EAGAN, Minn. – Kirk Cousins is the Vikings quarterback for 2023.
That much is certain. But beyond that? It all remains to be determined.
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell and General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah spoke to media members Thursday and addressed a variety of topics; with Cousins entering the final year of his contract, a number of questions tossed their way revolved around Minnesota's quarterback situation and whether the team may look to snag one in the quickly approaching NFL Draft.
"Quarterbacks are the most important position in our sport," Adofo-Mensah said. "These aren't things you just decide in the moment. You have to have plans, you have to have a strategy, you have to have different ways of getting to that answer.
"We've had these conversations. They are ongoing. There are a lot of different avenues in terms of addressing that position. I wouldn't necessarily box us into just one," he added. "We do know that it's the most important position in this sport, and we'll treat it with that kind of importance."
Adofo-Mensah said he and his staff talk "all the time" about a potential "succession plan" behind Cousins, who has been the Vikings starting quarterback since 2018.
"I don't know if there is one right answer, to be honest," he said. "Ideally, you would want to have a year to have the person in the building or something like that, but I don't know if that is necessary."
Adofo-Mensah noted that it really is a case-by-case basis that depends on the individual player.
"But I will say, the most important thing, we believe, in evaluating that position is understanding the different aspects of the game that that person succeeds at to give their value," he explained. "[Kevin and I] have to be on the same page as to what that is and how we are going to use that person. That is how you start and give yourself a chance to succeed. Everything else after that is secondary."
O'Connell also weighed in, communicating it's not necessarily imperative to draft a quarterback who will learn from Cousins before playing.
O'Connell said he'd "ideally" like to have a younger player in place to grow and develop behind Cousins – but he also stipulated that it's important not to force the situation.
"I don't think you sacrifice it being the right player. Regardless of the when, the where, the why, the how, you can't sacrifice that," he said. "You have to have ultra-belief and connection on making that decision because it is such an important decision."
O'Connell said he has "traits in mind" for quarterbacks that would be the right fit for the Vikings offensive system and what he's establishing in Minnesota.
"I think what makes great coaches in this league are guys that can stay true to their football philosophy but maybe reinvent some of the Xs and Os, how you get there and just make sure that the end product is good football that can sustain," he said. "There's a lot of ways to do that. I think that's one of the really fun things about it is, year in and year out, every year is different. I think your offensive system at its core is one thing, but the branches of that and the creativity you can use to not only make life easier on the quarterback and offensive line.
"That is where you try to make that your starting point, but how are you incorporating your skill players? How are you trying to elevate what guys do well? That will only help your run game, your pass game, your ability to be great situationally," O'Connell continued. "All offensive systems, regardless of how you try to build it, if you're good and efficient in the run game and you can generate explosives through the marriage of the run and the pass, and be great situationally, that's great offense. How you do that can change and the details on that are what's fun about doing your job every day."
View the best photos of Vikings QB Kirk Cousins from the 2022 season.
So the question is, of course, is there a quarterback in this year's draft that Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell believe fit their criteria and would benefit from learning from Cousins?
Some draft experts have projected a quarterback to the Vikings in their mock drafts; others have focused on wide receiver or cornerback. It's all speculation, however, for the next two weeks.
O'Connell said he and his colleagues continue to "work through the process" leading up to draft night.
"Going back every year that you've studied the draft, I've been right on guys and I've been wrong on guys. Sometimes the key is about your process and truly figuring out what matters most to you or to us as an organization," O'Connell said. "I do think there is a lot to like about this year's class with a lot of names that are being discussed as potential high picks, and I think there's good options to add depth to your room after the draft, as well.
"I use every year as a real process to go back and say, 'Hey man, I was wrong on this one, right on this one,' " he continued, "and really try to figure out the 'why,' and collectively, can we build some of those hits and misses into our process moving forward to try and go ahead and identify that guy we do have that belief in?"
As the 2023 NFL Draft approaches, there will continue to be questions.
But Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell are confident in the Vikings QB for their second season at the helm.
"I'm very excited about Kirk in year two in this system. It's been a while since Kirk has been able to say that he gets to come back in the same system he ran previously with the same play caller," O'Connell said. "I've had a lot great dialogue with him about ways we're going to look to find ways to grow and improve. That will be a big part of 2023 for me, not only as a head coach, but play caller and our offensive staff."