Can Kirk Cousins win the 2021 MVP Award?
At one point, the Minnesota Vikings seemed like they overpaid for Kirk Cousins. After reaching the NFC Championship Game with Case Keenum under center, Cousins was supposed to be the guy who would bring them back to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1970s.
Offering the free agent quarterback a very rare fully guaranteed contract, Cousins has repaid the franchise with just one playoff win.
And after the Vikings missed the playoffs in 2018 and 2020, it seemed like the Vikings made the wrong decision by spending big money on the former Washington Football Team quarterback.
But in 2021, Kirk Cousins arguably has better passing statistics than Aaron Rodgers, Josh Allen, and even Patrick Mahomes. The best quarterback who no one talks about, Cousins enters Week 13 with 23 passing touchdowns and just 3 interceptions.
Cousins has been so good this season that he’s thrown 4 fewer picks than Kyler Murray. This is very impressive as Murray has missed 3 consecutive starts due to a nagging ankle injury.
His team’s record is the definition of mediocre at 5-and-6, but at least two of those losses are definitely not the fault of the Vikings starting quarterback.
One such loss was the NFL’s opening weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals. Driving down the field late in overtime, Dalvin Cook fumbled at the absolute worst time of the ballgame, allowing the Bengals to win it on the subsequent drive.In Week 2 against the NFC’s best record in the Arizona Cardinals, Cousins was quite possibly
the better quarterback on this day. Cousins threw for 3 touchdowns and zero interceptions, while Murray got picked off twice at his home stadium.
The Vikings were in a prime position to upset the Red Birds, but Greg Joseph’s 37-yard field goal attempt went wide right, helping the Cardinals hold on for a 1-point win. The Cards were also helped out by Matt Prater showing off his boot with a 62-yarder just before halftime.
In practically historic fashion, the Vikings found improbable ways to lose back-to-back games, neither of which can be blamed on their signal-caller.
And while Nick Foles didn’t win the MVP Award in 2013, even though his TD pass-to-interception ratio that season was 27:2, that was the same year when Peyton Manning absolutely shattered the record books. Also, Foles only started 10 games in 2013.
Barring injury, Cousins will start all 17 games this season. And considering that no 1 team outside of possibly the Cardinals is running away in the standings, Cousins is still very much in the MVP race.
But is Cousins the most valuable player in the league? Honestly, he has every right to claim the award.
He obviously plays the toughest and most important position on the gridiron, and his Vikings have been competitive in every game this season. Dalvin Cook has certainly helped make his job easier, but you can also make the case that Carson Wentz’s Colts would be in last place if not for the extraordinary efforts of Jonathan Taylor in the backfield.
All things considered, Derrick Henry had the MVP Award all wrapped up. But, with him missing nearly half of the season, he’s no longer eligible for the MVP trophy.
My pick for MVP would be Kyler Murray, especially since AJ Green single handedly blew away a win for the Cards, but Murray has still missed 3 games due to injury. Colt McCoy won 2 of those 3 starts, proving that Kliff Kingsbury deserves to be a head coach in the NFL.
Aaron Rodgers is an easy pick for MVP, but the argument can be made that Cousins has played better than Mr. Discount Double Check. In 2021, Cousins has more yards-per-game and less interceptions thrown than Rodgers.
If we go by the analytics, Cousins has the best passer rating in the red zone at 117.5. Granted, Jalen Hurts and Matt Ryan are in second and third place for this statistic. Hurts and Ryan are obviously not eligible for the MVP Award, so it’s important to take Pro Football Focus statistics with a grain of salt.
However, Cousins has other analytics to prove he’s worthy of being honored as the best in the league.
On September 27th, PFF had Cousins listed as the best QB when it comes to throws over 10 yards.
This has continued into late November as Cousins, Murray, and Joe Burrow are listed as the three best QBs when it comes to throwing past the first down marker.
If we continue on with PFF, Tom Brady is the only QB with a better grade than Cousins. He’s absolutely deadly with a clean pocket. According to Pro Football Focus, he has completed up to 81% of his passes when he doesn’t have to rush a pass.
Some people hate PFF, and that’s fine to disagree with their procedure on ranking players. So how about Football Outsiders?
Going into Week 12, Cousins was in second place for the following Football Outsiders projected numbers: Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement and Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average.
Football Outsiders, similar to Pro Football Focus, looks at each play and how the quarterback is getting the job done. For example, a five-yard completion on 3rd and 5 is less valued for DVOA calculations than a 12-yard completion on 3rd and 12. A passing touchdown at the 5-yard line on a screen pass is less valued than a 30-yard TD pass right on target. DVOA and DYAR equates to Cousins doing a lot more than just managing the offense or handing it off to Cook.
That being said, the Vikings offense has been very prolific in 2021. Justin Jefferson is currently third in receiving yards, and the always-reliable Cook is fifth in rushing yards. Still, Cousins and his 22 touchdown passes and 3 interceptions allows the offense to stay on the field. He’s also not fumbling the football.
Murray has been fabulous in Glendale, Arizona, but he’s also fumbled the ball 7 times. Cousins has only fumbled once in 2021. Lamar Jackson and Dak Prescott each have fumbled it 4 times.
Can a non-quarterback win the award in 2021? Sure. Cooper Kupp has probably been more important to the new-look Rams offense than Matthew Stafford, and he’s on track to have 1,900 receiving yards in Los Angeles.
But in case the MVP voting committee wants to stick with the quarterback position, it’s hard to go against Cousins. He has a better passer rating than Justin Herbert. His Adjusted QBR is better than Josh Allen, although the Bills starting QB is probably no longer a contender for MVP.
Once again, it’s fine to vote for Rodgers. It’s fine to even consider Jonathan Taylor for MVP if the Indianapolis Colts keep winning games. But if there are still Vikings fans who think that a new QB would help the Vikings win more games, they would probably be mistaken.
The Vikings have lost 2 games in overtime this season. In both of those OT games, Cousins didn’t throw a pick and had a better QB rating than the opposing QB. He has outplayed Rodgers, Herbert, Jackson, and other notable QBs this season.
Is Cousins the best player in the NFL when healthy? In a word….No. The best player in the NFL is arguably Derrick Henry, but with King Henry out of commission for the foreseeable future, Cousins is a worthy choice for MVP honors.
Also, Dalvin Cook has a dislocated shoulder and will be hampered by it for the next couple of weeks. Even before suffering the dislocated shoulder last weekend, he’s averaging a mere 4.5 yards per carry, the worst of his short career. As such, it’s not as though Cook is carrying the Vikings offense.
It’s okay to NOT vote for Cousins. But if he doesn’t get a single vote for MVP, that would be a shame.
But what do you think? Does Cousins have a chance to win the MVP Award, especially if the Vikings make the playoffs? Make sure to comment below and subscribe to Sports Broadcast Solutions.