Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson made several media comments on Tuesday that sparked a litany of controversy surrounding the quarterback position in Minnesota.
Jefferson, moments after saying Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has more swagger than Cousins on “The Herd,” called Chicago Bears rookie Justin Fields, who the Vikings had an interest in taking in the draft, a dominant quarterback — only mentioning Cousins as a reason the Vikings need to build for the future.
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Justin Jefferson made some notable comments on @TheHerd today.
– Described Joe Burrow as having more swagger/confidence on the field than Kirk Cousins
– Said he wasn’t surprised about MN/Fields rumors because “we have to build on for after Kirk…or whatever the case may be.” pic.twitter.com/zqSogKLcLH
— Will Ragatz (@WillRagatz) May 11, 2021
As innocent of an omission as it was, Jefferson’s comments weren’t taken lightly by many followers in Minnesota, including former Vikings linebacker and analyst Ben Leber, who noted Jefferson’s rookie Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro statuses he earned with the help of Cousins.
“Careful not to bite the hand that fed him,” Leber tweeted. “Wouldn’t have been on @TheHerd if it wasn’t for Kirk.”
— Ben Leber (@nacholeber) May 12, 2021
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Jefferson Credits Cousins for Helping Him Break Rookie Receiving Yards Record
The anti-Cousins sentiments have coincided with the Kellen Mond hype train that’s firing at full steam after the Vikings selected the rookie from Texas A&M in the third round of the draft.
Pressure is certainly on Cousins to perform in 2021 after he faced zero threat to his starting role by backups Sean Mannion and Trevor Siemian. Jefferson also offered praise to Mond the same day his interview on “The Herd” aired. His comment was solely about Mond and wasn’t nearly as disparaging toward Cousins.
“I feel like he’s going to be a good player on this team. … He has a very strong arm… I think he will be a great addition to this team,” Jefferson said of Mond in a conference call, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press.
None of Jefferson’s comments seemed outright malicious towards Cousins, but they are honest, coming from a 21-year-old who hasn’t undergone yearly rigors of media training. An interview on the “Jim Rome Show” back in February offers the most detailed account of Jefferson’s feelings toward Cousins, who helped Jefferson break the rookie receiving yards record last season.
“He definitely takes a lot of heat; he takes way more heat than he really deserves,” Jefferson said of Cousins. “If you look at the numbers, he’s top of the league. He’s been doing a lot of things for this team and for this offense. I don’t really understand why he gets so much criticism. All of those losses that we had wasn’t on him. Of course, we would like to take some plays back and redo some plays, but that’s just how it is. You don’t play perfectly, especially in this league, and to see the things that he has done, I really don’t know why he gets so much criticism. He’s the reason why I had 1,400 yards.”
“He takes way more heat than he really deserves… To see the things that he has done, I really don’t know why he gets so much criticism. He’s the reason I have 1400 yards.” @JJettas2 explains to @jimrome he doesn’t think Kirk Cousins deserves so much heat. pic.twitter.com/Vf1sRvAEYK
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) February 3, 2021
1 Glaring Criticism on Cousins
Despite the spin fans and media have taken on Jefferson’s comments, one point is evident from his interview on “The Herd.”
When discussing the similar strengths and differences between Burrow and Cousins, Jefferson praised Burrow for his ability to take a hit.
“They’re not the strongest arms, but they’re going to get it to you exactly where you need them to throw it,” Jefferson said. “Joe has that confidence on the field. He’s not scared to get hit. As a quarterback, that’s a good trait to have, especially to be as young as he is. He’s a phenomenal quarterback.”
Cousins has taken criticism for his lack of mobility that oftentimes leads to him curling up to protect the ball when the threat of a sack is imminent. However, as a receiver, Jefferson would undoubtedly like to see Cousins stand in the pocket and take more shots in the pocket and air the ball out.