As the Minnesota Vikings move reluctantly into the offseason, a common thread for some is heavy-handed criticism of quarterback Kirk Cousins and the decision to sign him to a three-year contract with huge guaranteed money.
Kirk Cousins was awful in Week 17 against the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings, as a team, looked awful around him.
A little over a month ago, Cousins was wretched in a loss to Chicago at Soldier Field and people started to take notice (including myself) that this guy was being exposed as an over-hyped quarterback and leader.
Even from that moment, Cousins’ play deteriorated. After playing well against a poor Green Bay defense in Week 12, he sunk to the bottom of career rating marks with losses at New England and Seattle.
Cousins’ play, and the ineptitude of the Minnesota offense in those games, got his offensive coordinator, John DeFilippo, fired.
With two successive wins, Cousins and interim coordinator Kevin Stefanski had a quick marriage and brief honeymoon (with a solid patch of gloomy weather in Detroit) and the Vikings were faced with a “win and in” scenario in Week 17 against the Bears at home.
To say Chicago and their top ranked defense stripped Cousins, Stefanski, and the entire Minnesota offense of any illusion that they were now a tough, balanced, and credible squad to be reckoned with, is a fair and appropriate conclusion.“If you make a bad bargain,
hug it all the tighter.”
– Abraham Lincoln
So, asks the great sundry of Vikings fans across the country–now what? The season is over and the much-ballyhooed team from the Great White North finished a ridiculous 8-7-1 after signing the top prize in free agency (the aforementioned Kirk Cousins) to a non-negotiable three-year deal worth a certified and contract-protected $84 million dollars.
Well, my friends, it’s not often you hear the words of a great passed President of the United States in relation to professional football contracts, but here it is my pleasure (and responsibility) to quote one Abraham Lincoln, who once said:
"“If you make a bad bargain, hug it all the tighter.”"
Cousins threw for 4,298 yards and 30 touchdowns, with a 70.1 percent completion rate for the 2018 season. In each of his eight of Pro Bowl seasons, Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana averaged 3,090 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, and he never got close to completing 70 percent of his passes.
While it may seem ridiculous to compare Cousins to an all-time great NFL quarterback like Montana–how about to another? Like Jimmy Garoppolo for example, who was recently signed to a five-year deal worth a total of $137.5 million.
In February of 2018, Garoppolo’s record-setting contract was referred to as a bargain by some!
The current 49ers quarterback played in just three games this year, posting a 1-2 record, all while being paid over 40 million dollars for the entire season.
So is San Francisco now going to release Garoppolo? Or maybe Ask him to take a pay cut?
No, of course not
If you don’t get the point of ‘Honest Abe’ and this article just yet, let’s dive further into the data of contemporary quarterback contracts and the success of their football teams in 2018.
- Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)
- $33.5M average salary
- 2018 Record: 6-9-1
- Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)
- $30M average salary
- 2018 Record: 7-9
- Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions)
- $27M average salary
- 2018 Record: 6-10
- Derek Carr (Oakland Raiders)
- $25M average salary
- 2018 Record: 4-12
Who’s getting released or being asked for a pay cut? Not a single one of these guys.
How about Joe Flacco in Baltimore? He is a quarterback that was benched for a rookie this season–paid around $24 million for his troubles–and will possibly be traded to another team that may honor the remainder of his contract.
And if we’re shouting about bad deals–how about New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s financial plan?
This guy played four games in 2017, argued with coaches and fellow players, spent an offseason in and out of the gossip headlines, then was awarded a five-year deal that included $65 million in guaranteed money.
In 2018, Beckham gave the 5-11 Giants six touchdown catches in 12 games. He’ll be 27-years-old next November, past his physical prime, playing with a solid history of injuries, and one of the most self-interested attitudes in the game. An attitude that is just asking for the game’s defensive backs to put extra mustard on every hit they deliver to No. 13.
By reasonable judgement, Cousins was overpaid in 2018. But the reality of his contract is based in the business success of his past play with the Washington Redskins, his “press package” that advertised him as an indispensable player for a team like the Vikings, and the fortune in the timing of the whole thing.
It shouldn’t hold a candle to being a target of ridicule as Garoppolo’s deal, a quarterback who did nothing in New England and just little more in San Francisco to break the bank wide open. In his three games of 2018 before his season-ending injury, he had a QB rating of 90.
Cousins was also asked to lead Minnesota to a championship, a proposition beyond his purview and talent level. That does not mean he doesn’t deserve a lot of the criticism he is getting.
He does. The fact that Cousins is 4-25 against winning teams is not going away.
But that’s an examination for another day. What’s important now is that the Vikings’ front office, coaching staff, and fans, understand fully that, for two more years, No. 8 will be under center for Minnesota.
This team needs to improve around him, just as he needs to improve as their quarterback.