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‘Jury’ Still Out on Vikings Kirk Cousins

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December 3, 2018

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After last night’s 24-10 loss to the Patriots, the Vikings are 0-4 this season against teams with winning records. That also means Minnesota’s new $84 million starting quarterback, Kirk Cousins, is also 0-4 for the 6-5-1 Vikings who are scrambling to make the NFL playoffs after a near Super Bowl run last season.

Cousins has been impressive many times this season, including in Minnesota’s 24-17 win over the Packers late last month. He completed 29 of 38 passes for 342 yards, with three touchdown throws and a QB rating of 129.5. That doesn’t mean, though, that NFL authorities who praise him don’t also express concerns.

In yesterday’s game the Vikings scored only one touchdown, a late second quarter end zone reception by wide receiver Adam Thielen. The Vikings had struggled in the first half to get themselves going with an offense referred to as “herky-jerky” by former Viking linebacker Ben Leber.

Although the Vikings managed just a second half field goal for points, Leber saw a better quarterback. “He doesn’t seem like he’s playing mentally very fast (the first two quarters)…they come out in the second half and he was like a completely different quarterback,” Leber said during postgame comments on KFXN Radio. “I just don’t understand why it takes a lot of time to get him really mentally involved in the football game.”

Kirk Cousins

During the national TV telecast on Fox, Troy Aikman, the former Super Bowl winning quarterback for the Cowboys, said Cousins can struggle with defensive pressure. The Patriots sacked him twice in the game and other times had him under duress. Although he avoided some blitzes, he threw two interceptions and had his lowest quarterback rating of the season at 70.4.

“There are certain instincts that good quarterbacks have,” former Viking defensive lineman Bob Lurtsema told Sports Headliners. “…They know when they have pressure from the right side, the left side or behind. I don’t know whether he (Cousins) picks it up fast enough.”

The Vikings have been looking for a consistent running game all season including yesterday, and they rank 30th among 32 NFL teams, averaging 86.1 yards per game. “You gotta establish a running game,” Lurtsema said. “Once I know you don’t have a running game as a defensive lineman, that puts twice as much pressure on the quarterback.”

Cousins could help himself with timely runs but often seems reluctant to do so. Yesterday he didn’t have a single rushing attempt or yard. With the Patriots showing the Vikings different looks during the game, a timely scramble or running in a straight line for a first down would have helped.

The 30-year-old was sacked a career high 41 times last season playing for the Redskins. Opponents have put him on the ground 30 times this season with four more games to play.

“He’s got the arm. He’s smart. He’s just a great, great kid,” Lurtsema said. “…As far as the few negative things he does have, you can overcome them very easily once you establish the running game.”

Lurtsema and many others will be rooting for Cousins as the Vikings close out the schedule with a chance of winning the NFC North Division title, or at least gaining entry into the playoffs as a wild card team.  Cousins has already established himself here as a personable and high character individual.

Worth Noting

Lurtsema, who played in the 1970s, talking about the trend toward guaranteed contracts in the NFL: “Once they get job security in the National Football League, a lot of them lose that competitiveness.”

That is University of Minnesota regent Michael Hsu who wrote an article posted on Deadspin.com last Friday headlined “Here’s A Fair Way To Pay College Athletes For Their Labor.”

He writes that the NCAA “…should allow the total compensation received by athletes at any school within a conference to be equal to the highest-value full ride within the same conference. Better still, the NCAA could permit total allowable compensation for every athlete in the nation to equal that of whichever school is the most expensive in a given year. (Northwestern’s full ride was the most expensive among all Division I schools in 2017-2018.)”

By full ride (Northwestern was $70,385) Hsu is referring to the fact schools are already “…permitted to pay athletes with grant-in-aid scholarships, which are good for tuition and fees, room, board, and books, as well as small cost-of-attendance stipends.” He suggests the easiest way to distribute the increased compensation to athletes would be via cash payments, increasing the amounts of the cost of living stipends they already receive.

Cyndi Bickerstaff, vice president of event operations for the 2019 Minneapolis Final Four® Local Organizing Committee, is the sister of former Gophers basketball player J.B. Bickerstaff who is now head coach of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies.

Andrew Wiggins, the Timberwolves second highest compensated player with a reported $147.7 million deal, is averaging five-year career lows in minutes, points per game and field goal percentage. By position a small forward or shooting guard, his limitations are often glaring including needing the ball to be a team contributor.

The Twin Cities Dunkers have gifted over $593,000 in the last eight years to the athletic departments of Minneapolis and St. Paul high schools.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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