There will be time in the coming days for a dissection of X’s and O’s — of what Kirk Cousins does well, of what he needs to work on, of how he fits into the Vikings’ offense — assuming that the free agent QB does, indeed, sign with the Vikings. (And at this point, there’s no reason to doubt he’s coming. Reports say he will, and the other three teams said to be in the mix for him — the Broncos, Cardinals and Jets — have all reportedly scooped up the Vikings’ leftovers: Case Keenum to the Broncos, Sam Bradford to the Cardinals and Teddy Bridgewater to the Jets).
For now, let’s zero in on two amazing Vikings statistics — and how the signing of Cousins could mean the end of both of them, in a good way for the Vikings.
*The first, from Twitter follower Jake: Since Fran Tarkenton 45 years ago, the Vikings have not had a quarterback start every game in two consecutive seasons. Kirk Cousins has started all 16 games in each of the past three [knocks on wood].
Jake is absolutely right. Not since Tarkenton in 1972 and 1973 (when the schedule was 14 games) have the Vikings had the same QB start every game in even two consecutive seasons.
A few QBs came close. Tommy Kramer started 16 games in 1979 and another 15 in 1980, but he was in and out a whole bunch after that. Warren Moon came up one game short in 1994-95, but he was also a short-term solution. Daunte Culpepper started 16 games three different times in the 2000s, but never in consecutive seasons. Brett Favre did it once, then had his iron man streak end in 2010.
Cousins, as Jake notes, has done it three consecutive seasons with Washington. The best quarterbacks of recent vintage have tended to excel on the field — and they’ve been able to stay on the field.
Drew Brees has missed just two starts in 12 seasons in New Orleans. Tom Brady started all 16 games in 14 of the last 16 seasons. The Manning brothers both had double-digit streaks of consecutive years starting every game. Philip Rivers has started every game each of the last 12 years. Matt Ryan has done it in nine of his 10 seasons. Russell Wilson has done it all six years of his career. Even Aaron Rodgers has done it six times, including three in a row from 2014-16.
Part of being a franchise QB and giving your team a chance to compete every year is ability. And a good part of it is durability. The Vikings’ haven’t had both of those things consistently for a long time, while many of the best teams have.
*Along the same lines, Cousins is likely to become the sixth different quarterback to start in Week 1 for the Vikings in the past six seasons assuming he signs and starts in 2018.
Christian Ponder was the guy in 2013; Matt Cassel got the nod in 2014; Bridgewater had 2015; Shaun Hill took the opener in 2016; and Sam Bradford started the opener in 2017. Notice this list doesn’t even include Keenum!
Cousins’ reported contract isn’t overly long, but considering it’s also reportedly fully guaranteed he will be the starter here barring injury for each of the next three years at least.
And again, it’s not like the Vikings have intended to bounce around at QB so much over their long-term and short-term history. Culpepper might have been here a decade if not for his knee injury. Bridgewater might have been here even longer if not for his. Bradford might have signed an extension in the middle of 2017 had his knee been sound. Throw in failed draft picks (Ponder, Tarvaris Jackson) and short-term veteran solutions (Favre, Randall Cunningham) and it’s been quite a game of musical chairs.
There’s no guarantee the ride ends with Cousins, but at least he has the age (29) and track record (three straight healthy seasons starting every game and throwing for 4,000-plus yards) to suggest he can both produce and stay healthy for the long haul.
So $84 million guaranteed won’t buy the Vikings any Super Bowl guarantees, but it should buy them some stability and peace of mind.