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Why Kirk Cousins is more Jared Goff than Matthew Stafford

Purple Pain

This fan blog entry was originally posted at Purple Pain Forums by whoskmoon.

Throughout this offseason, the comparisons between Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford have become commonplace. Both quarterbacks, up until this past season, had been unsuccessful in any meaningful way and both had struggled mightily to win games against winning teams.

On top of that, Cousins’ new head coach was Stafford’s offensive coordinator and apparently plans to bring a lot of the same principles that “made Stafford into a Super Bowl caliber quarterback” to the Minnesota Vikings. Aside from that though, are there any real similarities between the former number one overall pick and the former fourth-rounder?  

Comparing Kirk Cousins to Stafford and Goff

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Most people are aware of both Cousins’ and Stafford’s brutal record against winning teams, but what about these quarterbacks’ styles of play? Are they actually similar or are they two very different types of quarterbacks who bring two very different things to the table?

To figure that out I took a look at some of the advanced statistics PFF provides in both their premium stats and their quarterback annual. Below are comparisons between the three quarterbacks Sean McVay has coached plus some of Cousins’ stats from when he was coached by McVay in Washington. 

Note that I do not have EPA for first and second reads for any years prior to 2018.

Comparing the averages of the quarterbacks, it actually seems like Cousins is more Jared Goff-like than Stafford-like:

Both Cousins and Goff are mostly one-read quarterbacks who are very average in terms of getting rid of the ball quickly, depth of target and big-time throws. Stafford, on the other hand, is much more aggressive, is at his best making multiple reads and gets rid of the ball quicker on average. Surprisingly, both Stafford and Goff have been more prone to take longer scrambling to buy time than Cousins.  

Related: NFL QB Rankings: Including Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff, and Matt Stafford

Before I go further, some context around some of these stats. Cousins’ (non-McVay) Big Time Throw Percentage (BTT %) average would have had him at 16th out of 38 qualifying quarterbacks this past year and his Turnover Worth Play Percentage average (TWP %) would have placed him ninth. Stafford’s averages would have been good for third and 22nd respectively. This means that most fans’ perception of the two quarterbacks is probably correct: Cousins is the safe option who is less likely to significantly help or hurt the team, while Stafford is the big play, high-risk, high-reward type of quarterback.

With Expected Points Added Per Play (EPA/P), the disparity between the first and second read is actually pretty common among even the best quarterbacks, and very few even come close to what Stafford did on his next read when it comes to EPA/P. The only other quarterback I can find who seems to consistently do well throwing to his next read is Dak Prescott.

Related: Overpaid or underrated: 2022 outlook for Vikings QB Kirk Cousins

Jared Goff being compared to Cousins isn’t a bad thing

NFL: Minnesota Vikings Minicamp
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

So now that there is context, is it actually a bad thing Cousins is more like Goff than Stafford for the McVay offense? Not necessarily. Goff did have a lot of success in that offense in 2017 and 2018, leading the Rams to the third-best scoring offense (PPD) two years in a row. Of course, it got bad at the end once teams figured the limited quarterback out, with the Rams dropping to 16th in 2019 then 25th in 2020. However, this implies there might be a window where the Vikings could catch teams off guard and have a lot of success prior to teams getting tape on them. That could lead to some regular season success, and if the Vikings are the beneficiary of some luck – like the blatant pass interference no-call in the conference championship in 2018 – they too could have the opportunity to get wrecked in the Super Bowl just like the Rams did with Goff.

In the end, Kirk Cousins is not Matthew Stafford. He already had his Stafford-to-the-Rams opportunity and flopped miserably in 2018, but he could be the next 2017/2018 Jared Goff and that is probably the best Vikings fans could hope for. 

As always, if you’ve enjoyed this piece, please consider hopping over to Purple Pain Forums and debating with other Minnesota Vikings fans about not only this topic, but so much more!