Kirk Cousins is the reason why Kirk Cousins has not been successful

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) Kirk Cousins
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) Kirk Cousins /

Throughout his NFL career, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins hasn’t been able to get out of his own way in order to reach his highest goals.

When looking at some of the passing leaders around the NFL from Week 1, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and his 351 passing yards ranked as the fourth-most in the entire league.

Not only did Cousins throw for 351 yards last Sunday, but he also tossed a pair of touchdown passes, he didn’t throw an interception, and he ended the contest with a 106.8 quarterback rating.

Most would look at his performance and think the Vikings quarterback had a great game against the Cincinnati Bengals. But that wasn’t exactly the case.

Perfectionist traits preventing Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins from being elite

Thanks to facing a lot of third-and-long situations and being down 14 points in the middle of the matchup, Cousins ended up throwing the football 49 times in Cincinnati. The problem is that most of his passes didn’t travel very far in the air.

Cousins averaged 7.2 yards per attempt in Week 1 (18th in the NFL), and according to NFL Next Gen Stats, only eight percent of his throws traveled 20 yards or more. Compare that to someone like Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson who averaged 11 yards per attempt with 23 percent of his throws traveling 20 yards or more this past Sunday.

On Wednesday, Cousins said that the Bengals defense did their best to take away any deep shot opportunities and that there “would’ve been probably a lot of long foul balls or tight looks if we had tried to go down the field.”

If it sounds like Cousins wasn’t willing to throw the ball downfield in Cincinnati because non of his targets were even slightly open, it’s because that is exactly why he didn’t throw deep very much in Week 1.

But this habit of Cousins’ not throwing to guys if they aren’t completely open is something that has hindered his performance throughout his NFL career. Just look at what his former head coach, Jay Gruden, said about the quarterback in 2017 when they were both with the Washington Football Team.

"“If he does have a weakness, it’s that he’s too much of a perfectionist. He wants everything to be perfect. Unfortunately, I can’t get guys 30 f***ing yards open all the time. There are going to be some tight-window throws he’s going to have to throw some days. I’ll call some of these in practice, and if it doesn’t look exactly the way I drew it up, he’ll [say], ‘I don’t know if I like that. I can’t call it in a game.’ I’m like, ‘Bud, c’mon.’”"

In response to Gruden’s comments, Cousins said “if I played the way Jay is suggesting, I’d throw 20 interceptions a year, and I wouldn’t last. I know my limitations.”

There have been moments when Cousins has taken chances downfield or thrown the ball in a tight window before in his career. But these instances aren’t very frequent.

Instead of taking a risk by throwing it down the field and letting someone like Justin Jefferson potentially turn a contested-catch into a touchdown, Cousins would rather throw a pass seven yards in the middle of the field to his fullback or tight end because it comes with a lower risk of getting intercepted.

So, in a sense, Cousins has been standing in the way of Cousins taking that leap to be the elite passer that Minnesota thought he could potentially evolve into when they signed him in 2018.

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Is this something that could change in the future, and maybe even this season? It’s possible, but at this point in his career, don’t bet on it.