In the never-ending discussion of potential 49ers 2021 starting quarterbacks not named Jimmy Garoppolo, next in line to create an internet buzz is Kirk Cousins.
Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford are quarterbacks to already excite 49ers fans this offseason. And that breathless anticipation likely will continue until the 49ers restructure Garoppolo's contract to ensure his return next season.
Cousins, at least, makes some sense because of 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan’s previously known admiration for his skills and style of play.
“They’ve always liked him a lot because he is going to do exactly what they design,” former NFL quarterback Sage Rosenfels recently said on 49ers Talk. “He is an executor. He’s not a playmaker.”
Rosenfels, who spent three seasons with Shanahan while with the Houston Texans (2006 to ’08), has a good idea about what Shanahan values. He also wonders if Shanahan still is as sold on Cousins as he was when he wanted to bring him to the 49ers four years ago.
Cousins typically ranks among the highest-rated passers in the NFL. In 2020, Cousins threw for 4,265 yards with 35 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His passer rating was 105.0. But Rosenfels said he believes the statistics are misleading with Cousins.
“Kirk is just one of those guys, where if you look at his stats, it always looks like Kirk had a pretty good game," Rosenfels said. "(But) he never makes anyone else better. He never makes that right guard better. He never makes that left tackle better.”
Cousins, 32, has been the Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback for three seasons. He has missed only one game in the past six seasons and has five 4,000-yard passing seasons during that time.
He signed as a free agent after spending his first six seasons in Washington, where he broke into the NFL with Shanahan as his offensive coordinator.
The original plan of Shanahan and general manager John Lynch upon taking over as the 49ers’ top decision-makers in 2017 was to make a strong push to sign Cousins as a free agent in 2018. But those plans changed when they acquired Garoppolo from the New England Patriots in a midseason trade for a second-round draft pick.
Rosenfels said he closely follows Cousins and the Vikings, and he labels Cousins as a .500 quarterback.
“They do whatever they can to make the job as easy as possible for Kirk Cousins, and it’s always going to be 9-7 to 8-8 to 7-9,” Rosenfels said. “Some quarterbacks aren’t winners. I know winning is not a quarterback stat, but I don’t know, Joe Montana won a lot of football games -- great quarterback.”
In 104 career regular-season starts, Cousins’ teams are 51-51-2. His teams are 1-2 in the postseason, including a 27-10 loss to the 49ers last year.
Cousins has two years remaining on his contract with the Vikings at salary costs of $20 million in 2021 and $35 million in 2022.