The Minnesota Vikings signed Kirk Cousins to be the final piece of their championship puzzle. But in the quarterback's first season with Minnesota, the team won five fewer games than it did the year prior with Case Keenum under center, ending the campaign a disappointing 8-7-1.
Finishing with a record around .500 is a familiar feat for Cousins. In his three seasons as the Washington Redskins' starter, he had a combined record of 25-23-1, winning between seven and nine games in all three years.
As the only player in NFL history to ink a fully guaranteed contract, Cousins knows nothing would elevate his reputation to the level of his price tag more than stuffing the win column.
"I think (getting to) the next level really is all about winning," the 30-year-old said Wednesday, according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "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 that's not why you are brought in or people are excited about you."
Since Cousins became a full-time starter in 2015, only Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, and Philip Rivers have thrown for more yards among QBs with at least 25 starts, according to Pro Football Reference. He's also eighth in touchdowns, third in completion percentage, sixth in passer rating, and ninth in yards per attempt over that four-year span.
But his impressive production hasn't been enough to cement his status as a franchise player. To change that, the Vikings' signal-caller must, at the very least, find a way to lead his team back to the postseason.
"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 I went to the next level," he said. "If I have my best year (statistically) yet in 2019 but we're 8-8, I didn't go to the next level.''