New Orleans may be appropriately known as “The Big Easy” but don’t expect Kirk Cousins to feel any kind of comfort about Sunday’s clash at the Saints.
If the Vikings have any realistic shot of upsetting the Saints on Sunday they will need a massive effort from quarterback Kirk Cousins. Given his uneven track record on the big stage, this weekend could easily turn into a career-defining moment for the quarterback.
In fairness to Cousins, his team really shouldn’t be expected to saunter into New Orleans and knock off the Saints. Minnesota is a this weekend’s biggest underdog for a reason. They haven’t played like a great team this year while New Orleans has performed like a legitimate Super Bowl contender on a regular basis. Even though, it’s safe to expect this game to turn into some sort of referendum on Cousins’ qualifications to be the Vikings’ starting quarterback moving forward.
Cousins hasn’t been great this season, but the reality is that he’s played like a solidly above-average for Mike Zimmer all year long. Throwing for 3,603 yards with 26 touchdowns against just six interceptions is really solid production for any NFL franchise. The Vikings are blessed with great talent at the skill positions, but Cousins still deserves credit for being so productive behind an inconsistent offensive line.
Then again, the Vikings aren’t paying Cousins $29 million this season for him to play like an above average quarterback. At that price, they want him to perform like a Pro Bowler. He hasn’t quite gotten to that level during the regular season. That’s what makes Sunday’s game at New Orleans so pivotal for his future in Minnesota.
He only has one year remaining on his contract with means the Vikings front office may need to make a decision about his future this offseason. They can’t cut him without absorbing a massive salary cap hit, but they could make an effort to sign a new quarterback of the future to replace him in 2021. How Cousins plays on Sunday could go a long way towards shaping Minnesota’s immediate future at the quarterback position.
The biggest challenge for Cousins is that he’s going up against a really talented defense. The Saints have a terrific ability to rush the passer and one of the most dynamic secondaries in football. That combination is going to give Minnesota’s offensive line all it can handle. The simple truth is that Cousins may not really get a chance to succeed if he doesn’t get quality protection up front.
Don’t expect Vikings fans to cut him any meaningful slack if he’s forced to run for his life. It’s likely going to be up to Cousins to succeed no matter what sort of support he receives on Sunday. It’s not fair to judge him so definitively on a single game, but it’s the point he’s reached in his career.