EAGAN - Mike Zimmer has much bigger things to worry about with the Minnesota Vikings after four games, but he said Wednesday he’s not a fan of teammates publicly apologizing to each other. He's also not worried about the relationship between Adam Thielen and Kirk Cousins.
Thielen had one of his least productive games as a wide receiver on Sunday, with two catches for just six yards in a 16-6 loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. The Vikings entered the game as the No. 2 rushing offense in the NFL, and ran for just 40 yards in the loss.
A frustrated Thielen said after the game, “At some point you’re not going to be able to run the ball for 180 yards, even with the best running back in the NFL. That’s when you have to be able to throw the ball, you have to be able to make plays, you have to be able to hit the deep balls.”
Thielen backed off the statement on Monday after implications it was speaking critically of Kirk Cousins in the loss. He was a guest on “Under Center with Kirk Cousins,” hosted by Twin Cities sports personality Mark Rosen.
On the show, Thielen said "It’s interesting how media or fans take things that you say and make it how they want it to be. I don’t think I could say anything more generic that any offense would say, you can’t be one dimensional. What I was saying is you just can’t expect to win every single game in this league just by running the football."
On the show, Cousins issued a public apology to Thielen after they failed to connect on a few plays at Chicago.
“I really want to apologize to him because there’s too many opportunities where we could’ve hit him on Sunday. I’ve watched the film and the reality is there were opportunities for him,” Cousins said on the podcast.
He referred specifically to a long throw to Thielen on a third-and-10 play in the first quarter that would’ve been a touchdown if converted. Instead, it was slightly overthrown, and the Vikings punted. It was just one play in a largely frustrating afternoon for Cousins and the Vikings’ offense.
Zimmer has more important things to worry about, primarily an 0-2 start in the NFC North.
“He was probably just being nice. I mean seriously, I’m not worried about it. Maybe he should get off the podcast,” Zimmer said with a smirk.
Cousins said Wednesday the apology was more to make sure Thielen knew Cousins owned his mistakes, and acknowledges needs to play better.
“I mean it’s pretty much a constant dialogue with your teammates when you make a mistake or when you don’t do something you want to do. You want to make sure that they know that you’re aware of where you can be better. You don’t ever want your teammates feeling like he thinks he’s doing everything right, and he’s not,” Cousins said. “I felt like Adam was taking some heat, and I was trying to basically say hey, it’s not what you said. There’s always more to it.”
The numbers are hard to ignore. Cousins is 5-27 for his career as a starting quarterback against above .500 teams. He has a 1-8 record in that category with the Vikings. He’s 5-13 in primetime games, 13-25-2 on the road and 0-7 on Monday Night Football.
All that said, Zimmer says he hasn’t lost confidence in his quarterback, who’s in the second year of a $84 million fully-guaranteed contract.
“I don’t see that. I just think he needs to go play. Just play the game, that’s usually what I tell him. Just go play the game, don’t worry about the consequences. Do what you do,” Zimmer said.
Dalvin Cook, who led the NFL in rushing going into the Bears’ game and ran for just 35 yards on 14 carries in the loss, said the same.
“Kirk knows what he’s got to do, there’s no lack of confidence from what I see. He’s a guy that’s going to come in and get better. When you got a guy that wants to come in and get better, I want to get better with him. I want to win football games with him, that’s my quarterback,” Cook said. “Whatever the outside is saying about his lack of confidence, I don’t see that in Kirk.”
Plenty of Vikings fans took to social media and radio airwaves after Sunday’s loss to express their frustrations about the game, and Cousins’ play. Some want him to sit on the bench in favor of Sean Mannion, or even bring in another quarterback from outside the organization.
Cousins doesn’t listen to the outside noise. He’s only aware of it when those in his inner circle make him aware.
“Well I’m pretty naïve to it, you know ignorance is bliss. The only time I’m aware of it is when I have friends or family text me. The texts they send me, you would think somebody died. ‘Hey man, I’m thinking of you,’ and it’s like boy, it must not be good out there if that’s what they’re texting me,” Cousins said. “I honestly don’t see it, and I think that helps. Sometimes ignorance is bliss and you can just put your head down and go to work.”
The ultimate reality is the Vikings need Cousins to play better to get more wins, especially in big games. Nobody is more aware of it than Cousins himself.
“Losing is the adversity. When you lose, it doesn’t sit well with you and you really have a bad taste in your mouth for the whole week,” Cousins said.
The Vikings know something has to change. This time last year, Thielen was four games into eight straight with at least 100 yards receiving with Cousins at quarterback and had 40 catches. This year, he’s got 13 catches on 22 targets and doesn’t have a 100-yard game yet. Stefon Diggs had 27 catches and two 100-yard games through four weeks last season. He’s got 13 catches through four games this season, and had his best yardage game so far (108 yards) against the Bears.
At this point, it’s in the past and he’s got to move onto preparing for the New York Giants.
“I think being a professional, that’s just what you learn to do,” Cousins said.