Kirk Cousins is coming off one of the worst games of his career Sunday in Green Bay and by far his worst performance as a member of the Minnesota Vikings.
Cousins was 14-of-30 for 230 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, two fumbles (one lost) and a passer rating of 52.9, which was the third lowest of his career as a starter.
It seems whenever the Vikings ask Cousins to be the hero, he falls flat on his face. Instead of being a gunslinger who carries a team, it's clear that he's always been better as a game manager.
Over his career, Cousins is 35-38-2 as a starter. Even though the NFL has morphed into a pass-first league, history says when Cousins has to drop back more than 30 times, he's bound to struggle.
- Record when attempting fewer than 30 passes: 17-3
- Record when attempting 30+ passes: 18-35-2
In the 20 starts he's attempted fewer than 30 passes, only four of them have come in a Vikings uniform and Minnesota is undefeated in those games.
Typically, if a quarterback is attempting less than 30 passes, it means his team built an early lead and was able to focus on chewing up clock with the running game.
So on Sunday when the Vikings went down 21-0 in the first quarter, it set the stage for Cousins to struggle. Thanks to a 75-yard touchdown run by Dalvin Cook, some of the pressure was taken off Cousins.
But when it mattered most and the Vikings had a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter, Minnesota inexplicably asked Cousins to throw the ball when the running game was clearly dominating.
Remember, Cook finished the day with 154 yards (7.7 yards per carry). Even if you take away his big run, Cook still averaged 4.1 yards per carry (79 yards on 19 totes).
Instead of handing Cook the ball on first-and-goal, the Vikings unleashed Cousins and he threw a terrible pass into the corner of the end zone that was intercepted. Cousins should've thrown the ball away, but the Vikings' coaching staff could've eliminated that chance had they just gone with the guy who was dominating: Dalvin Cook.
In that situation, giving the ball to Cook behind an offensive line that was run-blocking really well was a much better option than letting a struggling quarterback make a play behind an offensive line that was giving up a ton of pressure.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Vikings' offensive line has been the worst unit in the league when faced with pressure.
It's evident through two weeks that the Gary Kubiak-inspired zone-blocking scheme is reaping rewards in the run game, and that's what Minnesota's identity needs to be, effectively making Cousins a highly paid game manager.
And after all, a run-first offense is exactly what Mike Zimmer wants. As much as he defers to Kubiak and Kevin Stefanski when it comes to offensive play calling, he has to step in and make this a run-first team.
Cousins needs to be handled the same way Alex Smith was.
After looking like a bust in his first five seasons, Smith was unlocked by Jim Harbaugh with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011 and was able to carry that success over to his time in Kansas City, and for a short time in Washington before he busted his leg.
From 2011 to 2018, Smith made 111 starts, winning 75 games (.675 winning percentage) while averaging 3,523 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions on 7.2 yards per attempt.
Smith made throws when he needed to and was really good at limiting turnovers.
It's not easy to think of Cousins as a game manger considering he's getting $28 million a year, but Cousins and his history of 4,000-yard seasons hasn't resulted in any wins that matter.
Two games in 2019 are just the latest examples of a career body of work that suggests Cousins is best when he's not asked to be the hero.