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Rick Spielman Has Thoughts on Kirk Cousins’ Week 1 Performance


Cousins / Spielman / ZImmer
Cousins / Spielman / ZImmer

Former Vikings GM Rick Spielman is the reason why Kirk Cousins is the Vikings quarterback. He signed the passer in free agency in 2018. Some rumors suggest that Mike Zimmer wasn’t the biggest fan of that decision.

The new regime had the opportunity to go in a different direction, but they agreed with Spielman and extended Cousins’ contract.

In the opening week of the 2022 football season, Cousins and the Vikings faced the Green Bay Packers at home. It was the first game in Kevin O’Connell’s tenure, the first offensive-minded head coach in his Vikings career. Some were concerned Cousins would need some time to get used to the playbook. Getting used to playing competitive football was another question mark, especially after not playing in the preseason.

Nov 4, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

However, the Vikings won, and the passer looked sharp. Former GM Spielman watched the Vikings game and contributes to The33rdTeam.com. Fortunately for fans, they can gather some thoughts of a true football mind. Overall in a decade as Vikings GM, he built a few nice teams and should be remembered as a good GM. But what are his thoughts about Cousins?

Kirk Cousins played very well on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.

Rick Spielman

The first sentence of Spielman. Indeed, Cousins played well, as he recorded 277 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. The victory was never in doubt.

“The main thing you notice about Cousins was his quick decision-making,” Spielman continued. “His familiarity with the offense was really impressive, and his relationship with head coach Kevin O’Connell was evident. O’Connell calling the plays directly to Cousins is a good thing. I believe it is a big difference as far as a quarterback and coach communicating on the same level. Good communication can help strengthen the relationship between the quarterback and the head coach.”

Watch: Kirk Cousins Takes Center Stage in Locker Room after Win over GB
Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

It’s possible to classify that as a shot towards Mike Zimmer. The former head coach and Cousins were reportedly never fond of each other. They apparently started to watch some game film in the 2021 offseason, but the relationship hasn’t been great if the reports are true.

Familiarity with the offense hasn’t been a problem for Cousins. He looked sharp from the get-go, and the Vikings scored on the opening drive. Cousins and O’Connell had a great start.

“I had an opportunity to watch the game, and you could see how good Cousins performed,” Spielman wrote. “He has always been an accurate thrower, but his decision-making and how quickly he worked through his progressions were really sound. You could see him going through his progressions in real time. If the first read was not there, he was going to the second or third option instead of checking down.”

Cousins is often criticized for throwing too many checkdowns. If Spielman’s analysis is correct, he saw a big step in the right direction from Cousins. He was decisive and stayed calm in the pocket even when the Packers were able to put pressure on him.

Kevin O'Connell Likes Your Juice
Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

“The offense O’Connell runs has a lot of similar concepts to what he ran the last few years with Gary and Klint Kubiak, but there are still plenty of differences,” Spielman thinks. “They are running more out of 11 personnel and using more motion than last year.”

The Vikings were among the teams with the fewest 11-personnel usage in the NFL in 2021, with just 42%. 11-personnel is a formation with one running back, one tight end, and three wide receivers. On Sunday, the Vikings used it a lot.

Similar concepts are the zone running scheme and play action. A lot of things changed, though. Motion has also been a huge factor, as it helped the Vikings to get matchups they liked. Especially Justin Jefferson was the beneficiary of that. He scored twice and recorded a career-high 184 yards, most of it in the first half.

The pre-snap motion forced the Packers to cover him with Preston Smith, a pass rusher, and Quay Walker, a rookie linebacker.

The start of the Vikings season has been successful. It makes fans wonder if Spielman regrets not cutting ties with Zimmer earlier and hiring a Sean McVay disciple. His comments surely suggest that he likes the idea.

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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