Kirk Cousins Fires Back at Vikings Critics

Minnesota Vikings, Kirk Cousins

Getty Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings huddles with his team in the first half of the game against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 09, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins understands statistics are merely empty calories until his team starts winning.

It’s been 958 days since the Vikings were over .500 at any point. Minnesota hasn’t had a winning record since the end of the 2019 season.

But what detractors can’t take away is how explosive Minnesota has been and its potential under an offensive-minded coach in Kevin O’Connell.

In an August 22 interview with Football Morning in America’s Peter King, Cousins didn’t stand for any criticism surrounding the notion he tends to play too safe.

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‘Winning is What It Really Comes Down To’

King credited Cousins at Vikings training camp for how well he’s taken care of the ball in his four seasons in Minnesota — throwing 22 or more touchdowns to interceptions every season since 2018.

“You’ve clearly been one of the most efficient quarterbacks with the football over the last few years… But I think most people who watch football say, ‘I want Kirk Cousins to take a few more chances. Even if he throws some more picks I want him to throw the ball more downfield,’ ” King said. “Do you feel that at all, and do you think in this offense you will take more chances than you did?”

Cousins tsked at the question and countered with his assessment of the offense and added why he thinks fans think that way.

“I think we’re pretty explosive when you look at what Justin Jefferson has done and Adam Thielen has done and if you look at just the simple numbers with air yards and downfield passes. I think the actual statistics would suggest that we’re doing that.”

Cousins is correct when referring to his acumen for downfield throws. He ranked seventh in completed air yards (2,415) last season. The Vikings also tied for the fourth-highest explosive play rate, producing plays of 30 or more yards But bearing in mind his reputation, fans may cling to the clichés until the Vikings start producing in the win column.

“I think winning is really what it all comes down to. We’ve been around .500. We want to be a team with double-digit wins, winning the division, hosting home playoff games and winning those playoff games,” Cousins added. “I think that’s really where my focus is and where we got to get to.”

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O’ Connell Asks Cousins to Take More Risks

Kevin O'Connell

GettyKevin O’Connell has asked Cousins to take more risks in the new offense.

After a walk-off win over the Green Bay Packers last season where Cousins threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns, Cousins admitted he wasn’t comfortable with some of the risky throws he made — a comment Mike Zimmer countered by encouraging the veteran quarterback to continue to throw caution to the wind.

It was a change of heart from Zimmer after he had harped on ball security throughout the first few seasons with Cousins, especially after Cousins led the NFL with 10 interceptions in the first six games of the 2020 season.

Since then, Cousins has put forth one of the greatest runs of his career, throwing for 57 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for a 107.1 passer rating in his past 26 games.

However, there is untapped potential in the Vikings offense. While Minnesota tied for the third-highest explosive play rate (11%) in its passing game last season, the Vikings ranked 11th with passing plays of 20 or more yards, per Sharp Football Analysis.

O’Connell will be tasked with creating more situations where Cousins can trust his receivers, which the first-year coach has asked Cousins to do more this season.

“Make no mistake about it, there’s going to be times where you’ve got to trust Justin Jefferson to go get the football in a contested situation… You got to hang in there. One thing I’ve never questioned about Kirk is his ability to hang tough in a pocket with his eyes up downfield. If we compare that toughness, that pocket trust that he has, and build separation through our scheme, obviously our receivers are going to get separation with the way they run routes and their ability, but if we can do it in the rhythm and timing, building schemes and creating space, limiting the conflict for the quarterback when we can, I expect Kirk when it’s all said and done this year to stand in there have an extreme comfort and ownership of our offense and ultimately make those plays to help us win football games,” O’Connell said.

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