Kirk Cousins doesn't want to be '.500 quarterback'

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Kirk Cousins' first year in Minnesota after signing a fully guaranteed $84 million contract with the Vikings did not pay off by any stretch.

The quarterback hit many career personal highs in 2018 -- completions (425), attempts (606), comp. percentage (70.1) and passing TDs (30) -- but the Vikings were terribly average (8-7-1) and Cousins, though hot in spurts, saw his production slow down the stretch.

Cousins is well aware of his perceived shortcomings when it matters most and told reporters Wednesday on the second day of Vikings mandatory minicamp that he is intent of taking his game and, by virtue, his team to the next level.

"I think the next level, really, is all about winning," Cousins said. "I'm pretty much a .500 quarterback in my career so far and I don't think that's where you want to be, and that's not why you are brought in or people or excited about you.

"If I don't play well, if I don't have gaudy statistics but we win multiple playoff games this year, the narrative will be I went to the next level and I may not walk off the field everyday feeling like I did but if we win, that's the life of a quarterback is you are at the next level. If I have my best year yet in 2019 but we're 8-8, I didn't go to the next level. That's the reality of it."

Cousins is actually below average as a starter; his teams have a 34-37-2 record in the 73 games in which he's started. The more damning statistic for the $84 million man is this, though: zero playoff victories.

The signal-caller was supposed to remedy that in 2018, joining a stacked Vikings squad that a year prior had made the NFC title game with journeyman Case Keenum under center. Instead, Minnesota got off to 1-2-1 start and never got more than two games over .500.

In a win-and-you're-in finale at home against the Chicago Bears, Cousins and the Vikings laid a handsome egg. Cousins threw for just 132 passing yards and one score on 33 attempts as Minnesota fell to Chicago by two touchdowns.

In the offseason, Minnesota renovated its coaching staff, adding former Broncos coach Gary Kubiak as an offensive advisor to pair offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who took over in December after first-year Vikes OC John DeFilippo was fired.

Not much is different with Stefanski in charge and Kubiak in the building, except for some terminology. But the new Vikings offensive coordinator feels Cousins will thrive more this season because of his comfortability in the new locale.

"Having one year under his belt around his teammates is a big deal and there's so much that goes into understanding the nuances of each one of your receivers and your tight ends and knowing how they come out of routes," Stefanski said. "That was something that we definitely tried to speed up the process last year. There's only so much you can do that. I think it's really helpful that he walks out on this practice field and has an inventory of knowledge of each of his receivers in particular."

There are many notions that Cousins must dispel this season in Minnesota, not least of which is the league-wide perception that he doesn't come up in the big moments, that when the pressure is high he is, like he said, "a .500 quarterback." Cousins is off to a good start. Awareness and acceptance, after all, are the first steps on the path to change.

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