Vikings Analyst: Cousins "Vulnerable" With Media

Kirk Cousins has been honest and emotional with media this offseason, Ben Leber says, and he's determined to change how fans perceive him

Taz and the Moose
August 02, 2019 - 10:14 am
Kirk Cousins Vikings

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After going 13-3 and reaching the NFC Championship in 2017, the Minnesota Vikings entered last season with high expectations and, well, fell short of them. Minnesota went 8-7-1 and missed the playoffs.

This offseason, though, there’s a different vibe around camp. Players aren’t looking back at what was; they are looking ahead to what could be.

“I think you feel a sense of business-like atmosphere,” Vikings color analyst Ben Leber said on Taz & The Moose. “They all understand they did not live up to expectations last year. Nobody around the national scene is saying, ‘The Vikings are a sleeper pick for the Super Bowl’ like they were saying last year. There were a lot of guys that sort of admitted at the end of the season, ‘Yeah, we felt that.’ I think they came into the season a little too high on the horse and maybe didn’t work on a day-to-day basis like they should. They sort of felt like people were crowning them, and they believed in that a little bit. I think that’s been a point of emphasis all offseason with Coach Zimmer: ‘Stay focused on today. Don’t worry about anything else.’ You can feel that at training camp right now.”

For Kirk Cousins, especially. Statistically, he was more than solid last season, throwing for 4,298 yards, 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. But he simply didn’t win enough games.

“He’s had this renaissance feel in the offseason,” Leber said. “He’s been very vulnerable and open to the media about who he is and how people view him. He basically is saying, I’m going to make a concerted effort to change people’s perception of who he is as a player. I think it’s been a really interesting and honest and sort of individually emotional experience this whole offseason of him just letting everybody in to see who he really is. He’s coming out of his shell a little bit. I don’t think that he’s as robotic in his approach. These are all things that he’s identified himself. I think it’s been really refreshing to see how he’s handled the media this offseason, his approach to the game this offseason. From the practices I’ve been at, he’s been dealing awesome balls down the field. He definitely looks a lot more comfortable.”

Cousins hopes to involve the tight ends, especially Kyle Rudolph, more this season.

“With the offensive coordinator change, they didn’t have an identity,” Leber said. “Yes, I think there were times where he sort of forgot about getting the ball to the tight ends, but I also think that they were struggling to figure out who they really were on offense. The running game just wasn’t there with Dalvin Cook missing a bunch of games. Even when he came back, I don’t think he was truly, truly healthy. Then (John) DeFilippo gets let go, and I think there was a lot of turmoil with the offensive line, especially with (Tony) Sparano passing away right before training camp. I know Kirk has been a little hard on himself for not identifying the tight ends a lot last year, but whatever the case may be, they are definitely doing that this year. I get the sense that drafting Irv Smith did light a little bit of a fire under Kyle Rudolph and Kyle looks to be a little bit more slimmed down, a little leaner going into camp. He has been nearly un-coverable.”

Mike Zimmer, meanwhile, knows he cannot miss the playoffs again. In fact, anything short of a deep playoff run could cost him his job. Minnesota didn’t invest $84 million in Cousins to not contend for a Super Bowl.

“He’s a talented coach, he’s a well-respected coach, but production is what matters,” Leber said of Zimmer. “When you put out that much money in what you think is the missing link and you don’t get it done, people have to answer for that. I think he’s the right mindset and right coach for this fan base. But if they don’t win this year – and win at a high level – I think there’s going to be a lot of tough decisions to make in the offseason.”

Click below to listen to Leber’s interview in its entirety.