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Cousins: Reaching 'Next Level is All About Winning'

EAGAN, Minn. — Kirk Cousins went 8-7-1 in his first season in Minnesota, the second time he has finished with that record in his career.

He became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 4,000-plus yards while tossing at least 30 touchdowns with 10 or fewer interceptions and a completion percentage of at least 70.

Yet despite joining a Vikings team that was just one win away from the Super Bowl the season before, Minnesota missed the playoffs by a half game after an inconsistent 2018 season.

The Vikings slightly above .500 record this past season actually mirrors Cousins' four-year run as a starter in the league, as he is 32-30-2 since the beginning of the 2015 season.

Much has been made outside the walls of Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center about Cousins needing to raise his game in 2019, and the quarterback addressed the topic Wednesday in his podium session with Twin Cities media members.

Cousins said he's not concerned about his own statistics, only the number that shows up in the win column.

"I think the next level is all about winning," Cousins said. "I'm pretty much a .500 quarterback in my career so far, and I don't think that's where you want to be and why you are brought in or people are excited about you."

Cousins added he is well aware that the perception of him will be based on whether or not the Vikings put together a deep playoff run, no matter how successful he is individually.

"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 that I went to the next level," Cousins said. "I might not walk off the field every day feeling like I did, but if we win, that's the life of a quarterback. … If I have my best year yet in 2019, but we're 8-8, I didn't go to the next level. That's the reality of it."

A few numbers support Cousins' words from Wednesday.

The quarterback threw for at least 250 yards in half of Minnesota's games in 2018, with multiple touchdowns in six of those contests, but the Vikings only went 3-4-1 when Cousins was statistically at his best.

Conversely, the Vikings were 5-3 when Cousins didn't break the 250-yard barrier, as those games oftentimes corresponded with a strong performance from the ground game as well as the Vikings defense.

As Cousins wraps up the offseason program and looks ahead to Year 2 in Purple, he is focused on being the best leader possible so that the Vikings can get to where they want to go in 2019.

"One thing I can do beyond playing the best I can is to start really coaching and leading other people so that I can never walk off the field saying 'I did my part, but so-and-so didn't,' " Cousins said. "That can't happen as a 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."

Cousins has put up plenty of statistical numbers in his four seasons as a starter. He and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers are the only players with 4,000-plus yards and at least 25 touchdown passes in each of the past four seasons.

Yet, as he enters his eighth season in the NFL, Cousins has just one goal on his mind.