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Kirk Cousins’ dreadful performance has the Vikings on the brink of irrelevance

Vikings QB Kirk Cousins vs Falcons NFL Week 6
Oct 18, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Atlanta Falcons linebacker Edmond Robinson (46) hits Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a lot of issues for head coach Mike Zimmer and the Minnesota Vikings. Their previously stout defense has been awful through the first six weeks of the season. It has Minnesota at 1-5 and in complete shambles. However, the performance of high-priced Pro Bowl quarterback Kirk Cousins has not helped matters in the Twin Cities.

Quarterbacks get praise when their team has success. They are on the receiving end of criticism when their team struggles. It is the nature of the beast. But for Cousins, said criticism is not empty. It’s justified. It’s real. And it has this iteration of the Vikings on the brink of irrelevance.

Kirk Cousins’ brutal Week 6 performance

That was one of three first-half interceptions Cousins threw against a previously winless Atlanta Falcons squad on Sunday. It led directly to a 40-23 loss, the Vikings fifth defeat in six tries this season.

The tape depicts a story of a horrible quarterback through six weeks. The stats tell that very same story. Cousins has now thrown 11 touchdowns compared to 10 interceptions on the season.

He’s on pace to be picked off a ridiculous 27 times. That’s absolutely absurd given that Cousins never threw more than 13 interceptions in his eight seasons leading up to the 2020 NFL season. In fact, Cousins threw a combined 16 interceptions in his first two seasons with the Vikings.

Vikings are in the midst of a lost 2020 season

Playing poorly over the course of several weeks, during what has been an odd 2020 season, is one thing. The larger issue for the Vikings is that there’s no end in sight. Simply put, Minnesota can’t hit the rest button following the season.

Kirk Cousins contract

The Vikings signed Cousins to a two-year, $66 million contract extension back in March. This deal takes him through the 2022 season. It’s not great for the Vikings.

  • 2021: $31 million cap hit, $40 million dead cap hit
  • 2022: $45 million cap hit, $10 million dead cap hit

Cousins’ contract’s breakdown suggests that the Vikings will have to rely on him under center in 2020. They can’t take a $40 million dead cap hit by releasing the struggling quarterback. Cousins’ contract is basically untradeable right now.

The best these Vikings can hope for is a reversion to the mean. That includes Cousins avoiding turnovers and managing the game. It’s something we have not seen from the overrated quarterback thus far this season.

Vikings defense is a mess

Minnesota was previously able to rely on a stout defense to make up for shortcomings at quarterback. After moving on from veteran Pro Bowlers Everson Griffen and Xavier Rhodes during the offseason, that has not been the case in 2020.

  • Total defense: 423.5
  • Points per game: 32.0

Compare that to previous seasons, and we’re seeing a major downward trend from the Vikings’ unproven and young defense.

  • 2019: Fifth in scoring defense
  • 2018: Ninth in scoring defense
  • 2017: First in scoring defense
  • 2016: Sixth in scoring defense

Again, it’s hard to mask issues at quarterback when your defense is giving up 30-plus points per game. We saw this come out in droves during the Vikings’ historically bad offensive showing against the San Francisco 49ers in last year’s NFC Divisional Playoffs. It’s now been brought to an entirely new level in 2020.

Is Mike Zimmer the man to lead the Vikings?

In addition to being tied to Cousins through at least next season, the Vikings just recently signed head coach Mike Zimmer to a contract extension. Coming off a 10-win campaign, that seemed to make sense.

This is until we realize Zimmer has won a total of two playoff games in seven seasons as the Vikings’ head coach. He’s seen as someone who can lead a veteran-laden squad to contention.

Now that the Vikings are relying on a young defense, rookie receiver and an unproven offensive line, one has to wonder whether Zimmer makes sense as the long-term head coach of the team. This season has only magnified that.

Bottom line: The Vikings are headed to irrelevance

That’s the harsh reality of the situation following Sunday’s blowout 17-point loss to a previously winless Falcons team that just fired its head coach.

The Vikings are stuck at quarterback. The Vikings are stuck at head coach. They boast an unproven defense that has not stepped up through six weeks. It’s the definition of irrelevance with no light at the end of the tunnel.