When Kirk Cousins signed his three-year, $84 million fully guaranteed deal with the Vikings, he signed on for a tremendous amount of pressure.
The weight on Cousins will mount the further he takes the Vikings this season, but in terms of regular-season anxiety there might not be a bigger game than the one coming Sunday: Cousins’ first trip to Lambeau Field and his first Vikings/Packers game.
In the buildup to the game, however, Cousins — one of the biggest stories of the NFL offseason — is finding himself perhaps strangely and disproportionately overshadowed by his quarterback counterpart Aaron Rodgers.
There are already two subplots at work: Rodgers facing the Vikings for the first time since Anthony Barr’s hit knocked him out for much of last season, and Rodgers attempting to overcome a Week 1 knee injury that added to his legend but will at the very least limit his mobility Sunday.
Add to it two heaps of praise given to Rodgers — one by Cousins’ new head coach, Mike Zimmer, and the other by new teammate Xavier Rhodes.
Zimmer typically eschews comparisons and does not like talking much about players on other teams, but earlier this week he broke with tradition and said this about Rodgers: “The guy is an unbelievable player. He’s obviously — I don’t want to say anybody’s the best — but he’s pretty darn close to being the best guy.”
Rhodes, meanwhile, ranked the top seven players in the NFC North. Rodgers? No. 1. (And Matthew Stafford? No. 2). He wrote of Rodgers:
Rodgers just has it. And he can do it from the pocket, outside the pocket, running left, running right, while he’s getting tackled … this guy has no weakness. He doesn’t get frazzled. He’s so accurate, always on the money. And the worst part? He knows it.
Cousins? Not on the list because, Rhodes said, he hasn’t played a division game yet and has yet to prove himself. Cousins was asked about that Wednesday.
“I like it. I think that’s fair. I have a lot of games ahead of me hopefully, and I’ll be able to put a sample size out there and then we can continue the conversation,” Cousins said. “Honestly whether I’m in top 7, top 70 or top 700, I’d rather just win football games. I don’t really care where I rank in that kind of stuff as much as I’d like to … someday win a championship.”
Nobody would argue that Cousins is better than Rodgers, but the Vikings are probably fortunate that their expensive star quarterback doesn’t appear to have a big enough ego to be offended by all the praise and attention for the opposing QB.