Ranking Kirk Cousins in the QB Hierarchy

Minnesota VIkings’ quarterback Kirk Cousins is one of the most debated and maligned quarterbacks in the entire NFL. He has some supporters who vehemently claim he is top 10, while others claim he is below the likes of Tua and Daniel Jones. Neither of these extremes are true, as he stands in the middle of the league. But the question is, where? With that being said, let’s analyze where Kirk Cousins truly lends on the quarterback hierarchy. These rankings will be based off of last year’s performances. 

In the 2021 season Kirk Cousins threw for 4,221 yards, 33 passing touchdowns, 7 interceptions, a 7.5 ypa, and a 66.3 completion percentage. He had 12 fumbles, 115 rush yards, and a rush touchdown while playing in all 16 games. In addition, he threw for over 300 yards in 6 games. These stats alone are enough to put him in the upper half of the league, as 33 touchdowns puts him at 9th best in the league. He threw for more touchdowns than Derek Carr, Kyler Murray, Ryan Tannehill, and Lamar Jackson among others. The 7 interceptions is good for the top 5 lowest in the league as well, as 29 quarterbacks had more passes intercepted. 

Many people malign Cousins for his awful primetime record and his seeming lack of ability to orchestrate game winning drives. In 2021 alone Cousins had 4 game winning drives and won primetime games against Pittsburgh and Chicago, although he did lose to Dallas. A 2-1 record in primetime games is respectable, although his overall record is still horrifying. But remember, this is based off of last year’s performance, not career performances. Cousins has proven that he has improved in primetime, although the narrative will stick around for a while longer. 

With all this being said, where does Kirk Cousins truly rank among quarterbacks? He is clearly among the top half in the league, so let’s list the quarterbacks better than him. These QBs are better than Kirk Cousins, in no particular order:

  • Tom Brady
  • Aaron Rodgers
  • Josh Allen
  • Justin Herbert
  • Joe Burrow
  • Patrick Mahomes
  • Matthew Stafford
  • Dak Prescott
  • Russell Wilson
  • Lamar Jackson

That’s 10 quarterbacks better than Kirk Cousins, putting him at 11th best in the league. Brady, Rodgers, Allen, and Mahomes are all obviously better. Herbert and Burrow have proven that they are really good and will only get better. Stafford, although having inferior career statistics, just led his team to a Super Bowl victory and played incredibly well. Prescott, Wilson, and Jackson are where it gets tight. Prescott throws for more yards, touchdowns, and is more mobile, thus the higher ranking. Wilson had a down year but still rivaled Cousins’ statistics. Jackson also had a down year, but he brings the threat of running the ball and his throwing is improving.

This means that Kirk Cousins is better than Derek Carr, Kyler Murray, Matt Ryan, Ryan Tannehill, Carson Wentz, and others. Derek Carr is essentially a lesser Kirk Cousins, as he throws for less touchdowns and more interceptions, but does have more yards. He threw for 23 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. This means that he threw for 10 less touchdowns than Cousins despite playing in an extra game. Kyler Murray is still young, but he has never thrown for more than 26 touchdowns in his 3 years in the league and seems to be a perennial underachiever. This didn’t change in 2021 as he threw for 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while playing in 14 games. In addition, he threw for 300 yards or more only 3 times throughout the year. Matt Ryan was once a top 5 quarterback in the league, but he has since declined and become very average. He no doubt has had a better career, but 20 passing touchdowns and 12 interceptions is not better than Cousins. Carson Wentz had 27 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and 3,563 passing yards. These numbers are very similar to Cousins, but almost 700 less passing yards and 6 less touchdowns is a decent sized gap. Finally there’s Tannehill, who single handedly made the Titans lose their playoff game to the Bengals. With 22 passing touchdowns and 17 interceptions on the year, it’s hard to put him on or above Cousins.

All in all, Kirk Cousins is most certainly in the top half of quarterbacks in the league. In my mind he has played well enough to be the 11th best. Throwing for 33 touchdowns and 7 interceptions across 16 games. He’s proven he is more than serviceable and can lead his team to victory. His teammates on offense most certainly help his stats, although the poor defense has contributed to more than few losses. Wins and losses aside, Kirk Cousins is a skilled passer who is most certainly one of the better quarterbacks in the league, specifically 11th best.

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