From the “life comes at you pretty fast” department we bring you the headline you see above, wondering if Vikings QB Kirk Cousins is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season.
Wait. Didn’t I just read in this space a month ago a fever dream about desperately trading Cousins because he had been so awful?
You did. At the risk of sounding like a flip-flopper, I will invoke a quote attributed to famed economist John Maynard Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”
While I still think some of the long-term questions about Cousins are valid — in particular whether the combination of his performance and salary will keep the Vikings from truly competing for a Super Bowl — there is little doubt that he has at least turned the season around both for himself and the Vikings.
Cousins on Thursday was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against Carolina, which included a late touchdown drive in a 28-27 win. I dare say he’s in the running for conference player of the month honors, too, after throwing 12 touchdown passes with just one interception in guiding the Vikings to a 4-1 November record.
That November turnaround leads to the loftier notion you see above. While I inched close to declaring this is Cousins’ best season of his career during the most recent Access Vikings podcast, I’m not quite there yet.
But building the case that Cousins could be selected as one of the NFC’s three Pro Bowl quarterbacks this season — even though the game itself isn’t going to be played because of COVID-19 — is a surprisingly reasonable task.
Let’s assume for now that the first two spots are reserved for Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, both of whom are having MVP-caliber seasons.
Drew Brees and Dak Prescott were trending in that direction, but both sustained serious injuries. Prescott is out for the season with a gruesome ankle injury and Brees will miss a number of games with broken ribs and a punctured lung.
The rest of the competition is pretty underwhelming. Nobody in the damaged NFC East is in the mix. Same with the rest of the NFC North minus Rodgers.
I’d say someone old (Tom Brady) and someone new (Kyler Murray) are Cousins’ chief challengers, which could hurt Cousins in voting that often amounts to a popularity contest.
But if we look at passer rating, Cousins is No. 3 among healthy NFC QBs at 104.5 (and No. 8 overall in the NFL) above both Brady and Murray. He falls to No. 17 if we look at Total QBR, perhaps a more accurate measure of a passer’s overall contributions to a team, but other advanced stats help Cousins bounce back.
Cousins is averaging 8.7 yards per pass attempt this season — second in the NFL to only the Texans’ DeShaun Watson.
Lest you think that damage is being done on short passes turned into long gains by catch-and-run plays, Cousins is averaging 7.4 air yards per completion — meaning that’s how far past the line of scrimmage his average completion travels. That’s tied for second in the NFL.
There’s still a ways to go. Heck, even his own team didn’t include him in a tweet about Pro Bowl worthy Vikings.
But if Cousins can come anywhere near his November performance over the final five games — always a big question with Cousins, whose up-and-down nature is one of most maddening features — and somehow rally the Vikings back into the playoffs, his final numbers will probably add up to being Pro Bowl-worthy.