When Kirk Cousins wanders out onto the field at MetLife Stadium for the first time since picking the Minnesota Vikings over the New York Jets in free agency, he’s going to get booed like only a New York team can boo. But any reasonable Jets fan would have to admit: Cousins’ choice to sign with the Vikings instead of the Jets has worked out for everyone.
Had Cousins accepted the Jets’ offer, which was reportedly higher than Minnesota’s, Gang Green would have immediately been put under pressure to compete in the AFC. The problem: They still wouldn’t have been ready to compete in the AFC.
While the Jets have quality players like Jamal Adams, Leonard Williams, Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse, their roster isn’t as matured as a Vikings’ team coming fresh off a 13-3 season.
“I think most Jets fans understood and were interested in going after Kirk Cousins considering how rare it was that a quality starting quarterback hits the free agent market,” Joe Caporoso, who operates the website TurnOnTheJets.com, said on the Purple Podcast. “It became pretty clear early in the process that the Vikings were going to be the favorite…Cousins didn’t humor them with a visit. I don’t think it was that insulting, the Vikings were in the NFC Championship game last year…the Vikings have a much better infrastructure to compete for a Super Bowl over a three year deal than the Jets do.”
Over his first six games in Minnesota, Cousins has found chemistry with the Vikings’ two elite receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs and currently ranks fifth in the NFL in passing yards with 1.921. One of the reasons the Vikings wanted Cousins over Case Keenum was they believed he simply had more arm talent and could keep his team in games in which the defense did not play lights out. That has already proven to be true, especially in Los Angeles when he mostly matched Jared Goff punch for punch until the Rams got the last laugh with a strip-sack to win 38-31.
On the Jets’ side, Cousins’ decision allowed the them to not only select a top quarterback in the draft, but also build around Sam Darnold’s contract. Teams like the Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles have won Super Bowls with stacked rosters and quarterbacks on rookie deals. Cleveland is taking a similar approach, spending dollars to either add free agents or keep good players while Baker Mayfield is on his first contract.
“I was a little hesitant about investing that much in him because I wondered if you invest that much in him, could you build a good enough roster to knock off New England and compete in the AFC?” Caporoso said.
“At the end of the day it worked out for everybody. Jets fans will be talking trash and booing Cousins at the game, but everyone’s happy to have a 21-year-old starter in Sam Darnold,” he added.
Caporoso’s reasoned take likely represents the majority, but in New York, there’s always going to be a very loud take on everything. The New York Post ran a column calling the Vikings’ starting quarterback “Classless Kirk Cousins” in reference to a moment in Cousins’ mini documentary that followed him around during the free agency process. In the video, Cousins says:
“So now we have what we wanted. [His agent, Mike McCartney] has to do the same thing with the Vikings. He’s got to get them from 25 to a number that is competitive with the Jets’ offer. But the fact that we have the Jets offer is huge. Now it gives the other teams a reason to come up.”
In response, columnist Mark Cannizzaro wrote:
“That the video, which contained information from confidential conversations that would be embarrassing to the Jets, was signed off on to be posted to the public is — if we’re cutting the Vikings a break for being absent-minded — a clueless oversight.”
Cousins responded Wednesday to the criticism that the scene make it appear he was simply using the Jets and never had interest in coming to New York.
“That show was meant to show the journey and meant to show how impressed I’ve been with the Minnesota Vikings, it was not meant to be a slight to anybody else,” Cousins said. “This is the NFL, every team is run well, has great coaches. I have tremendous respect for coach [Todd] Bowles. I played against him, he’s had my lunch a couple times. Jeremy Bates is their offensive coordinator is a phenomenal coach and play caller, he’s doing a great job this year. It was really meant to show the Vikings as a great fit for us and nothing more.”
Whether it was meant to reveal that the Jets were a piece to the $84 million puzzle or not isn’t all that relevant for the Jets these days. Darnold is coming off a game in which he went 24-for-30 with 280 yards and two touchdowns and it would appear the Jets will be a force in 2019 or 2020. And with a win, the Vikings can feel like they are back on track as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
But, of course, “all’s well that ends well” isn’t exactly the most attractive headline.