Kirk Cousins was named the Minnesota Vikings most valuable player of the decade, according to Pro Football Focus’ WAR (wins above replacement) metric, which measures the value a player has to his team against other replacement players throughout a season.
Quarterbacks running the offense makes them the strongest candidates for the most valuable player on any team, and the quarterback position in Minnesota has been lackluster and inconsistent for most of the decade.
Cousins has an 18-12-1 record with the Vikings, including a playoff win back in January. Not to knock Cousins or doubt PFF’s rating, but two other quarterbacks’ seasons deserve some speculation on their impact on the team’s success.
In 2017, Case Keenum did lead a 13-3 Vikings team to the NFC Championship after starting quarterback Sam Bradford suffered a season-ending injury, but he was anchored by the NFL’s best defense that season, ranking first in yards allowed (275.9) and points allowed per game (15.8).
In his second year as a pro, Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings went 11-5 en route to an early exit in the wild card round of the playoffs in 2015 (remember Walsh’s wide left?) — the year Adrian Peterson came back from suspension and rushed for 1,485 yards and 11 TDs. The Vikings passing offense was ranked 31st in the league that year.
Here’s a breakdown of all starting quarterbacks’ records since 2010:
2018-present: Kirk Cousins (18-12-1)
2017: Case Keenum (11-3)
2016-2017: Sam Bradford (9-8)
2014-2015: Teddy Bridgewater (17-11)
2013: Matt Cassel (4-5)
2011-2013: Christian Ponder (14-21-1)
2010: Brett Favre (5-8)
Fans considered safety Harrison Smith’s presence on the Vikings defense since 2012 or Adrian Peterson’s run as the Vikings’ primary offensive weapon of nearly equal value.
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Cousins Excels Under Pressure and in Play-Action
NFL Next Gen Stats compiled its list of the best quarterbacks under pressure and Cousins landed at No. 6 with an under-pressure passer rating of 91.5. Nick Shook had this to say about Cousins:
UNDER PRESSURE: 91.5 passer rating, +3.8% completion rate above expectation, 58.1% completion rate.
“Cousins was a stud under pressure in the earliest years of NGS tracking, which helped destroy a narrative of him being average at the absolute best. But thanks to a play-action offense built out of an emphatic rushing attack led by Dalvin Cook, Cousins doesn’t face as much pressure as he once did.
Even with that considered, he still lands in the top five of most under-pressure metrics. His passer rating under pressure was fifth-best, his completion percentage under pressure was fourth-best and his completion percentage above expectation while pressured was also in the top five. You won’t often see Cousins’ name mentioned among the Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes of the league, but he has the numbers to back it up.”
Despite Cousins not seeing the same pressure he once did in the Vikings play-action offense, he has shown his prowess in the scheme, earning the best marks as a play-action passer by PFF.
PFF Predicts Middling Year For Cousins
Cousins was ranked 16th among active NFL quarterbacks in PFF’s 2020 position rankings, even after his most productive season in 2019.
He is listed as having an 11 percent chance of finishing in the league’s top-five quarterbacks, 27 percent chance to finish in the top-10 and a 49 percent chance of finishing in the top-16.
Cousins ended the 2019 season with the fourth-highest quarterback rating (107.4) and was ranked PFF’s sixth-best quarterback.
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