If you want to know why the Vikings front office went out on a limb last season to sign Kirk Cousins to what was at the time the richest quarterback contract in NFL history, look no further than Saints QB Drew Brees, who the Vikings will briefly face Friday night in their first preseason game.
Since Brees signed with New Orleans in 2006 — after the Dolphins dropped out of the bidding for him by trading a second-round draft choice to the Vikings for Daunte Culpepper — he has started 205 of a possible 208 regular-season games and has a 125-80 record. The Vikings’ record since 2006 is 107-99-2.
In that same 13-year stretch, the Vikings have had 16 starting quarterbacks: Brad Johnson, Tarvaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger, Gus Frerotte, Brett Favre, Joe Webb, Christian Ponder, Donovan McNabb, Matt Cassel, Josh Freeman, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford, Shaun Hill, Case Keenum and now Cousins.
The most games started by a single Vikings quarterback in that stretch is Ponder, who had 36 starts from 2011 to ’14 and went 14-21-1. Favre had the second most with 29 starts over two seasons, going 17-12.
The closest thing the Vikings have had to a franchise quarterback recently was Bridgewater, who is now with the Saints and will play against his former team on Friday.
Bridgewater started 28 games and went 17-11 from 2014-17, and if it wasn’t for one of the most catastrophic knee injuries in club history he suffered in the 2016 preseason, he might still be a Viking today.
But to succeed in the NFL, you need both ability and durability. Cousins has both.
Cousins hasn’t missed a contest since becoming a full-time starter in 2015, starting 64 games — only Cousins, the Chargers’ Philip Rivers, the Falcons’ Matt Ryan, the Lions’ Matthew Stafford and the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson have accomplished that. Brees has started 62 games during that stretch.
Cousins has also attempted 2,295 passes in that stretch, and his 67.8 completion percentage is third in the league behind Brees (70.9) and Bradford (68.2). Cousins also ranks sixth in passer rating in that stretch (98.1), while Brees ranks first (105.0).
His 17,474 passing yards are the fourth most in the league since 2015, trailing Ryan (18,554), Brees (18,404) and Rivers (18,001) and ranking just ahead of the Patriots’ Tom Brady (17,256) and the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger (17,137).
The one stat where Cousins is a little behind is in touchdown passes, where he ranks eighth since 2015 with 111.
But Cousins is also only 32-30-2 in those 64 starts since 2015. In that same span, Brady is 47-13, Roethlisberger is 38-17-1, Brees is 38-24, Ryan is 36-28 and the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers is 30-24-1.
The Vikings got Cousins because he is one of about 10 quarterbacks in the league who have the durability and ability to be a franchise quarterback for a decade. And as the Vikings have demonstrated over the past 13 years, a franchise QB is extremely hard to find.
Baldelli is prepared
After the Twins started their biggest series of the season Thursday night with a 7-5 loss to Cleveland at Target Field, it can be easy to forget that this club — which is on pace to win 100 games — is being managed by a rookie.
The Twins could to have their second AL Manager of the Year in the past three seasons, because if this club wins the American League Central while dealing with all of their injuries and their limited payroll, Rocco Baldelli will merit consideration for the award, which Paul Molitor won in 2017.
Only five rookie managers in MLB history have won 100 games: Alex Cora last year with the World Series-winning Red Sox (108 wins), Ralph Houk with the 1961 Yankees (109), Dusty Baker with the 1993 San Francisco Giants (103) and Sparky Anderson with the 1970 Cincinnati Reds (102).
Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said one of the things Baldelli brings to the table is that he has worked at so many different roles — as a player, coach and a member of a front office. That experience has helped him navigate this season.
“Everything he is going through is for the first time,” Falvey said. “Whether it was the first spring training or the first couple of months or the first trade deadline or otherwise, he has really taken everything in stride — poised, calm, collected. He has been in that seat as a player, he has been on those staffs as a coach, been around a front office. He understands all of the dynamics.”
And how does Falvey think his coach has done at steering a young ballclub in their first pennant race?
“He is always planning ahead and thinking about what may come in the next 10-15 days and how can we prepare for that? We are getting into that stretch of August and playing meaningful games and there is nothing better than the stress of playing late August baseball and getting into September when the games matter. This is it.
“He’s a great leader for our guys. I think he continues to communicate and that is the key: talk to our players, make sure they’re aware.”
Wilf’s powerful trip
Vikings co-owner and President Mark Wilf, who is the national chairman of the Jewish Federations of North America, made a moving visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington this spring.
He took along Vikings players Ameer Abdullah, C.J. Ham, Anthony Harris and Stephen Weatherly, along with former Vikings Visanthe Shiancoe, Tony Richardson, outgoing COO Kevin Warren and other staff members.
Mark, Zygi and Leonard Wilf’s parents, Joseph and Elizabeth, survived the Holocaust and emigrated from Europe to the United States in the 1950s.
Mark said the experience was a powerful one for the group.
“In the Hebrew language, there is no word for history,” Wilf told the Vikings Entertainment Network. “The only word for history in the Jewish language is zakar, and that means remember. We don’t have a history unless we tell the stories.”
Weatherly said he had visited the museum before and had traveled to Europe to see historical sites of World War II.
“When you go to these museums, you start to see similarities and when you see similarities between groups, that’s when you truly start to move forward as a nation, so that’s important,” Weatherly said. “With knowledge comes progression.”