Coming into the 2022 NFL season there was some question as to whether the Minnesota Vikings had their guy in Kirk Cousins. If it was determined that they did not, another stop gap type would’ve made sense in hopes of drafting and grooming a rookie in the coming years. One veteran name thrown around was Marcus Mariota. 11 weeks in, did Minnesota get it right? Did the Vikings choose the right quarterback in Kirk Cousins?
There’s no denying that Kirk Cousins is far from a superstar. At his best, he’s a very capable game manager. Last season Cousins threw 33 touchdowns and had just seven interceptions. Mike Zimmer is gone and Kevin O’Connell was expected to take the offense to new heights.
Cousins is on pace to throw for fewer yards this season and has already eclipsed his interception total from a year ago. After being selected as a Pro Bowl player last year, that wouldn’t appear to be likely for this season.
Instead, what Cousins has done is orchestrate comebacks and show up in the face of pressure. Leading the NFL with six come from behind victories this season, Cousins has done anything but wilt when his team needs him most.
Sure, the Vikings should’ve been in more advantageous situations as a whole, and facing late deficits is not something they needed to be up against. There is however a definite plus in rising to the occasion.
On the flip side, someone like Marcus Mariota would’ve freed up substantial cap space for incoming general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. An ideal stopgap quarterback along the lines of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mariota would’ve represented an opportunity to spend less at the quarterback position and bring in much needed help on the defense.
It’s hard to allocate where savings would’ve gone, or who could’ve been acquired, but we can take a quick glance at what the former Duck has done with the Falcons.
To be fair, Atlanta is a barren team when it comes to skill position players. The Falcons’ best running back is a former Viking that’s a converted wide receiver and kick returner. They have nothing to speak of for wide receivers even with rookie Drake London still working to establish himself. Head coach Arthur Smith also seems unaware that Kyle Pitts exists. He’s not an option right now but has been under-utilized while healthy thus far.
In one of football’s worst divisions, Mariota has the Falcons sitting in contention with a 5-7 record. His 2,046 yards are on pace to represent a career high, and his 14 touchdown passes could also surpass the 26 he threw in 2016. For a guy making a modest salary bridging the gap to rookie Desmond Ridder, he’s done basically everything that has been asked of him.
I’m not sure if Justin Jefferson has the season he is having if he was catching passes from Mariota. Maybe Dalvin Cook sees more holes with a dynamic quarterback capable of extending a play. Mariota’s line has been awful in Atlanta this year, and while a running quarterback could hide some of Minnesota’s deficiencies, their offensive front has held serve thus far.
When trying to decide on an either or, there’s far too many hypotheticals involved for a realistic decision. Either way, the Vikings have fared well with Cousins, and maybe things would be equally as good with Mariota. We’ll never know.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.