Quick, Harrison Smith, what’s your record as a starting NFL safety? And no fair googling it on Pro Football Reference.
“My starting record?” the Vikings safety asked.
Yes. Your teammate, quarterback Kirk Cousins, has spent the past few months calling himself a “. 500 quarterback.” Although, not to pick nits, he’s actually a .486 quarterback (35-37-2) after Sunday’s 28-12 season-opening beatdown victory over Atlanta at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“I know there was one game I played but didn’t start,” Smith said. “We lost.”
Wrong. Your team smoked Philly 48-30 that day back in 2013.
“I’ve started 98 games,” Smith said Friday, two days before his 99th start. “I … don’t know.”
But you’re a four-time Pro Bowler, a 2017 first-team All-Pro. You’re on a team whose identity is defense, run the ball, defense, don’t miss the stinkin’ kick! … and, well, defense. The head coach is widely considered a guru on that side of the ball and, let’s face it, Harry, you are probably his favorite workplace son (just don’t tell the others).
An All-Pro cog in the operation like you must know your record is 57-41-1.
But, no, it doesn’t work that way. Among players, only quarterbacks have that team record branded on them.
“I guess we’re similar to pitchers in baseball,” backup quarterback Sean Mannion said.
Maybe if baseball had a pass rush.
“A pitcher can throw a two-hitter and lose,” kicker Dan Bailey said. “I guess in that case, a loss is not indicative of how well they played.”
True. But football still has many more variables and participants the quarterback can’t control.
When Blair Walsh’s 27-yarder quacked wide left with 23 seconds left and the Vikings trailing Seattle 10-9 in a 2015 wild-card game, Teddy Bridgewater became an 0-1 playoff quarterback.
Then again, seven days before that, Bridgewater completed 10 passes for 99 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and a 45.7 passer rating. Yet that division-clinching victory at Lambeau Field sits in the left column of Bridgewater’s 17-12 career record.
Speaking of 10 passes, Cousins threw that many Sunday as the Vikings executed the finest display of complementary football possible in today’s NFL. He played well but he was more of a back-seat passenger, completing eight passes for fewer than 100 yards.
Meanwhile, safety Anthony Harris became the 15th player in 59 seasons of Vikings football with three takeaways in a game. His career record, not that anyone is counting: 11-7.
Everson Griffen, who had a sack, is 44-29-2. Linval Joseph, who had a key tackle for loss and a sack, is 74-53-1. Danielle Hunter, who had a sack and pressured Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan into his second interception, is 22-10-1.
Wide receiver Adam Thielen is 29-17-1. Fellow receiver Stefon Diggs is 30-18-1. Tight end Kyle Rudolph? 58-46-1.
But there are times when it’s silly — or at least misleading and overrated — to rattle off quarterback records like these guys are playing tennis.
At Chicago in 2017, a one-legged Sam Bradford started a game for which he was physically unable. He lasted less than two quarters, completed five passes, got sacked four times including once in the end zone, left the field trailing 2-0 … and got credit for a 20-17 victory.
Last year in Los Angeles, Cousins completed 36 of 50 passes (72%) for 422 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and … got credited for a 38-31 loss and another ding against his prime-time record as Jared Goff posted a perfect passer rating (158.3) with 465 yards and five touchdowns.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was asked last week about Cousins repeatedly calling himself a .500 quarterback.
“I don’t think he’s a .500 quarterback,” Zimmer said. “We’ll see.”
Pushed to explain why, statistically speaking, Cousins is a .500 quarterback (actually, .486), Zimmer kind of winced.
“There’s a lot of things that go on with a football team,” he said. “No one guy wins games or loses games. I assume the teams he’s been on are about .500. So I think it could be the defense, it could be the receivers, I don’t know. It could be the coaches.”
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraignfl. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org