Saturday, July 11th, 2020

Time for Kirk to Boldly Go?

Neil Reynolds

Time for Kirk to Boldly Go?

Neil Reynolds NFL

This article, from Issue 12 of the new Gridiron Weekly, originally appeared in July 2020. For individual editions or subscriptions, click HERE



Let’s go back to the NFC wildcard round game at the end of the 2019 season, and join an oft-criticised quarterback in the most hostile of environments. Kirk Cousins, of the Minnesota Vikings, has so often been accused of being unable to win the big game, and now the situation presented to him could not be tougher. His Vikings had led 20-10 in the raucous Superdome before being pegged back and forced into overtime at 20-20.

The stadium was rocking and the noise was deafening, but Cousins delivered a beautiful 43-yard rainbow over the head of Patrick Robinson and right into Adam Thielen’s bread basket inside the five-yard line. Fox commentator and three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Troy Aikman was quick to label it the greatest throw of Cousins’ career. Just moments later, Cousins topped that toss by lofting the game-winning touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph.

Just like that, the Superdome fell so silent you could hear a pin drop and Cousins had ripped the playoff/big-game monkey off his back. That amazing performance in New Orleans is where we pick up my conversation with Cousins, who just so happens to be one of the nicest guys in the business.

Let’s go to the end of what was a very good 2019 season for you. Let’s talk about the playoff win over New Orleans in the Superdome. What was that like?
That was a unique feeling because it was the loudest game I had ever played in, even going back to college when I played in front of 110,000 people. Playing in the Superdome in a playoff game, I now know why it has always been so hard to win there. Communication was more difficult for me than it has ever been on a football field. I couldn’t believe how well our defense played to limit such a great Saints offense and they didn’t have the same type of day they had been having. That gave us a chance to stay in the game, Adam Thielen made a great catch to get us down there in overtime and Kyle Rudolph made an unbelievable catch to win the game. It’s pretty easy to say that was probably the biggest victory of my career so far — now we have to get back to the playoffs and win more once we get there. It was an absolute thrill.

 


“Nobody who criticises me is going to be harder on me than I am on me — no matter what they write about me not being good enough, you better believe I’m already pushing myself to get past those hurdles long before anyone else is”


 

Does that game serve as motivation for 2020 because it feels like this team is there or thereabouts? Now it’s about making that final climb to the top of the mountain.
I think so. We took a step by winning a playoff game in a tough atmosphere in this past year, but you don’t line up just to get to the playoffs — you line up to get all the way to the finish and win the Super Bowl. That’s what our objective is — we’ve got a long way to go to get there but, certainly, you raise the bar after last season to see if we can get further. It’s hard to talk about January when you look at the schedule and see Green Bay in Week 1. It’s hard to look past Week 1, [but] there is a lot of football to be played and just about anything can happen.

You’re hard on yourself, right? You push yourself, you admit you have trouble sleeping if you play poorly and you’re your biggest critic. How do you balance that with not being too hard on yourself?
I’m getting better at that. I give myself more grace and I have an understanding that I’m going to have my ups and my downs. I used to say that nobody who criticises me is going to be harder on me than I am on me — that’s one way to understand that, no matter what they write about me not being good enough or this and that, you better believe I’m already pushing myself to get past those hurdles long before anyone else is. You continue to mature as a player and you learn the best way to view yourself, view your play and view your struggles. I think I’m in a really good place right now in terms of my confidence and my belief. There is a general excitement to get this season underway and get going.

Stepping away from your career for my final question, what are your thoughts on Cam Newton signing with the New England Patriots?
When you look at what coach Belichick has done, bringing in players in unique situations for years, it always seems to work out. He rarely has a player come in who had success somewhere else who struggles in New England. I would think it’s a good situation for Cam to go to an organisation which really has a plan and a way to win and they can plug him in. It’s only a one-year contract so, if it works out really well, Cam will be in a great position to see what his next step will be. His role in New England is going to be a fascinating story to follow this year. It was going to be fascinating this year regardless of who was there because of Tom leaving. I’m excited to see how it works out with Cam or Brian Hoyer or whoever they play and how they mix them in. I know coach Belichick will have a plan and it may not be what everyone thinks.



This article, from Issue 12 of the new Gridiron Weekly, originally appeared in July 2020. For individual editions or subscriptions, click HERE

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