This time, I'm going to write an opinion article. Do with it what you will.
Here's the premise: The toxic relationship between Mike Zimmer and Kirk Cousins is killing this team.
From the beginning, this was never going to work.
Mike Zimmer is an old-school, no-nonsense, in-your-face kind of coach. He's essentially an a$$hole, in a positive way, if that's possible. He's going to coach you up by testing your manhood. He's going to give it to you straight. He's going to be up your butt when you screw up. And he's NEVER, EVER going to praise you, even if you deserve it. Basically, if he says nothing, you know you're good.
Kirk Cousins, on the other hand, appears to be a person who doesn't deal with that kind of coaching. In many ways, he's a forerunner to kids of today. Coddled. Constantly praised. All about self-esteem. Cousins needs positive reinforcement. He needs to feel appreciated. He's physically and intellectually gifted, but mentally and psychologically weak. Look at the OCs he's had in the past. Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay love the guy. They said it all the time, and they continue to say it. Klint Kubiak seems to be afraid of Zimmer (or he's in lock-step with him, given the Zimmer family/Kubiak family buddy-buddy relationship). Kirk has nobody in his corner. His teammates try, but they're not Dad. Dad doesn't love Kirk, and Kirk knows it.
Put the two together, and you have a train wreck.
Cousins is already risk-averse. Zimmer says, "Don't you dare turn the ball over."
Cousins needs to have things mapped out. Zimmer discourages going off-script.
Cousins shies away from real authority and leadership, which you NEED in a quarterback. Zimmer's not about to give it to him.
It just doesn't work.
Let's use the dumpster fire sequence at the end of the first half against Dallas as an example. Cousins drops back to pass, sees nobody open, finds a running lane, and takes off. He gains a decent chunk of yardage, then goes down in the middle of the field. The clock is running ... 24 ... 23 ... 22. Somebody call timeout! He gets up, looks around, doesn't seem to know what to do ... 21 ... 20 ... 19 ... 18. Players are scrambling to get back to the line of scrimmage and get in a formation ... 17 ... 16 ...15 ...14. Cut to Zimmer on the sideline, who's standing there looking like, "What the hell is Cousins doing?" ... 13 ... 12 ... 11 ... 10. Somebody's lined up wrong, so Cousins moves him ... 9 ... 8 ... 7 ... 6 ... 5. Cousins drops back and throws incomplete.
One second. Kneel down. Still a timeout on the board. Fans boo the Vikings off the field.
Fast forward to the postgame press conference. Here's Kirk:
That one comment sums up the toxic relationship between coach and player.I just let Zim handle the timeouts, because I never know quite what the coaches want to do with what they're thinking, a play ahead or what that may be. So I was just gonna let them handle that and call the next play if we're not getting it.
Kirk Cousins is a 10-year veteran. He's being paid $35 million to quarterback the Minnesota Vikings. He's the on-field leader of this football team. And HE DOESN'T APPEAR TO HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO CALL A TIMEOUT IN A 2-MINUTE DRILL!!!!!
Blame whomever you want. Zimmer should make that clear. Cousins should be less of a coward. Whatever. But ask yourself one very simple question.
Could you ever, in a million years, imagine Russell Wilson saying something like that?
Why do I use Russell Wilson as an example? Because for one, he's great in late-game situations. For another, he was drafted in 2012, the exact same year Kirk Cousins was drafted. And it's not like he was the top overall pick in the draft. Wilson went in the third round. Cousins the fourth. Yet I'm pretty sure that Russell Wilson knows he can call a timeout. Cousins doesn't.
Here's the other thing. Quarterbacks who have reputations as good leaders typically use a simple formula in press conferences: Shoulder blame, spread the credit. What did Cousins do? Threw his coach under the bus. Can't say as I blame him, but it highlights the total and complete lack of respect the two have for one another. Zimmer, for his part, called it a "miscommunication," adding that Cousins can call timeouts. Blame for blame.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys, with an absolute nobody at quarterback, went out and played like they had nothing to lose. In fact, they used their quarterback in the way the Vikings should have used Kirk Cousins, while the Vikings used Kirk Cousins in the way you would have thought the Cowboys would use Cooper Rush.
There are all kinds of relationships within a team. Some work, some don't. But the ONE RELATIONSHIP THAT MUST WORK is the one between COACH and QUARTERBACK. In the case of Zimmer and Cousins, it has never worked.
The infuriating thing is that the Vikings could have fixed this. After the 2019 season was the time to do it. Yes, the Vikings had just gone 10-6. Yes, they had beaten New Orleans on the road in the playoffs. But they also had some decisions to make. Kirk Cousins was entering the last year of his contract. Mike Zimmer was, too. The Vikings could have fixed this issue right then and there. Management — read: Rick Spielman — should have understood that Zimmer and Cousins were oil and water. If they were going to extend Cousins, they should have fired Zimmer. If they were going to go with Zimmer, they shouldn't have extended Cousins. Instead, they extended BOTH.
Now we're left with the aftermath. Our team has an incredibly talented offense that can't get out of its own way. An offense that is built for explosion, yet plays with such fear of risk that Kirk Cousins averaged FOUR YARDS per air throw against Dallas, while Cooper Freaking Rush averaged 10.
After this season (maybe sooner) one or both of them needs to be gone. I've gone back and forth as to which one, but at least one of them needs to be shown the door. Here are the options, in no particular order.
– Dump Cousins and keep Zimmer ... get him a game-manager quarterback he can live with ... maybe bring Teddy back.
– Dump Zimmer and get Cousins somebody who will utilize his talents and give him the love he craves ... maybe the aforementioned Kellen Moore, or perhaps Byron Leftwich, who is widely regarded by players and coaches alike as a brilliant offensive mind.
– Dump them both.
But do SOMETHING Vikings. Because your fanbase is about to implode into a serious mutiny. We've been with you through some pretty dark and ridiculous times. We deserve better than a coach and a quarterback who hate each other's guts.
Thanks for reading.