The Minnesota Vikings don’t need Kirk Cousins to be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL for them to win games, but to quote wide receiver Adam Thielen after this week’s action, “you have to be able to throw the ball.” Minnesota can’t win consistently unless Cousins significantly ups his game in 2019.
As of now, Cousins' overall grade of 52.7 ranks 30th among 38 qualifying NFL quarterbacks, and he just got outplayed by Chase Daniel, a quarterback whose greatest NFL achievement until now had been his career dollars-earned-to-passes-attempted ratio.
After three weeks of the season, some were lauding Minnesota’s run-heavy approach to offense, and some even suggested that if the Vikings truly embraced this ethos for the remainder of the year, they could have a special season. The logic being that limiting the ask from Cousins is the key to the Vikings maximizing their efficiency on offense. The problem with that theory is that not every team has the Raiders' defense, particularly in the NFC North, and pretty quickly you are likely to have to move the ball through the air in order to succeed — like say the following week, maybe.
The fundamental issue with that plan is that Minnesota’s early success on the ground has been built on foundations of sand. It isn’t sustainable. As spectacular as running back Dalvin Cook has been, the Vikings offensive line has consistently graded below average — they have the 30th run-blocking PFF grade as a team this year — and eventually, that comes home to roost.
Against Chicago, the Vikings line was again dominated, and that’s with the Bears missing Akiem Hicks in particular, but unlike previous weeks where the same thing was also true this time Dalvin Cook was unable to transcend the mess in front of him and manufacture his own yardage.
With the optimal run-heavy gameplan lying in tatters, and the Bears inching ever-further into the lead off the back of field goals, the Vikings suddenly needed their $84 million quarterback to make some plays through the air, and instead, he once again fell flat.
Cousins had a deep shot open to Adam Thielen that was airmailed too far, but his real failings always come outside of the watchful eye of box score passing stats and instead speak to his shortcomings within the pocket. Minnesota’s offensive line was under strain, but Cousins now has the longest average time to throw of any passer this season. Quarterbacks control their own pressure more than any other influencing factor impacts it, and right now Cousins is waving a red rag in the face of a series of NFL bulls without the wherewithal to be able to sidestep the angry steer once it charges.