EAGAN, Minn. –Kirk Cousins checked a lot of boxes.
From on-field presence and decision-making to off-the-field character and leadership qualities, the quarterback fits the bill.
"Kirk Cousins, for as great a player as he is, he's an outstanding individual and is going to be a great fit for the Vikings," Owner/President Mark Wilf told media members Thursday after the Vikings inked Cousins as their new quarterback.
"Rick [Spielman] and Coach [Mike Zimmer] and our football operations team did a great job of really doing their research," Wilf continued. "He's going to be a great fit, and we can't wait to get going."
Spielman and Zimmer had hours and hours of game film at their disposal to analyze Cousins' skill set. But when it came to learning about the type of person he is under the jersey, an in-person meeting was in order.
It didn't take long to make an assessment of Cousins' character.
"I spent two-and-a-half hours with him and his family and then got a chance to meet his parents last night before we went to dinner, spent some time with them, and you knew right off the bat," Spielman said. "I didn't need to spend two-and-a-half hours; I needed to spend 10 minutes with him and his family to know what they mean, what they're about and what's important to them – and it's everything that checks the box here with the Minnesota Vikings."
Zimmer told the media that he and the Vikings front office are "very, very excited" about adding Cousins to the roster.
"I'd like to say 'thank you' to all the people in the front office, George Paton, Rob Brzezinski, Rick – they did a tremendous job of putting this thing together," Zimmer said. "I had the opportunity to play against or coach against him several times, and he's always been a very, very tough guy to play against – very accurate, excellent in play-actions, terrific in the [bootlegs]."
Zimmer added that he likes the way Cousins, who became Washington's full-time starter in 2015 after backing up Robert Griffin III for three seasons, has "always had to prove himself" during his football career.
"He's like a lot of our football team – guys who come in here and work hard, do the things. He bet on himself a couple times and won, and those things are really important to me," Zimmer said. "He's always played with a chip on his shoulder. We're just really excited to have him. He's going to be a great part of our offense, great part of our football team."
The Vikings signed Cousins during a unique situation in which Minnesota had three quarterbacks – Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford and Case Keenum – with expiring contracts. While Spielman made it a top priority to add Cousins when he hit free agency Wednesday afternoon, he acknowledged that the decision wasn't an instant one.
"Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater and Case Keenum are phenomenal players and did a phenomenal job for us, not only in what they did for us on the field but how they represented this organization off the field," Spielman said. "Rarely do you get an opportunity to get a quarterback Kirk's age (29), at Kirk's status as a football player, and not only what he is and how he leads on the field but what he does off the field.
"We did a lot of study on all of our guys once [Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo] was hired, and then we locked ourselves in a room," Spielman continued. "We wanted to make sure we matched the skill set with what's going to fit what [DeFilippo] wants to do and what Coach [Zimmer] wants to do on offense, and we made a decision that this was our best option."
So just what is it that stands out about Cousins on the field? Is it his mentality, his approach to the game, his arm strength, his durability?
Spielman said it's a combination of all the above, but there's one attribute of Cousins' game that has especially impressed the general manager.
"The biggest thing that stuck out was how quickly he processes things," Spielman said. "When you see him look to the left and see his first option, and then all of a sudden to the right, he's already to his third option – where other quarterbacks, if their first option isn't there, maybe they can get to their second option. But the way his mind processes and how quickly he's able to read and react to things on what he sees, I think that's what makes him unique."
Spielman highlighted the fact that the contract with Cousins would not have been possible without the full support and blessing of the Wilf Family Ownership group.
It may be Spielman and Zimmer going through tape and evaluating players, but the Wilfs remain involved every step of the way.
"I would like to thank the Wilf family for not only providing world-class facilities at U.S. Bank Stadium and here at our new home, TCO Performance Center, but also the resources necessary to put a deal like this together," Spielman said.
"Every decision we make, even through the trade process, I always keep the Wilfs informed of everything that's going on," Spielman later added. "I think that's very important, and that's what's unique about our organization, the open communication with everyone."
With the evaluation, negotiations and paperwork in the rearview mirror, it's time to get to work.
Wilf said he's eager to see Cousins, who smiled behind a Purple jersey, out on the field.
"Anticipation and expectations are one thing, but we're about going to work the next day and the next day after that and continuing to build," Wilf said. "We're laser-focused on doing what we can to get better.
"Our fans are the best fans in the world, and every year there is anticipation and excitement," Wilf continued. "Our goal every year is to win Super Bowls. We're not here for one-and-done. We want to be competitive and significant in the league for a long time. We want to be one of those franchises where players want to come to, coaches want to come to and be with a winning franchise."