Two years ago the Vikings stood behind Chris Cook after his arrest for domestic assault, refusing to release the cornerback despite fan outrage. Cook rewarded the Vikings by promising to become a better human and a better player.
Chris Cook may for all I know be a better human since his self-created ordeal, but he definitely is not a better player. The term “regression” was invented to describe what has happened to Chris Cook the last two seasons.
It’s been a slow fizzle for Cook since the beginning of 2012. Last year was supposed to be the year he emerged as a quality starting cornerback for the Vikings, but instead he just sort of settled in as a nondescript cog in the machine, not terrible but not particularly good. This should have been a warning sign that Cook had topped out in his development and was headed for a possible slide.
This season began with big talk from Cook, talk about shedding the zone-corner label and becoming a press-man player, talk about being The Guy with Antoine Winfield no longer around. But funny thing, talk needs to be backed up on the field. Walking the walk has been an issue for Cook in 2013.
Yes Cook has been injured, but I don’t think you can chalk up his bad season only to this. He just has been a bad football player, healthy or not.
Things that have been nagging issues in the past have become big issues. He was never a great tackler but at times he’s at least seemed like a willing tackler. This year he seems like he doesn’t want to tackle anyone. Forget about him becoming a solid press corner, because he’s just not physical enough at the line.
Coverage-wise, Cook has always been pretty good with technique and positioning, and this year he’s mostly been able to get where he’s supposed to be. His problem all along has been making a play on the ball once he gets into position. This is why, despite being in his fourth year, he still has not collected an interception.
It all came to a head this weekend against the Bears. Cook was singled out as the weak spot in the Vikings’ secondary and Josh McCown went to work on him. Alshon Jeffery just started running deep patterns against Cook and McCown started throwing it up there. Cook was torched for two touchdowns. After the second one he lost his cool, making contact with an official while arguing for an interference flag. The official flagged him and ejected him.
This is the first time I can remember a team really focusing in on Cook’s side of the field. In the past teams have always attacked the Vikings’ defense evenly, but with the emergence of Xavier Rhodes, the defensive left side is becoming somewhat perilous territory. So now teams will naturally throw more to the defense’s right, where Cook lines up.
The Bears challenged Cook and he responded with complete lack of aplomb, confirming everyone’s darkest suspicions about not only his on-field proficiency but his overall character. Cook may have been able to survive out there with everything even, but as soon as some team really came after him, he folded up.
The ejection was just another example of Cook’s selfishness and immaturity. With the Vikings already thin at his position, there is absolutely no excuse for him to lose his cool and get booted from the game.
Now Leslie Frazier says he’s going to sit down with Cook and discuss “poise and composure.” I know how that conversation would go if I were Leslie Frazier. It would start with me reminding Mr. Cook that the team didn’t have to keep him around after his arrest. It would continue with a reminder that Mr. Cook is at the end of his contract and the way he’s played he may have trouble scoring anything but a one-year deal in free agency.
I would let Mr. Cook know that it is in his best interest to clean up his act the last four weeks of the season and put something on the field besides crap performances, unless he wants to be scratching around looking for work next offseason. Will he get the message? I doubt it.
Either way, I think the Vikings probably have grown tired of Cook. He’s always been a slight PR headache for them, and now he’s regressed to the point of no longer being worth the trouble. The way Cook behaved Sunday was likely the last piece of evidence the Vikings needed to make a decision. Cook will not be brought back after the season.
I don’t imagine too many fans will be sad to see him go.