Vikings’ Mike Zimmer Strikes Down Kirk Cousins’ ‘Too Aggressive’ Comment

Mike Zimmer

Getty Mike Zimmer addressed Kirk Cousins' weariness with his overly aggressive play against the Packers last Sunday.

Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has made a considerable change of heart.

The crotchety 65-year-old coach who’s been a target of the team’s conservative approach on offense for years has been in higher spirits over the past two weeks. The offense has been humming in that span that has helped the Vikings pick up two pivotal wins — including a 34-31 victory over the NFC North-leading Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

Yet,  quarterback Kirk Cousins, coming off one of the best games of his career, admitted in Sunday’s postgame press conference that there were some overly aggressive throws he’d prefer not to make.

Zimmer responded, giving Cousins a total vote of confidence and weeks of a perceived conflict between the coach-quarterback combo.

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‘Keep Going for the Jugular’

In a Monday press conference, Zimmer, prompted about a comment Cousins made about him playing “too aggressive” on Sunday, urged his quarterback to “keep going for the jugular.”

“I want him to keep doing it like he’s doing it. He can’t second guess himself,” Zimmer said. “If he throws an interception, that’s life. But you keep going for the jugular, it’s going to open up a lot of other areas in the running game. It’s going to open up other players. We’ve just got to keep being that way.”

After leading the NFL in interceptions through the first six games of the 2020 season, Cousins has thrown 45 touchdowns to just five picks in his past 17 games.

Although Cousins had three throws nearly picked off by Packers cornerback Darnell Savage, his two interceptions this season remain the fewest of any starting quarterback in the league — a rank Zimmer seems more than willing to sacrifice if it means more opportunities for the offense’s skill players.

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Cousins’ ‘Too Aggressive’ Comment

Sunday’s game put to rest many fans’ frustrations with the state of the Vikings franchise. The team played to win against a rival in a game that could have shifted many of the area’s football fans to the green and gold.

Cousins played with a killer instinct, especially on a throw to Adam Thielen, who was blanketed by Packers corner Rasul Douglas. Douglas made the right read, starting to cover a cutback attempt by Thielen, who reacted to a ball thrown by Cousins upfield in time to turn the play into a 26-yard gain. It was Cousins’ final throw of the game that effectively brought the Vikings in manageable field-goal distance for kicker Greg Joseph, who nailed a 29-yarder to secure the victory.

Cousins admitted he was not comfortable targeting Thielen, who hadn’t completed his route, and would have rather opted to throw to Tyler Conklin (who was open on the play).

“I mean, I could point to a half-dozen throws there that were too aggressive, and I could argue that that’s one of them and I don’t think you want to live doing that,” Cousins said, per The Athletic‘s Chad Graff. “I think that we got away with it a couple times. I keep saying we’re (on the) razor’s edge, but that’s a play where it’s an example of it. The difference between (Thielen) catching that and making the play he did and it going the other way is very small. Tyler Conklin did a great job on his route winning on that play, and so I’ve got to go back and look at it and say, ‘How can we give Adam a better chance to create separation?’ Maybe a different route concept for me to give to him and then even what took me there, should I have worked with Tyler instead? And so you’re hard on yourself working through all that because you don’t want to live in a world throwing the ball into a covered player and crossing your fingers. You don’t want to live in that world. There’s a time and a place for it, but you also want to be a smart football player.”

Cousins admitted he doesn’t want to live on throwing a ball to a covered player and crossing his fingers seems counterproductive to what some of his teammates do best.

Justin Jefferson relishes deep-ball opportunities where he can make a play on a 50-50 ball. He posted a 92.3% contested-catch rate his senior year of college, which was nearly 20% higher than the next best receiver and drastically better than the mean average of 46.5% posted by FBS receivers in 2020.

“I’m extremely confident,” Jefferson said in a Nov. 18 press conference leading up to the Packers game. “I always tell Kirk, ‘If you see me over there 1-on-1, give me the opportunity go up and make a play. That’s what I love to do.”

Jefferson is coming the best two-game span of his young career, posting 312 receiving yards on 17 receptions — both games where Cousins threw caution to the wind.

Meanwhile Thielen’s 19 touchdowns against single coverage since 2020 rank the most by any NFL receiver. The Vikings arguably have the best receiving duo in the league that thrives in close combat.

“We showed if we go up and throw the ball to us, we go and make the play no matter the situation,” Jefferson said of himself and Adam Thielen becoming more significant parts of the offense. “That’s what we live for. That’s what we do.”

Whether Cousins can continue to roll with a freewheeling style of distributing the ball could determine how far the offense can soar this season. Since Week 6, they’re the fifth-ranked unit in expected points added per play, Graff reported.

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