NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders has a resume that warrants some respect.
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Deion Sanders: ‘I Know this Game… I Ain’t Crazy About Your Quarterback.’
Vikings Pro Bowl rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson appeared on an episode of Verzuz, a webcast series introduced during the pandemic where celebrities battle each other to prove who is better.
In Jefferson’s case, he compared his rookie season highlights to Tennessee Titans Pro Bowl wideout A.J. Brown with Sanders and former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew as the judges.
Late in the hour-long segment, Sanders shared his praise for both Brown and Jefferson and pivoted to a touchy subject in Minnesota.
“Justin, I know you were good, I didn’t know you were going to put in that kind of work this year… I know this game. I ain’t crazy about your quarterback,” Sanders said.
Sanders added that he’s best friends with Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, whose true feelings on Cousins became known before Minnesota signed the veteran quarterback in 2018. Sanders sewed a seed of possible distrust in Jefferson, saying “With that, I can just imagine the numbers you would put up with something else back there.”
While some fans were ignited by Sanders’ comments, Jefferson handled the jab at his quarterback like a veteran — by giving a non-reaction.
Kirk Cousins is Not a Hindrance on Jefferson’s Success
In an era where team success is often aligned entirely with quarterback wins, Cousins is the definition of mediocrity, owning a 51-51-2 career record. But Cousins was never meant to be a transcendent talent that would make guys better around him. He was signed as a complementary passer that could feed Minnesota’s offensive weapons effectively.
And he’s done just that, helping Justin Jefferson reset the Super Bowl era rookie receiving yards record with a 1,400-yard season. Adam Thielen, despite not earning Pro Bowl recognition, posted a career-high 14 touchdowns this season. Cousins threw a career-high 35 touchdown to become the only active quarterback to throw 25 or more touchdowns in every season since 2015, completing a second-best 68% of his passes in that span. He’s done it all in an offense that’s predicated on feeding Dalvin Cook first and foremost, yet, he still finished the season with 4,265 passing yards.
Checkdown Kirk? Entering the 2020 season, he threw a checkdown pass on just 3.8% of his third-down pass attempts, ranking 16th among 41 qualifying quarterbacks, per Pro Football Focus.
Garbage-Time Kirk? Cousins actually plays better when the game is close. He’s compiled a 102.8 quarterback rating in his career when trailing by one score and a 110.3 quarterback rating when ahead by a score. When trailing by two scores, Cousins has accrued a 94.8 quarterback rating.
Cousins isn’t hindering Jefferson’s career as the Vikings zone-running scheme opened up the possibility for effectiveness in play-action where Cousins thrives. Minnesota’s offense ranked 14th in passing yards despite ranking 27th in pass attempts — credit to the weapons around Cousins.
The issue remains that Cousins’ contract warrants a Mahomesian transformation of the team — and it hasn’t.
He carries the ninth-highest cap hit in the league in 2021, which is reasonable given he’s played like a borderline top-10 quarterback. The results haven’t followed as Minnesota’s defense suffered major regression. Next season will be another development year for the unit as Cousins continues to steer the Vikings in the right direction.
By June 1, Cousins will be guaranteed his 2022 salary, which carries the largest cap hit of any quarterback in the league. That will likely change down the line, however, 2022 will be the year where the stakes will be set for Cousins to actualize his worth to the franchise.
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Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.