EAGAN, Minn. – Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is not unaccustomed to learning under new coordinators.
Cousins played for three different offensive coordinators during his time at Washington (2012-17) and was asked about the challenges of moving from one coach to another. He focused on the positive rather than the negative and said that he’s grateful to have been a student of talented ones.
As Cousins transitions from John DeFilippo, who was relieved of his duties with the Vikings Tuesday, to Interim Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski, he emphasized that it’s important to stay focused on the team’s goal.
“It’s the hard part of this business. It was tough news. I hate seeing it happen,” said Cousins of DeFilippo’s departure. “It’s as simple as that.”
He also expressed belief in Stefanski, though, saying he’ll “do a good job” in the new role.
Stefanski has been with the Vikings since 2006 and has overseen multiple offensive positions, most recently serving as Minnesota’s quarterbacks coach for Cousins, Trevor Siemian and Kyle Sloter.
“He’s very sharp. He’s been here for many years, which is unique in the coaching profession, to be here as many years as he has. He’s coached a number of positions,” Cousins said. “He started out playing defense (as a DB at the University of Pennsylvania), so he has the perspective of someone from the other side of the football as well as having coached nearly every position on offense.
“He’s got an even-keel demeanor about him, he’s been with multiple systems, going back to [Head Coach Brad] Childress and Coach [Leslie] Frazier and Coach [Pat] Shurmur, and he’s been with [Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer] for a while now.”
Cousins said there’s an extensive familiarity between quarterback and coach, but he also reminded Twin Cities media members that you “don’t reinvent much” at this point in the season.
“I think we’ll get back to business as usual today and just try to find a way to win these last three games,” Cousins said. “We have so much to play for, and we have two home games. The focus is on the Miami Dolphins now.”
Asked later how the coaching move can “help the team,” Cousins stressed the urgency to perform at a high level as players, regardless of who the play-caller is.
“I think no matter who’s coaching this team, we have to come together and execute as players, take ownership, prepare well, help one another, communicate well – and that’s where our focus is,” Cousins said. “We believe in Coach Stefanski, and we believe in the coaches that will be leading us, and we’ll get behind them and put a plan together and be ready to execute it come Sunday.”
Here are four other topics Cousins covered during his weekly podium session:
1. Taking ownership of struggles
Cousins is quick to take responsibility for things that go wrong on the field.
The quarterback was asked if he has feelings of, “If I had just made that play,” in the wake of the coaching change, and he said, “Oh, yeah.”
“That’s where my mind goes after every series, after every game and after every season,” Cousins said. “You look at, ‘What do I need to do to be better?’ How can I be better and make sure – at the quarterback position, the ball’s in your hand, so you’re going to be easily able to say that so many times.
“That was one of the things I did communicate to Coach Flip yesterday, that I do believe that with the ball in my hand, had I played at my fullest potential play-in and play-out, we’re probably not having this conversation right now,” Cousins continued. “That’s something that I take personally and certainly is tough for me and keeps you up at night. But at the same time, all you can do now is go forward, and you know, hey – I’ve faced adversity before, I’ve been able to overcome it, push through it. … I choose to be a tough person, keep going and believe that if we do that, if I do that, good things are in store.”
Cousins said he appreciated the conversation he had with DeFilippo after the news broke.
“I want to make it very clear that Coach Flip, and no surprise to me, was very classy and very gracious in my conversation with him, which is the way he’s always been,” Cousins said. “I have a lot of respect for him as a coach, I have a lot of respect for him as a person, and I believe that his best days in this league are ahead of him.
“This is a part of this business, it happens to people who are very, very good at what they do, and I’m pulling for him going forward because I believe in who he is as a coach and as a person.”
2. Balance remains a goal
A conversation over the past number of weeks for the Vikings has been around the team’s balance between the passing game and run game.
Cousins was asked specifically if the team has been trying “too hard” to establish the run as of late.
He said it’s “hard to say” because the fact remains that it’s important to run the football.
“The only way you can be productive offensively, many times, is if you are running the football well, and the only way you can run the football is if you try to run the football,” Cousins said. “When you look at some of the teams that are winning right now, you look at teams that are excited about their position going into Week 15, they’re teams that are running the football well.
“You look at teams that are at the bottom of the league that are frustrated or surprised at where they are, they’re teams that haven’t run the football well,” Cousins added. “If we can do that, I think it’s going to wins and lead to success. And you certainly need to try.”
3. Evaluating opportunities for off-schedule plays
During his postgame press conference at Seattle, Cousins had said he wanted to look at the tape and assess if there were more opportunities for him to “go off-schedule” when the play starts to break down.
After reviewing the film, Cousins said it’s “maybe not as much” as he originally communicated but that chances are still there for him to ad-lib a bit.
“[Certainly] there’s a play or two here or there where you’d love to make something happen, create something, and I think there’s potential for that,” Cousins said. “I go back to the talent we have on the outside, I think we have enough athleticism to do that, and an NFL pass rush is going to necessitate moving around, getting out of the pocket. You can’t just sit back there. So I do think that’s a part of my game I want to continue to improve.”
4. Sense of urgency regardless of coaching changes
Did the Vikings change at offensive coordinator signal a time of “desperation” headed into the final three games of the season?
Cousins doesn’t believe so. He did not, however, contest that there’s a sense of urgency on the team.
“We’re the 6 seed right now. If we win these next games, we’re in the playoffs,” Cousins said. “Had we won previous games, then we’d be in a better position. So every game counts as one – no more, no less – and we’re in a position where if we get the job done these last three weeks, we’ll be right where we want to be. And I don’t think we need to view it as anything different.