ESPN released their playoff QB rankings this week, ranking every QB who shall have the honor of playing this postseason.

And, boy, did they disrespect Kirk Cousins.

They ranked a somewhat washed Tom Brady above Cousins and placed Cousins below New York Giants Quarterback Daniel Jones and Seattle Seahawks Quarterback Geno Smith. This is especially crazy coming off a season in which Cousins has led numerous come-from-behind victories, 4th quarter comebacks, and has even tied the NFL record for game-winning drives in a season with eight. All of this firmly dispels the narrative that Cousins is not a clutch quarterback.

Kirk Cousins Ranked Shockingly Low in ESPN Playoff QB Rankings

Brady’s Buccaneers finished just 8-9, had a negative 45-point differential, and were forced to limp to a division title in the second-worst division in football. The Giants started the season off strong but then nearly collapsed down the stretch and were fortunate to survive and grab a Wildcard berth. Then, the Seahawks had to rely on Dan Campbell, Jared Goff, and the Detroit Lions even to make the playoffs, as a win by the Green Bay Packers in Week 18 would have knocked them out of the postseason.

Of course, football is a team game, so not all of the difference between the Vikings success this season and that of these other NFC competitors can be chalked up to a difference in quarterback play. But it is clear that Cousins was a pivotal force in the Vikings journey to a 13-win season.

Orlovsky Known for Questionable Takes

Kirk Cousins Ranked
Dan Orlovsky

The author of these ESPN Quarterback rankings was famous –- or infamous -– former Detroit Lions QB and current ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky. Given his history on the field, we all know that his judgment is best taken with a large grain of salt. 

Not only has Orlovsky exhibited some questionable decision-making on the field, but his analysis has also been quite questionable off the field. First, it was his extremely strong support for then-Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, but more recently, he made a QB ranking during a live segment on ESPN that had Los Angeles Rams Quarterback Matthew Stafford ranked 2nd in the entire NFL.

Now obviously, Stafford is a very solid QB, and last year was an excellent season for him, culminating in a Rams Super Bowl where Stafford received game MVP honors. But second in the entire NFL? That is a ridiculous notion, especially in a season where Aaron Rodgers won MVP, Tom Brady deserved MVP — and Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, and Josh Allen all played at a very high level.

In his write-up on Cousins, he even goes as far as to say Cousins has been too aggressive this season, a take with minimal basis.

Charles Rex Arbogast, The Associated Press. Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins motions to a wide receiver during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Chicago.

These rankings are especially interesting given Daniel Jones’ placement three spots higher than Cousins at No. 8, as Cousins already outdueled Jones earlier this season. 

Overall, Orlovsky’s analysis here seems lazy and lacks objective evidence. It seems doubtful he put much research into these QB rankings, whether via film or statistical analysis, and it shows — especially towards the bottom.

Of course, these rankings are just for fun, but placing Cousins ridiculously low as Orlovsky did, just contributes to the negative bias fans and media continue to exhibit towards Cousins. It’s disappointing to witness.

Cousins Must Change the Narrative

Nov 22, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton (14) talk after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The best way to make ‘analysts’ like Orlovsky change their ways is for Cousins to go out and play at an elite level in the playoffs and make Orlovsky eat crow. So far this season, he has given every indication that he will do just that. This has been Cousins’ best year of his career from a wins standpoint, and a significant reason is his consistent ability to play his best in close games and high-leverage moments when the team needs him to put them on his back.

This bodes well for the playoffs since the entire game during the playoffs has a similar intensity level to a close 4th quarter in the regular season. Cousins has had a lot more experience in high-pressure situations than his NFL quarterbacking counterparts, which will give him an advantage in the postseason.

But it doesn’t matter what Cousins has done or who he has been throughout this season. What matters is that he plays like an elite quarterback during these playoffs. And if he can achieve that level of play, who knows how far the Minnesota Vikings can go?

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