Fear of failure is officially holding the Vikings hostage

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) Kirk Cousins
(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) Kirk Cousins /

Instead of starting a new era, the new regime for the Minnesota Vikings has decided to stick with Kirk Cousins as the team’s starting quarterback.

Less than 24 hours after Kirk Cousins threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns in a meaningless season-ending win over the Chicago Bears this past January, the Minnesota Vikings decided to fire head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman.

Following the firings of Zimmer and Spielman, the Vikings ownership group put out a statement that said they are “determined to have sustained success.” The problem is, Minnesota’s ownership group hasn’t provided any sort of evidence that they know how to achieve sustained success ever since they purchased the team in 2005.

Which is why the news of Cousins signing an extension on Sunday shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The Vikings’ inconsistent methods of trying to capture success during the last 15 years have led the franchise down a path that has had them treading water in the same spot since 2018.

Failures from the past resulted in the Minnesota Vikings rewarding Kirk Cousins with a new extension

During their time with the franchise, Minnesota’s ownership group has watched the team attempt several different methods to get to the top of the league.

The Vikings have tried to build around a rookie quarterback (Tarvaris Jackson, Christian Ponder, Teddy Bridgewater), they’ve given starting opportunities to passers at the end of their careers (Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb), and they’ve invested piles of cash in veteran quarterbacks that were in the middle of their careers (Sam Bradford and Kirk Cousins).

But the closest Minnesota has come to winning a Super Bowl under their current ownership group was back in 2009, when Favre played out of his mind, and in 2017, when the team literally needed a miracle to get to the NFC Championship.

After coming up short in 2017, the Vikings decided to sign Cousins, who was viewed by the team as their missing piece to a spot in the Super Bowl.

Minnesota fell flat in their first season with Cousins as their starter in 2018 as they didn’t even qualify for the playoffs. The Vikings managed to make the postseason in the quarterback’s second year with the team, and they even upset a heavily-favored New Orleans Saints team on the road. But they haven’t been to the playoffs since the San Francisco 49ers stomped on them in the 2019 divisional round.

So in four seasons with Cousins as their starter, Minnesota has earned a spot in the playoffs once, one less than the number of times the franchise qualified for the postseason in the four years prior to the quarterback’s arrival.

With the Vikings struggling during the last four seasons, the team’s ownership group made the right decision to move on from Zimmer and Spielman. Many expected the Vikings to move on from Cousins this year as well and give the team’s new head coach and general manager a clean slate to build their own road to success.

Many thought Minnesota would take a chance on a quarterback in either the 2022 or 2023 NFL Draft and attempt to take advantage of their starting signal-caller being on a rookie contract. But that’s not what they’re doing.

Instead, the Vikings have signed up for at least two more years with Cousins as their starter. Minnesota’s inability to move on from someone who has accomplished nothing in his career other than loading up his bank account makes it seem like the franchise’s failures in the past with quarterbacks have created too much fear to take a risk on finding someone new to be their starter.

With head coach Kevin O’Connell and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah in their first year with the organization, the Vikings had a golden opportunity to move on from just about any player on their roster this offseason without the consequence of major criticism.

With the new extension that has been given to Cousins, however, that golden opportunity is now gone. O’Connell and Adofo-Mensah now have to attempt to do what no team or coaching staff has been able to do in the last 10 years and that is turn Cousins into a winner.

So yes, Minnesota made the correct choice to part ways with Zimmer and Spielman. But their replacements aren’t going to be able to achieve any sort of sustained success either until the Vikings overcome their fear of failing and allow themselves to take the necessary risks to get to the top.

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