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Vikings Host Fans for Netflix 'Quarterback' Premiere

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings ran a QB sneak preview on Tuesday night at TCO Stadium.

The team hosted fans for a special airing of the new Netflix Quarterback series that is completely available to the public today.

The free event featured a screening of the first two episodes, entitled "The Quest" and "Homecoming."

Some fans opted for spots on the field, while others enjoyed the view from the bleachers on a temperate evening with a few sprinkles. Cousins was at the Quarterback premiere in Los Angeles but sent a video message to thank fans for attending the Vikings screening.

The docuseries uses eight episodes to chronicle the 2022 NFL season through the eyes of Minnesota's Kirk Cousins, Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes and Marcus Mariota, who was with Atlanta last season.

Netflix and NFL Films provide exclusive access to the playing careers and personal lives of those three quarterbacks to allow viewers to "see their side of the game."

Footage includes time with Cousins at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center in meeting rooms and the cold tub therapy pool, the Vikings locker room at U.S. Bank Stadium and visitors' locker rooms at other venues.

There are also interviews at Cousins' homes in Minnesota and Michigan, where he reflects on his football journey.

The greatest access point to better understanding the position, however, is the entry Cousins grants to his mind and process.

Editor's Note: Text that follows will include comments made by Cousins and others from within the first two episodes of Quarterback.

The introductory trailer for Quarterback opens with Cousins suggesting the family read The Book of Why, which was produced by Sports Illustrated.

One question is, "Why does the NFL have so many rules against hitting quarterbacks?" The answer explains a rule change enacted after Tom Brady suffered a knee injury in the 2008 season opener (Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell was a rookie QB with the Patriots that season, by the way) to ban hitting quarterbacks below the knee.

"And Dad is forever grateful," Cousins says just before video shows Bills edge rusher Von Miller delivering a brutal but legal hit on him last season at Buffalo.

Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, who teamed with Miller to win Super Bowl 50 with Denver, is the executive producer of Quarterback.

"All right, look, I'm a little biased, but for my money, there's simply not a harder position in sports than being an NFL quarterback," Manning says in the trailer. "I mean think about it, as a quarterback, every single play, you're the focus. You have to know everyone else's job just as well as your own. You can't hear half the time, the weather is bad, you've got 300-pound linemen trying to kill you. You are going to be front and center. You have to give credit when it's good and you have to take the blame when it's bad. You have to face the music when times are tough. And there's always someone waiting to take your spot."

Manning promises the series will include "every hit, every hurt, every high."

The storyline arch for Cousins in the first episode begins at 2022 Vikings Training Camp.

Footage includes Cousins wearing a red, no-contact practice jersey, while talking through how to differentiate between hand signals "sombrero" and "halo" to quickly relay information to teammates.

"I don't want anybody to think I'm doing a halo when I'm doing a sombrero," Cousins says on the practice fields. "Saber is going to be me wielding a light saber like in Star Wars."

An excerpt from an interview with KFAN's Dan Barreiro includes the radio host commenting how Cousins usually lands in the 10 to 12 to 15 range of QB rankings.

Cousins, who averaged 4,223 passing yards and 29.3 touchdowns from 2015-21, calmly downplays it.

In a studio interview, he says, "If my critics saw me walk on water, they'd say it's because I can't swim," paraphrasing a quote by former United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

O'Connell adds in a separate interview: "Everybody seems to have something to say about the way he plays quarterback or how he plays in certain games. So much of it is narratives — some of which about Kirk are false narratives. Let's just call it what they are. Kirk, to me, is really built for it. He's such a process-oriented, driven guy."

Cousins had the benefit of working with O'Connell as his position coach in Washington in 2017 and looked forward to the opportunity to reconnect.

That prior experience didn't mean a smooth transition was guaranteed.

"Let's go West Right Ace-Z Insert, Jab Patrick XPP. Can it to Jab Duo," O'Connell says during a practice, offering a sampling of an initial play call with a built-in audible adjustment.

If Cousins doesn't like the initial play's chances based on what he sees before the snap from the defense, he can toss that to the trash can and go with the next play.

"Being in a new system has caused me to feel like at times I'm back to being a rookie, and I need to get more comfortable with it and really own it," Cousins admits.

He recaps Minnesota's surprisingly smooth sailing past defending NFC North Champion Green Bay in Week 1 for a 23-7 win. But the part of the day that went viral were the social media comments about the shirt he wore to his postgame podium session.

"I actually thought the comments were so funny," says Cousins' wife, Julie, who picked out the shirt.

View the best photos of Vikings QB Kirk Cousins from the 2022 season.

The Vikings didn't have to wait too long before encountering choppy waters.

Minnesota's first offensive play in Philadelphia in Week 2 was one Cousins wanted back on a night his stat line included three interceptions. Although not all three were his fault, the narrative dominated sports talk the following week.

"That first play was a run play with a check, and with the run game rules we had, I needed to get out of the play," Cousins explains. "I wasn't quite sure, and I was a little undecided and decided to just let it eat. It was kind of a dead play. That was one of those moments where I realized, 'I'm not comfortable enough in this system.'

"I was blown away after Week 1 how clean the game was," he adds. "It was almost a false sense of security after Week 1 that reared its ugly head in Week 2, so that started with that first play, that run check, and it kind of snowballed from there. It was a game that got away from us."

After falling 24-7 to the Eagles on Monday Night Football, Cousins speaks with Vikings team clinician, Brownell Mack, PsyD, LP.

"The Eagles game was obviously a disaster, so you've got to make sure you don't allow — you don't want to see the road game failure spill over into a second one and allow that to become a thing," Cousins tells Mack. "One poor decision can set you all the way back. But you can't play the position if you're not giving yourself the grace to make mistakes — if that makes sense.

"Honestly, I think at times you carry a doubt mindset, wondering what's coming around the next corner," he adds.

Mack replies: "You get hooked on the negative things happening, and they always do, it crowds out the space for you to focus on the opportunities unless you quickly release the mistakes. When you do that, then you're in a better position to take advantage of what's in front of you."

Cousins did not have to wait long to respond better to another mistake.

In Week 3 against the Lions, he has K.J. Osborn gliding down the left sideline, but pressure causes a deep throw on third-and-6 to sail past a diving attempt by the receiver.

"You've got to be kidding me," he says during the game.

O'Connell opts to go for it on fourth-and-6 at the Detroit 45 on the following play, and Cousins delivers a 6-yard completion to Adam Thielen for a new set of downs. The Vikings tie the game at 14 five plays later with 1:12 remaining in the first half.

"As painful as missing that third-down throw was, it was really big in the outcome of the game that we stayed on the field and could still get points in that drive and a big call by Kevin to go for it on fourth down."

The Lions built a 24-14 lead with 2:08 remaining in the third quarter before the Vikings gained ground with a 57-yard touchdown drive midway through the fourth quarter and a 56-yard touchdown drive that began with the team trailing 24-21 and 1:10 left in the game.

Cousins connected with Osborn for a gain of 28 before finding him open for a 28-yard touchdown with 45 seconds left.

The Cousins family celebrates the first of what will be an NFL record-tying eight fourth-quarter comebacks at the backyard firepit.

"This is the best way to finish a hard day's work, Cooper. You built a good fire, Coop," Cousins says to his oldest of two sons.

The scene was so calm and serene — a million miles from the pressure cooker just hours earlier, but it wasn't without an "ope" caused by an ember that flared while Cousins moved a log.

"Ope, burned a hole in my sweatshirt. That's my favorite sweatshirt. Shoot," Cousins says.

As the flame glows, Cousins reflects deeper.

"It was such a good play design and such a good play call to the throw to K.J. that I missed. Man, when you miss ones like that, it eats at you," he explains. "I'm still on a quest to figure out, 'How do I fulfill my potential as a player and a person while not driving myself crazy with the standard I'm asking?' It can be a miserable place to live because you're never going to be perfect, and when you set that as your standard, you set yourself up for failure."

Return to Washington, D.C.

The second episode, "Homecoming," chronicles Mahomes returning to his college campus at Texas Tech, along with Mariota revisiting the Pacific Northwest with a twist. The Hawaiian who became the first player of Polynesian ancestry to win a Heisman found himself on the campus of the University of Washington as the Falcons practiced between games at Los Angeles and Seattle. It was a bit surreal to cozy up in the space of a rival for the former Oregon Duck.

The episode also features time inside Cousins' "Memory Room" at his Michigan home, a space tucked behind a hidden door where he keeps his sports memorabilia, as well as his return to Washington, D.C., for the first time after signing with the Vikings in 2018.

"One of the more unique rooms in this home is what I call the Memory Room, which I wanted put in when we built the house, so it was planned from the start, but our builder came up with the idea to do a Murphy door here, a little hidden door to get to it, but I wanted the room to be out of the way," Cousins explains. "I didn't want all of this to be out in the open, in the family room where everybody hangs out. I thought that would look a little bit self-promotional, if you will. I saved so many things through the years from youth football up until our most recent game ball that I got a few weeks ago. This is my youth football memories."

The personal artifacts include a team photo from when he was 10 and coached by Hall of Fame linebacker and former Vikings assistant Mike Singletary near Chicago. Cousins won the Singletary award as the team's outstanding middle linebacker in 1998.

He's also held on to a note his dad (and eighth-grade coach) wrote.

"After coaching the team, he sat down and wrote out every kid's strengths and what they need to work on," Cousins says. "Obviously it's a little different when it's your son, but he wrote, 'Kirk, your strengths are your competitive desire, your intelligence, your attitude. You're a leader, you're tough, you've got good skills, a hard worker, you're accurate as a passer, and you've got a good sense and nose for the ball.'

"He said to work on, 'You need to be a more vocal leader, your footwork needs to get better,' and so it's funny, if you were to give this to a scout on the Vikings right now, they'd probably say that's pretty accurate to this day, 20 years later," Cousins adds. "I was 14 when he wrote this.

"Then he wrote at the end, 'If you keep developing, you could someday be an all-conference or maybe even an all-state player in high school.' I remember when my dad wrote that and thought, 'Wow, my dad thinks someday I could be an all-state football player. That's big time,' I remember thinking, to make all-state, and I didn't even make all-state. I wasn't that good."

Yet Cousins blossomed into a fiery and successful competitor at Michigan State, which led to his selection by Washington in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft just two days after the team had tabbed Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick.

Griffin starred before injuries struck. After spot-starting nine games from 2012-14, Cousins became Washington's starter in 2015, the final year of his rookie season. He played that out and then spent each of the next two seasons on the franchise tag before signing a three-year, fully guaranteed deal with Minnesota in 2018.

After completing 23 of 26 passes for 285 yards and a passer rating of 112.3 for the Vikings against Washington in 2019, Cousins waited until Week 9 of the 2022 season to make his first return to Washington.

The Vikings hosted Season Ticket Members at the TCO Stadium for the premier to "Quarterback" on Netflix featuring Kirk Cousins.

The Commanders pummeled Cousins throughout the game, recording 11 quarterback hits and built a 17-7 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Cousins showed resilience and was ready when he got the right look from the Washington defense.

"There's a handful of plays in the playbook where you say, 'Please Lord, have them play man coverage,' " Cousins says. "We had the perfect route for Justin [Jefferson] vs. that coverage, and as they lined up in man coverage, I thought, 'This could be our lucky day here.'

He stayed tough in the pocket to deliver a 47-yard completion to Justin on third-and-7 from the Minnesota 41-yard line despite a massive hit by Daron Payne.

Cousins had the wind knocked out of him and stayed on the turf after the painful but legal hit. Vikings athletic trainers came out to check on him, and the cameras relayed the conversation through the mic Cousins was wearing.

He says, "That's what they get for playing man coverage. Did we score?"

After being told Jefferson had been tackled at the Washington 12-yard line but it was a beautiful pass, Cousins says, "Oh, I would have gotten up. Shoot."

He missed just one play, the minimum required when a player is evaluated by trainers.

That drive ended with a field goal but began shifting momentum to Minnesota. Harrison Smith's interception and 35-yard return five plays later gave the Vikings the ball at the 12 again, and Cousins connected with Dalvin Cook for a 12-yard touchdown to tie the game with 7:46 remaining.

The Vikings forced a quick three-and-out before the offense executed a six-minute drive that ended with the go-ahead field goal when only 12 seconds remained.

Cousins was able to leave Washington with his fourth fourth-quarter comeback win of the season as Minnesota improved to 7-1. He also brought back plenty of bruises, unintentionally setting the stage for Episode 3, "Kings of Pain."