MINNEAPOLIS - Kirk Cousins wants to be the guy to lead the Minnesota Vikings to a Super Bowl, and he says he’s made it his focus to shoulder more of that load this season.
Cousins spoke with reporters on Zoom Friday morning as the Vikings are about two weeks into the first phase of Training Camp at TCO Performance Center. Cousins earned his first career playoff win as a starting quarterback last season, leading Minnesota to an overtime win at New Orleans in the Wild Card round.
What followed was a 27-10 thumping at San Francisco. He threw for 179 yards, one touchdown and one interception in that game, but the Vikings managed under 200 yards of total offense on the day.
“One of the focuses for me this season will be to able to make those plays that can get us right back in a game and win a game,” Cousins said. “Being able to do that more, and against a team like San Francisco. Trying to find those ways to make those plays and come out on top against a really good team.”
Cousins is entering his ninth NFL season, and third with the Vikings. For the first time, he’ll have some continuity on offense. He’s got Gary Kubiak as the offensive coordinator, with his son, Klint, as Cousins’ main point of contact on the field.
With Kubiak, it’s technically his fifth offensive coordinator in five seasons. But with most of the offensive coaching staff back, as well as four starters on the offensive line, chemistry shouldn’t be an issue.
“Continuity always helps, especially at my position. It does help to have a similar offense, it is going to be the fifth voice in my helmet over the last five years, so there’s still some turnover but I’ve also learned that turnover is kind of the normal part of this league,” Cousins said. “Change is seemingly a constant in this league so it’s rare to have that continuity, you appreciate it when you get it.”
Cousins is coming off a 2019 season where he threw for 3,603 yards, 26 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He completed 69 percent of his passes, and has thrown at least 25 touchdowns in five straight seasons. They’ve seen him at his best, 10 touchdowns last October to earn NFC Player of the Month honors.
One of the Vikings first moves when free agency started was locking up Cousins to a contract extension.
“He’s in the prime of his career,” Kubiak said earlier this week.
It’s been a far from normal off-season for Cousins and the rest of the Vikings, doing things virtually with the COVID-19 pandemic. He found time in June when it was safe to travel to come to Minnesota in June and work out with some of his receivers, rookie Justin Jefferson among them.
Cousins said one blessing in disguise of a virtual off-season is the offense has had more time in playbooks, virtual meetings and walk-throughs than they’ve ever had in the past. There’s plenty of time to learn the offense before it goes live on the field.
“Coach Kubiak made a comment yesterday that we will have done so much more meeting time and walk-through time before we actually hit the practice field and go full speed than any rookie would ever have gotten in the past. It does lend itself well to learning the basics, learning the fundamentals before you have to take it to full speed, 100 miles per hour. There’s some value in that,” Cousins said.
Along with Cousins, head coach Mike Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman received multi-year extensions in the off-season. Dalvin Cook is next, after leading the Vikings to the No. 6 rushing offense in the NFL last season.
That should help Cousins in the passing game. Another area fans might be taking for granted that Cousins works hard for and appreciates every day? He has yet to suffer a major injury.
The Vikings have had their share of quarterback injuries between Teddy Bridgewater, Christian Ponder and Sam Bradford. One of the biggest keys to a successful offense for Minnesota this year is keeping Cousins upright. That means throwing the ball away when need be, being smart with scrambling and sliding to avoid a big hit.
Cousins turns 32 in two weeks, and plans to be an NFL quarterback for several more years.
“Knock on wood about what I haven’t had happen. It’s something I do take seriously, I spend a lot of time in season, off-season, doing a lot of different work to try to feel good and stay healthy. Some of it is also good fortune, you’re just sometimes fortunate to go for a stretch without having that freak incident,” Cousins said. “I do want to play this game for a long time, and you can’t just wake up at 37 or 38 and start to have good habits, you have to start much younger. I try to take pride in it, and hopefully it means I can play a lot of snaps this season and hopefully for several years to come.”