GREEN BAY, WIS. — If the Vikings fire coach Mike Zimmer later this month, Rick Spielman should leave with him.

And if the Vikings fire or reassign Spielman, the Wilfs should already know what the first question they should ask general manager applicants:

"Would you rather play the 2022 season with Kirk Cousins as your quarterback, or do you think you can find the Vikings a new long-term starter?"

If the general manager applicant says he can win with Cousins, you thank him for his time and call in the next applicant.

The job of the next general manager, if that person arrives in the next month or so, will be to fix the Vikings' fatal flaw: Their inability to draft, develop and win with their own franchise quarterback.

If there is any good news in the imminent dismantling of the current Vikings regime, it is that they should be able to find other teams who view Cousins the way they did after the 2017 NFL season: As a quarterback who can stabilize and elevate a limited offense.

The Vikings' mistake with Cousins was not in judging him as a passer. He is a better passer than former starter Case Keenum and is one of the better passers in the NFL.

Their mistake was in paying him like a superstar and expecting him to elevate their team the way a superstar would.

As a trade asset, Cousins, despite the Vikings' stumbles with him under center, should have value.

If Cousins had quarterbacked the Cleveland Browns this season, they would have been a much better team. That's true of the Pittsburgh Steelers, too.

The Los Angeles Rams traded a fortune for Matthew Stafford, who at the moment looks like one of the most erratic quarterbacks in the game.

Cousins would have made the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Washington Football Team, Denver Broncos and perhaps the Miami Dolphins better teams.

What the new Vikings boss should do is leverage a team's desperation to win now and trade Cousins for a couple of high draft picks, then start rebuilding.

If we learned anything during or after the Vikings' 37-10 loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday, it was that the current regime continued the Vikings' tradition of failing to bolster the quarterback position.

Cousins wasn't good enough to elevate the franchise.

Sean Mannion is one of the league's worst backup quarterbacks.

Kellen Mond, the third-round draft pick, wasn't ready to play on Jan. 2 of his rookie season, and Zimmer spoke of his development with disdain.

A smattering of weekly upsets and surprises distracts from the simplest of NFL realities:

The best coach/quarterback combinations inevitably rise to the top.

Zimmer has not hidden his disgust for Cousins' unwillingness to get vaccinated, but other than their stance on the shot, they are quite similar.

Both are accomplished but limited, and both have run their course in Minnesota.

Trading Cousins would not be an act of surrender. The best aspect of the NFL's constant push for parity is the opportunity it provides franchises to rebuild quickly, if they are capable of making good decisions.

The right coach paired with the right general manager and quarterback prospect could turn the Vikings into a contender in short order, even without a top-five draft pick.

Josh Allen was the seventh pick in the 2018 draft. Patrick Mahomes was the 10th pick in 2017, Mac Jones was the 15th pick in 2021, Aaron Rodgers went with the 24th pick in 2005, Lamar Jackson with the 32nd in 2018.

Russell Wilson went in the third round in 2012, Dak Prescott in the fourth in 2016, Tom Brady in the sixth in 2000.

Rebuilding quickly is difficult but hardly impossible.

But to rebuild, you have to strip down.

Make Spielman, Zimmer and Cousins a package deal. Send them all packing, then begin the hard yet promising work of starting over.