Cousins ready to ‘earn the right’ with the Vikings

Mike Florio and Chris Simms examine what Kirk Cousins’ future holds, given the QB knows he has a lot on the line this season he needs to prove.

Video Transcript

MIKE FLORIO: It's been 50 years since the Vikings had a real franchise quarterback in Fran Tarkenton. They're still--

MYLES SIMMONS: Oh.

MIKE FLORIO: --trying to find one, and they're at a-- they're at a-- I was talking to Paul Allen of KFAN yesterday about this. It is classic bird in the hand dilemma for the Vikings. They have a guy who's good enough to make them competitive, but he's not good enough to make them shortlist Super Bowl contender, even in depleted NFC where the Eagles and the 49ers are clearly the best team. The Vikings aren't even good enough to get in position to be blown out in the division round by either of those two teams, as of right now.

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So they have this quandary with Kirk Cousins, and he knows it. He knows that it's a strange time in his career and in his relationship with the Minnesota Vikings. He was available at the team's offseason workouts yesterday. Here he is explaining quite candidly the fact, Myles, that he needs to earn any future he has beyond 2023 in Minnesota.

KIRK COUSINS: You know, you're always looking to the future. You're always thinking about different options, and I think everyone's got to do their due diligence. And so, you know, I'm looking forward to this year and wanting to, you know, go out there and prove it again and do it again and play at the highest level I can, and that's really where my focus is.

I think in this league, there should never be entitlement. You always got to go play, and teams can do whatever they want to do. That's their prerogative. So you just go to work and do the best you can, and I'm, again, encouraged and excited because I do think I have a lot of good football ahead of me. So I've got to go out there and earn that, but I feel-- I feel positive about the future looking forward.

No, I want to be in Minnesota. Yeah, that's kind of a no-brainer. So hopefully, you know, we can earn the right, you know, to do that. I've always said that when I say I would like to be in Minnesota. You know, there's a lot of things I'd like to have. You know, you've got to go earn it. So that's kind of where I'm at with that.

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MIKE FLORIO: Easy to be magnanimous when you've got about $200 million that you've made during your NFL career, and he really has made a crapload of money. He really has. For a guy that hasn't won anything, a guy who's never been past the divisional round and has only been to the divisional round once in a 11-year career, he's doing all right financially. So the question is after he does all right financially this year, what happens next year?

And, Myles, this is a dangerous game for both sides. I mean, if he stinks, no one's going to want him. There's a way this all plays out, though, and I was telling Paul Allen this yesterday to his chagrin. There's a way this plays out where Cousins has the kind of year that makes a team that thinks it has enough around the quarterback believe he could be the difference. And the 49ers would be the most obvious, but they may be on the Brock Purdy train next year.

It occurred to me yesterday the Patriots could be a potential destination. If Mac Jones just doesn't get to where he needs to be this year and the Patriots have the infrastructure, the coaching, the defense, the players around a Kirk Cousins that they could become attracted by the possibility of bringing him in where they could elevate him. Some quarterbacks elevate the team. Some teams elevate the quarterback, and Cousins is good enough that he could be elevated by a team that has enough talent. The problem in Minnesota, especially defensively, there isn't nearly enough talent to elevate Kirk Cousins, and he can't do it by himself.

MYLES SIMMONS: Well, and this is the thing about Minnesota, right? I think we don't know how good the defense is going to be, even with Brian Flores there as defensive coordinator. I think that should make them that much better, right?

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It's sort of-- it's a similar way of the way I feel about Miami with Vic Fangio as their defensive coordinator. You add Brian Flores to that team and to that defense. It kind of already elevates them past what they were last year with Ed Donatello as their DC.

But I think when it comes to, you know, Kirk Cousins maybe or maybe not being your quarterback of the future, as that nice graphic said there, Mike, look, I think you have to see what Kirk Cousins can do this year, right? There are really no excuses for him when it comes to doing well or not doing well within that scheme. This is another year that he has with Kevin O'Connell. It's another year that he has with Justin Jefferson, with somebody like a KJ Osborn. You add Jordan Addison to the mix. You already added a TJ Hockenson. They have weapons, right-- Dalvin Cook at running back.

There are plenty of things that they should be able to do offensively. And when you don't have the excuses, I think Kirk Cousins is right when he says you have to go out there and earn the right to then continue to be the quarterback because the GM and the head coach didn't pick you to be the quarterback of that team. So you have to go out there with no excuses and earn it to be the quarterback of the future.

MIKE FLORIO: And yeah, it was last year that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, first-year GM of the Vikings, acknowledged we don't have a Josh Allen. We don't have a Patrick Mahomes. And that was regarded as a slap at Kirk Cousins. At one level, it was. At another level, it was a pretty simple exercise in self-awareness. Not many teams have Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. In fact, it's only two. They have one each. And there's a short list of five or six true franchise quarterbacks now who are difference makers who can help a team elevate beyond whatever the sum of its parts otherwise would dictate.

And for the Vikings, hey, the defense is not going to be any worse than it was last year. It can't be any worse than it was last year. 13 and 4 and they allowed more points than they scored. The worst 13-and-4 team in the history of the NFL-- not that there's been many years that anyone could even be 13 and 4, but you get my point. Let's say the worst 13-win team in NFL history. That covers a few years, more than '21 and '22.