As a sports fan, it’s my job to be a moron. It’s my job to watch my team and support my team and believe in my team even when all historical evidence proves that such a pursuit is folly. Being a fan is an act of faith, but it’s not a blind faith. I can see, right in front of my very eyes, the many valid reasons to doubt this faith. And yet, I continue believing anyway, because I am a moron.
Which brings us to Kirk Cousins. I would tell you that Kirk Cousins played his worst game of 2018 last night, but that would be ignoring the time he fumbled away a game against the Bills, of all teams. I can go ahead and make excuses for how Cousins failed against Chicago—his offensive line got butchered by Khalil Mack and the rest of the Bears’ defensive front, his running game was nonexistent, his team has a gaping black hole at third wideout—but there’s no need for me to do that when Cousins is more than willing to make those excuses himself:
“I was trying to trust my eyes, and what I felt the (cornerback) do, I don’t know that he really did,” Cousins said, adding that the ball should’ve gone to Stefon Diggs in the flat instead. “Just playing fast in the moment I felt like the (cornerback) was squatting and he really wasn’t. And if he’s not squatting that means the safety is going to be in a different spot than where I maybe thought he would be. That led to the interception.”
“Any time you have a game like this you come back on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday with a real sense of urgency,” Cousins said. “It certainly humbles you, and I think that’s a positive.”
We’re at the point in the NFL season where we know basically what every team is. The Saints and Chiefs are offensive juggernauts. The Packers are a mess. The Chargers are frauds. The Steelers are rounding into Steelers-like form, as they always do. The Jaguars suck. The Bears are the new Eagles. The Eagles are the new toilet. And the Minnesota Vikings are a talented team that pathologically commits HORRIBLE turnovers and spends entire games frantically trying to clean up their own messes. They are infuriating and they are, in every way, emblematic of the quarterback they gave $84 million to this offseason.
You shouldn’t rip Kirk Cousins for how much he makes, because he’d be worthy of derision REGARDLESS of his salary. He could make a dollar a year and I still wouldn’t be sure I’m getting a bargain. I live in the DC area and watched as fans here spent YEARS hemming and hawing over whether or not Cousins was “worth” the money, when the much more vexing question was why Cousins—who very much has the ability to be good—can make such hideous, backbreaking mistakes with such consistency. Why is he like this? Why is he NFC Andy Dalton? And why does he constantly set himself up to get completely owned when it matters?
In theory, Cousins is just the sort of corny, airheaded nonthinker that can thrive as an NFL quarterback. He’s just as vapid as Tom Brady, and he does his best to adopt TB12-Lite habits, like sleeping on magnetic sheets and all that other nonsense.
But for all of Brady’s apparent phoniness, he can get very real in very real moments. He is not easy on himself. When he yells on the sideline, he’s not yelling for a camera. He’s yelling because he’s genuinely pissed. And while Kirk Cousins addresses his mistakes with the élan of a pharmaceutical exec testifying before Congress, he’s almost certainly being too kind in regards to his own performance. It’s okay, once in a while, to be hard on yourself. It’s okay to beat yourself up. You shouldn’t do it for too long, and you shouldn’t do it too often. But when you fuck up as egregiously as Cousins fucked up last night, you do have to take a moment to own your failure and wallow it. You cannot just spin it into being some great building block in your development, or else it won’t stick. You can’t just say, “I’m humbled” and be humbled. You have to suffer your failures properly.
I have watched Kirk Cousins perform brilliantly on a football field. It’s true. I have watched him drop the ball into the hands of a blanketed wideout with uncanny precision. I have watched him hit deep balls under relentless pressure. I have watched him trade body blows with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, only to be denied ultimate victory because of Vikingsian kicking woes. There’s potential to Cousins, but for now it’s just that. For now, he is terminally incapable of playing a clean football game, and so are the Vikings. I’ll keep hoping he figures this shit out, because I have no other choice; he's locked up for three years guaranteed. Am I smart for hoping this? No. I am a fucking dolt, and if Kirk Cousins can’t see what’s keeping him from becoming a championship quarterback, then he’s an even bigger one.