Vikings’ Cousins wants to get to next level and not just be a ‘.500 quarterback’
I’ll just start by saying I’m thrilled at the fact that Kyle Rudolph is back for another few years. Anytime that you can keep a player with his talent, experience, it’s a huge asset. His track record speaks for itself. When some of your best players or most accomplished players are also some of your best leaders or locker room people, it helps drive the culture of your team in the right direction. To have someone like him as a core piece of our locker room for the next several years makes a big difference. Rookies come in, and they’re going to look to the players that are accomplished and say, “How does that guy conduct himself? Because that’s where I want to go with my career.” If they’re looking at Kyle Rudolph, that’s a really good thing for our team, for how to show rookies what it looks like to conduct yourself as a pro. I don’t know if you saw it, but he caught a pass I think right in front of you guys crossing the field today, that’s just not an easy catch. It was low, and he just reaches out and extends his hands and snags it, and that’s one of his elite traits and something that he just does really naturally. Hopefully we get a lot of that from him this year.
Q: What has it been like to work with Gary Kubiak, and how much have you been able to bounce different ideas off of him?
A: He stands right behind the quarterbacks or right next to the quarterbacks right behind the huddle every play, so you can hear his voice right after a play or as you’re dropping back, what he’s thinking. Our coaches do a good job, they’ll coach us sometimes through asking a question. They’ll say, “Hey, what’s your footwork there?” Rather than just telling you the answer, they’ll make you process it, and I think that’s a great style of coaching. I’m excited about our leadership in the offensive room. When you look at the names, starting with Kevin [Stefanski], he’s just a sharp mind, classy person, knows football really well, works at it. Just has a composure about him that I love to play with and for. And then you add Gary Kubiak, Klint Kubiak, Rick Dennison, Brian Pariani, [Andrew] Janocko, Drew Petzing, KP [Kennedy Polamalu], it’s just a really good group. We just got to do what they tell us and get as many reps as we can, because if we do that, I think we’ll have a lot of success.
Q: Has it been any easier or more natural for you in year two to be a vocal leader?
A: I don’t know that I am stepping it up at all. If anything, I may be down and back a little bit. I think last year I wanted to assert myself as best I could so that there wasn’t a slow transition, but I do think it’s just been business as usual. I don’t think that I’ve been any different. I don’t think anybody would say I’ve suddenly turned the dial up at all. If anything, just more methodical and just more trying to go about my business and do my part and make sure I’m coaching other, helping others so that we’re all on the same page.
Q: Rick Spielman was saying that the key this year is getting you to the next level. What do you got to do to get to that next level? One of the things he cited was the play action game.
A: Yeah, I think when you look at any numbers or analytics, I’ve been effective when play action plays are being called, traditionally. But then you look across the league, and I think that’s the case. Our analytics department sent me a really good summary a couple of weeks ago over Memorial Day weekend that just showed that play action is just effective, period, and you got to call it more. I don’t know that it’s me, I think any quarterback should be getting a lot of play action opportunities just because of the nature of what it does for slowing down the pass rush and creating explosive plays, giving you outlets in the flats that are good, easy throws for productive gains. I think the next level really is all about winning. I’m pretty much a .500 quarterback in my career so far, and I don’t think that’s where you want to be. That’s not why you’re brought in or people are 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. I may not walk off the field every day feeling like I did, but if we win, that’s the life of the quarterback, is you are then at the next level. If I have my best year yet in 2019 but we’re eight and eight, I didn’t go to the next level. That’s the reality of it, and I’m going to do all that I can, control what I can control. I think one thing that I can do beyond just playing the best I can is to start really coaching and leading other people so that I can never walk off the field saying, “Hey, I did my part but so and so didn’t.” That’s can’t happen as an NFL quarterback, you have to be bringing others along so that isn’t a point you’re making at the end of a practice or a game. That’s really what it’s all about.
Q: How often do you get those analytical reports?
A: Well I just this offseason reached out to Scott [Kuhn] and just said, ‘Hey, can you get me things that jump out at you. Right or wrong, good or bad, and if you see a narrative that’s come along that you think is untrue or you see one that you think is true, can you give me the numbers that back that up?’ I think information is power, knowledge is power, so the more you can have the better off you are. I’ve kind of given them an open door to say, “Hey, here’s my number, you reach out to me if you got anything or if anything jumps out at you.” I’ll occasionally ask, like I asked them, “Hey, the fumbles last year, what was the story there?” And so they had some good thoughts for me there. Just little things like that I’m always trying to look for.
Q: What’s not true about some of the feedback you’ve gotten?
A: The fumbles come to mind. I just think that what came out they said that you had fumbles lost. They said your actual fumbles were pretty on par. Which again, you want to be in the lower half of the league right so to be on par, still isn’t good enough. But they said the problem is that yours were lost and the other team recovers them whereas some guys they’ll fumble and they’ll fall on it or a lineman will fall on it or whatever so the key is if you fumble, you can’t lose it. So those are good statistics to have and you go back and you look with your coaches what are the fundamentals that I can change to prevent what the numbers are saying.