E Point Perfect

Kirk Cousins’ Recent Level of Play Has Been Historic


Kirk Cousins' Recent Level of Play Has Been Historic
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Only a few players in the league are as controversially discussed as Kirk Cousins. Some call him average, others call him elite, and many folks comically think he’s one of the worst players in football. He’s called a stat-padder, even when there hasn’t really been any garbage time in the last couple of seasons, and Cousins’ stats are, like always, fantastic.

Recent Level of Play
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Numbers can’t be refuted, and Cousins is putting up numbers. He is fourth in the NFL in passing yards and will likely end up fifth after Justin Herbert’s game on Monday. Only Tom Brady has more yards among the NFC passers. Cousins is also close to the top of the league via passing touchdowns. His 27 touchdown passes rank him fourth.

Kirk Cousins’ Recent Level of Play Has Been Historic

The difference to recent years is that the offense is now finally built around the passing game after years of building the offense around the running game and Dalvin Cook. All it took for that was the change of head coaches. Defensive-oriented head coach Mike Zimmer preferred to run the ball, while Kevin O’Connell is coming from the Sean McVay coaching tree, and the modern-brained coach wants to throw the ball.

Jun 7, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Cousins had to learn a totally new offense leading up to the 2022 season, as the team changed from a Kubiak offense to a McVay scheme — a scheme with a different name for everything. Early struggles were expected and definitely happened.

Cousins’ game against the Eagles in Week 2 was one of the worst games the passer has played in his career. He turned the ball over three times, twice in the red zone. The whole offense was out of sync, and had to start over after an excellent game in Week 1 against the Packers.

In the next stretch of the season, Cousins looked like a game manager with some average stat lines. He made big plays, especially in the game against the Bills, but also had some horrendous interceptions. No matter what happened during the first three quarters, when it mattered most in the fourth, Cousins was red hot and played his best football.

to win over nyg
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Since the dreadful team performance against the Cowboys in Week 11, the Vikings passer has played at an MVP level. Cousins completed 69.77% of his passes, threw for 1,656 passing yards, 13 touchdowns, and had three picks. Those stats look good, but without context, it’s hard to understand how good the numbers really are.

Scaling the numbers into a 17-game season would have Cousins on a record-breaking pace. The numbers of Cousins from Weeks 12 to Week 16 in a 17-game season would be:

  • 69.8% completion
  • 5,630 passing yards
  • 44 passing touchdowns
  • 10 interceptions

These stats don’t just look great; they’re record-breaking. Peyton Manning set the single-season record in passing yards in 2013 when he had 5,477 yards as the Broncos’ signal-caller.

Of course, stats in a five-game stretch don’t mean anything for the record books. However, they are essential for the Vikings in 2022. Quarterbacks getting hot just before the playoffs begin is how teams can win Super Bowls without having the most-stacked roster. Teams like the 49ers and the Eagles are arguably better football teams in the NFC, but a red-hot quarterback could erase some differences.

Cousins got comfortable in his new system at the right time to make some postseason noise. With two games to go, Cousins is currently on pace to finish the year with 4,666 yards, 31 passing touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, a typical Cousins stat line. He also has 2 rushing paydirts.

Justin Jefferson Record Watch + Other Vikings Storylines
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8), wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18), and wide receiver Adam Thielen. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

A big change in Cousins’ personality is also easy to spot, as he is weekly in the middle of celebrations, firing off locker-room speeches, and the entire team is embracing the quarterback’s personality. His toughness plays a big factor and remains one of the most underrated skills among NFL players. No quarterback in more than the last two decades was hit more in a single season than Cousins.

After this season, Cousins has one more year left on his contract because of the one-year extension last offseason. The front office will have the decision to make if they want to keep him in town or if they start to look for his successor. The latter will be tough to do with a late-first-round pick in the upcoming draft. Another extension seems likely, and he could get the majority of the fanbase on his side with some postseason success.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt


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