Report: Mike Zimmer 'complained openly' about Kirk Cousins in Vikings meetings

Back-to-back losing seasons led to the firing of Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer in January.

The quarterback leading those teams remains. It turns out Zimmer wasn't so hot on him.

According to Chad Graff of The Athletic, Zimmer "complained openly" in coaches meetings about Kirk Cousins, who quarterbacked the Vikings for half of Zimmer's eight-season tenure in Minnesota. Per the report, Zimmer didn't believe that Cousins elevated his teammates, took enough chances or made enough "winning plays."

Zimmer apparently wasn't alone. Members of his coaching staff shared his sentiment on Cousins, per the report. But front office members reportedly placed the blame on Zimmer, holding the belief that he didn't do enough to get the best out of his quarterback. The facts bear out the latter. Zimmer is gone. Cousins is not — for now, at least.

EAGAN, MN - JULY 30: Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) takes direction from Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer during training camp on July 30, 2018 at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center in Eagan, MN.(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Mike Zimmer reportedly didn't think Kirk Cousins made enough "winning plays." (Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Will Cousins remain in Minnesota?

Zimmer's reported frustrations with Cousins are relatable to Vikings fans who have witnessed a single playoff win since Cousins arrived from Washington in 2018. Cousins joined the Vikings that year hailed by some as a difference-maker at quarterback after emerging from draft-mate Robert Griffin III's shadow in Washington.

Cousins' historic, fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million contract suggested that Minnesota's front office believed that he was. Ex-general manager Rick Spielman oversaw that deal and Cousins' ensuing two-year $66 million extension. Like Zimmer, he's now gone.

Cousins has produced solid numbers in Minnesota, completing 68.3% of his passes for 260.1 yards per game on 7.7 yards per attempt. He has averaged 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions per season with the Vikings.

But the single playoff appearance looms over Cousins as has an offense that has never been confused among the league's elite. A unit stacked with playmakers in Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen failed to crack the league's top 10 in yards (12th) or points (14th) during an 8-9 2021 campaign. The 2020 unit featuring the same players finished fourth in yards, but 11th in points per game. A 7-9 finish that season likewise left Minnesota out of the playoffs.

New head coach Kevin O'Connell, who was Cousins' quarterbacks coach in Washington, has praised Cousins as a playmaker since taking the Minnesota job. Because of course he has. As long as Cousins is slated to suit up for the Vikings, O'Connell's not going to drag him in public.

This isn't to suggest that O'Connell isn't genuine in his praise. But with free agency and the draft approaching, it makes sense for Minnesota to at least test the waters on an upgrade at quarterback, even if Cousins' $45 million salary cap hit makes a move unlikely. If the Vikings make one, it will come a year too late for Zimmer.