesota’s defense offering virtually no resistance to Daniel Jones and the New York Giants. In contrast to the Vikings’ defense, the offense was great. They moved the ball up and down the field, with Cousins making throw after throw while under duress, with little to no help from his offensive line or run game.

But the Vikings offense faltered when the game came down to a final drive down seven points with little time remaining. With Cousins throwing a pass to T.J. Hockenson well short of the sticks on 4th and 8, Hockenson could not break a tackle, and the Vikings turned the ball over on downs ending their season.

Kirk Cousins Evidently Scapegoated for Vikings Loss

Cousins immediately received massive criticism for this play, as everyone instantly forgot how good Cousins had played earlier in the game. They forgot that Cousins was the only reason the game was close. Instead, they resorted to blaming their familiar scapegoat, Kirk Cousins. 

Where Was Cousins Supposed to Go on This Play?

Kirk Cousins Evidently
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Let’s look at the dots for that game-ending play:

And now, let’s look at the actual play:

As you can see from both pictures, nobody is open, and Cousins gets hit as he throws. Based on his read progression, Cousins’ only other option besides Hockenson in the time he had was a prayer into double coverage to Jefferson, with a safety collapsing on JJ.

A fair criticism to levy is that Cousins should have seen the safety shading Jefferson’s side and changed his reads to start on the other side, where he had single coverage on Adam Thielen.

But do we really want Cousins to trust the Vikings season to a fade to a washed-up Adam Thielen? If that goes incomplete, everyone would still crucify him. The only legitimate criticism of Cousins, and one that severely limits Cousins as a QB, is his lack of mobility. A better and more mobile QB could possibly extend that play and find a man downfield.

But criticizing his decision-making, the choice to give Hockenson a chance to break a tackle after the day Hockenson had, is ridiculous. If you want to levy criticism for that final play, impose it on O’Connell for the play design, or charge it on the offensive line for getting crushed almost immediately. Or even to Cousins for not being the athlete that other QBs are but saying he reverted to his old self. Well, that’s just an unintelligent take.

Of All Scapegoats, Choosing Cousins Is Lazy

Is Absolutely Humongous
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) warms up before the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

On a day where the only reason the game was close was due to Cousins’ play, blaming him for a single play that you may disagree with just doesn’t make sense. 

Cousins received an 83.5 grade from PFF, which is the highest grade that any QB has received so far in these playoffs. Cousins was highly efficient and accurate all day and avoided making any harmful mistakes.

So why choose Cousins as the scapegoat?

Ed Donatell is right there! Eric Kendricks is right there! Harrison Smith is right there! Garrett Bradbury is right there!

There is no shortage of scapegoats to choose on a day where Cousins’ play was the only reason this game was even close.

What’s Next for Cousins and the Vikings?

A Vikings Win over Giants
Sep 25, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell before the game against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

After that final play, and following the wave of criticism that Cousins received, podcast after podcast, and tweet after tweet, stated their wish to move on from Cousins. Unfortunately for those people, an extension is very likely after the season Cousins produced.

Having Cousins on the team provides a competitive baseline that simply isn’t there with an unknown at QB, and that competitive baseline helps give this team a chance to compete year after year.

Kwesi will likely extend Cousins and focus most of his emphasis on improving the Viking’s disaster of a defense. 

Expect Cousins to follow his quite solid season in 2022 with an even better season in 2023. With more time in the system, and more time working with KOC, an offensive improvement should be expected. If Minnesota can improve its disastrous defense, this team will be in position to take the next step as contenders under Kevin O’Connell’s leadership.


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