It was a week of attrition among NFL quarterbacks. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger hurt his elbow and is out for the season. Drew Brees injured his thumb and will miss six weeks for the Saints. Sam Darnold missed Monday night’s game with mono, and his backup — last year’s Vikings backup, Trevor Siemian — hurt his ankle. Eli Manning played poorly enough in a loss to the Bills that he’s being benched in favor of rookie Daniel Jones — not an injury, but a wound to the pride.
Perhaps the nicest thing you can say about Kirk Cousins’ Week 2 performance, in which he missed several throws and was intercepted late, is that he managed to emerge injury-free despite being pressured on 65.7% (roughly 2 of every 3) of his dropbacks against the Packers (according to Pro Football Focus).
Cousins’ poor overall day was one of the main takeaways from a winnable game at Lambeau Field, even if the offensive line probably deserves just as much blame. The QB is the one making the money and getting the glory, so he’s the one who gets the heat.
Former Gophers coach Tim Brewster, a noted enthusiast when it came to the temperature of meat and bean stew, might tell you that Cousins’ chili is particularly hot right now.
It’s only going to get hotter in Week 3 for this reason: Brees’ injury means that former Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater gets a chance to take the reins of the Saints’ offense.
Bridgewater produced middling results in a 27-9 loss to the Rams on Sunday after taking over early for an injured Brees, going 17 of 30 for 165 yards while failing to produce a TD drive.
But here’s the thing: If Bridgewater takes off and plays well while Cousins continues his uneven play, it will open up a whole new comparison for Vikings fans — and probably the most intense one.
To quickly refresh your memory: When the Vikings faced free agency before the 2018 season, their unique decision essentially boiled down to three in-house candidates — Bridgewater, Case Keenum and Sam Bradford — or going after someone more expensive and theoretically more of a sure thing like Cousins. (Another option might have been going after a QB in the draft, but with a team seemingly built to win immediately after going to the NFC title game the previous year, that was unlikely).
Bridgewater and Bradford had serious health concerns, and both have barely played since 2018. Keenum is already on his second team since leaving the Vikings, and the evidence continues to mount that while he’s a capable QB his 2017 season will stand out as the outlier in an otherwise unremarkable career. Nabbing Cousins over either Bradford or Keenum still seems smart, and we have enough information at this point to make that determination.
Of those three in-house candidates, though, Bridgewater is the one with whom Vikings fans have the strongest emotional connection. And he’s the one who remains the unknown. From a purely practical standpoint, he also would have been the one who cost the least to retain, leaving the Vikings with far more cap space to spend on things like … you know … the offensive line.
At a certain point, we’ll be done re-litigating that 2018 decision. Signing Cousins was a calculated risk that made sense for many reasons, and his 9-8-1 record so far both reflects his up-and-down play and isn’t entirely his fault.
But if Bridgewater starts racking up wins with a talented Saints team, it’s going to be hard not to imagine what he would have looked like in purple — particularly if Cousins struggles.