Kirk Cousins tabbed as the ‘Emperor of garbage time’

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Kirk Cousins
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Kirk Cousins /

Is Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins guilty of padding his stats when trailing in the fourth quarter?

Throughout his time as a starter with both the Minnesota Vikings and Washington Football Team, Kirk Cousins has consistently been able to put up some impressive numbers.

While his final totals are typically among the NFL’s best, do they tell the full story about his abilities as a quarterback?

There’s been a narrative about Cousins for a while now that he pads his stats during the “garbage time” portion of games. Well, now the Vikings quarterback is being referred to as the “Emperor of garbage time.”

Is the Minnesota Vikings quarterback really garbage time royalty?

To reach the conclusion that Cousins is apparently the meaningless-touchdown god,’s Mike Tanier set the criteria for garbage time to be classified as any time a team is trailing by 16 points or more in the second half of a matchup.

Using these guidelines, Tanier found out that Cousins attempted 65 passes in these types of situations during the 2020 season, which wasn’t even the most in the NFL. Gardner Minshew, Nick Mullens, Drew Lock, and Matthew Stafford all attempted more throws than Cousins last season when their teams trailed by at least 16 points in the second half of a contest.

In these garbage-time situations, Cousins tossed an NFL-high, seven touchdown passes and he completed 73.8 percent of his attempts.

Five of these seven touchdown throws happened during Minnesota’s first six games of 2020 when they started 1-5 and Cousins was performing very poorly. After the Vikings’ bye in Week 7, however, the veteran quarterback didn’t toss another garbage-time score until the team’s Week 14 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Five of Cousins’ garbage-time touchdowns in 2020 happened during the fourth quarter of a matchup, but only one of these came during Minnesota’s final 10 games of the season.

So of the 25 second-half scores the Vikings quarterback threw during the 2020 campaign, 28 percent of them happened during garbage time. However, 44 percent of Cousins’ second-half touchdown passes (11) came when Minnesota was either trailing or leading by eight points or less.

To break this down even further, 15 of his 25 second-half touchdown passes in 2020 happened after the Vikings’ bye, and of these 15, only 13 percent of them happened during garbage-time situations. That means that 87 percent of the scores Cousins’ threw in the second half of Minnesota’s final 10 games did not happen during garbage time.

So basically, if we’re going to criticize Cousins’ final stats for being misleading, we should also criticize the way in which his 2020 garbage-time numbers were calculated.

Cousins was horrible during the Vikings’ first six games of last season, there’s no arguing against that. But he completely turned around his performance after Minnesota’s bye week and he played a huge part in the team getting back into the playoff hunt.

So it might have been a better idea to say that Cousins was the “Emperor of garbage time” during the first six games of the 2020 season. Because after those six matchups, he was not deserving of a seat on the garbage-time throne.