Is Gary Kubiak to blame for the decline of Kirk Cousins?

(Photo by Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports) Kirk Cousins
(Photo by Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports) Kirk Cousins /

The Minnesota Vikings don’t seem to be playing to their quarterback’s strengths.

During the first four weeks of the 2019 season, the Minnesota Vikings offense struggled to find success with their passing attack. Frustration built up and Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins ended up apologizing to his teammates on a podcast for his struggles.

Eventually, Minnesota was able to figure out how to get their passing offense back on track and Cousins went on to have one of the most efficient seasons of his career.

Six games into the current season, the Vikings quarterback is off to another terrible start and his struggles look similar to what he experienced during the beginning of the 2019 campaign. Still, Cousins should be at the point in his career where he’s continuing to progress. But that clearly hasn’t been happening so far this year.

Why has the Minnesota Vikings quarterback struggled so much?

Throughout his entire tenure in the NFL, Cousins has proven over and over again that he is at his best when a play-action pass is called. However, new Minnesota offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak hasn’t been utilizing a play-action passing attack as much as he should be this season and it’s resulted in his quarterback trending in the wrong direction.

In 2019, Cousins had a 127.6 rating on play-action pass attempts, and this year, he has a 105.6 rating on these play-calls. On non-play-action passes, the Vikings quarterback saw his rating drop to 99.6 in 2019, and this season, it’s fallen all the way down to 82.0 on pass plays that don’t utilize play-action.

Cousins has also proven during his career to be a better passer when he takes the snap from under center as opposed to lining up in the shotgun formation. This has continued to be true this season as his rating on passes that start from under center is 109.9 compared to the 70.6 rating he has on his shotgun pass attempts.

It’s pretty cut-and-dry in regards to what works best for Cousins and what doesn’t. It’s up to Kubiak to make the necessary adjustments to his scheme to fit with what his quarterback does well. Cousins should not be the one making adjustments to his game, he’s too far along in his career to be doing that.

None of this is to say that the Minnesota quarterback hasn’t made some terrible decisions this season. But when he’s running an offense that doesn’t play to his strengths, it’s going to lead to him making poor choices and forcing it to his top receivers even when they’re not open.

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The fix for Cousins seems relatively simple, but it’s up to Kubiak to make the adjustments. If he’s not comfortable making changes to his offensive system, then the Vikings need to find someone else to run their offense because his strategy is currently ruining the team’s massive investment under center.