EAGAN, Minn. — At one point last year, Kirk Cousins was the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL. Now, he’s the lowest-rated signal caller in the league.
According to Pro Football Focus, Cousins, in his second season with the Vikings, has a rating of 31.0. That ranks him 33rd out of 33 quarterbacks with enough playing time to qualify.
That rating is a reflection of his performance in Sunday, Sept. 16’s 21-16 loss at Green Bay. Cousins completed 14 of 32 passes for 230 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He fumbled twice, losing one.
The Vikings were doomed when, trailing 21-16, Cousins threw an interception at the back of the end zone on first-and-goal at the Packers 8 with 5:17 left in the game.
“Cousins has to play better,” tweeted former Vikings quarterback Tommy Kramer shortly after the game. That tweet has gotten more than 2,000 likes, many perhaps coming from joyful Packers fans.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said after Sunday’s game that Cousins has “all the talent and we just need to continue coach him in the way we want him to play.” Zimmer was asked Monday to elaborate on that.
“I just think play within himself as far as if the play is not there, throw it away,” Zimmer said. “He knows that. It’s not anything different. I think Kirk, like every position, we’re coaching the heck out of him and trying to do the same thing with … everyone else.”
After six years with the Washington Redskins, Cousins signed a three-year, $84 million deal contract with the Vikings in March 2018, making him for the moment the highest-paid player in NFL history.
Cousins was the 14th-rated quarterback by Pro Football Focus last season, when he threw for 4,298 yards and 30 touchdowns. He also threw 10 interceptions and tied for the NFL lead with seven lost fumbles.
Sunday easily marked Cousins’ worst game with the Vikings. He had three turnovers for the first time in 18 games with the team.
His NFL passer rating was 52.9; his previous low for a game: 70.4. His completion percentage was 43.8 compared to his previous worse of 55.6.
“Well, he can do better,” Zimmer said Monday.
Zimmer said there was “some miscommunication” on the errant throws. After the game, Cousins blamed himself.
“I didn’t feel like I gave our team the chance that it needed from my role, and that’s very, very frustrating, very disappointing, and I’ll stand up there and really take ownership for that,” said Cousins, whose Vikings face Oakland at noon Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
On Cousins’ fourth-quarter interception, he tried to get the ball to Stefon Diggs in the back right corner of the end zone. Cornerback Kevin King went high in the air in front of Diggs to snag it.
“I’m not going to justify it, but my thought was Diggsie was kind of running along the back line and maybe I put one out there near the back, so it’s either his or it goes out of bounds,” Cousins said.
Making the error even worse was it happened on first down. Cousins could have thrown the ball away, leaving three more downs to try to score.
“It makes it more unacceptable to do that on first down,” Cousins said. “It was uncalled for. There was no justification. There’s no defense. It was unacceptable to put my team in a terrible position.”
Cousins also took the blame for his first interception. In the second quarter, he tried to find Diggs and threw into “too much traffic.” Linebacker Preston Smith picked it off and returned it five yards to the Minnesota 47.
The fumbles came before the interceptions. On Minnesota’s second possession, Cousins fumbled on an 11-yard run, but tight end Irv Smith Jr. recovered for the Vikings.
On the next play, when Cousins was sacked by Kenny Clark for a 7-yard loss, Green Bay’s Dean Lowry recovered at the Vikings 33. Four plays later, Aaron Jones scored on a 2-yard run for a 21-0 Packers lead early in the second quarter.
After the game, Cousins called the fumbles “unacceptable.” On Monday, guard Dakota Dozier said the offensive line needed to prevent the second fumble from happening.
“We’ve got to be able to pick it up and keep him clean, so he can make a throw,” Dozier said.
At least when it comes to NFL passer rating (among all players who have attempted passes), Cousins has a higher ranking than he gets from Pro Football Focus. He is 32nd in the league.