by Alex Poletti
Photo by ELIZABETH FLORES
Kirk Cousins lost a playoff game on Saturday—or did he? Following what many believed to be another postseason loss, the Minnesota quarterback told the press that he has actually been an undercover member of the San Francisco 49ers defense all along, making the divisional matchup the best January performance of his career.
“We played the long game with this one,” the former Washington signal caller says. “When I signed with Minnesota, I talked to Kyle [Shanahan] about maybe pursuing defense, as I seemed to help them more than my own team most of the time. I’m glad it worked out as well as it did.”
This is another sign of 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan’s genius, as he is the first coach in NFL history to sign an opposing quarterback to a deal as a member of his own defense—this gives a whole new meaning to the idea of employing a QB spy. It worked like a charm, as Cousins was responsible for six sacks and one interception.
“All I had to do was stand in the pocket without making a decision or make a bad read on a passing play,” Cousins explains. “Basically, it’s the role I was born to play.”
Even though the teams were separated by only one score entering the second half, it was a foregone conclusion that the 49ers would come out on top. The pass rush was incredible, and the defensive line was able to minimize one of the league’s most potent rushing threats in Dalvin Cook. Still, Cousins was the defense’s MVP.
“He really went above and beyond,” San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh says. “We were expecting the sacks and interceptions, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg with Kirk. All the checkdowns that ended in lost yardage? Brilliant. He truly has a great mind for defense, which is always helpful in an opposing quarterback.”
Despite a strong showing against the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card round, Kirk Cousins has a reputation of being a bad playoff quarterback. The fourth-round draft pick out of Michigan State was sacked six times and fumbled three in his only playoff appearance prior to this season. Clearly, this is a match made in heaven, not just because of the history of ineptitude, but because Shanahan had previously worked with Cousins when the two were in Washington.
“I first met Kirk when I was working for my dad as an offensive coordinator,” the younger Shanahan explains. “I saw him holding onto the ball too long in the pocket and just thought, ‘How lucky other teams are to play against him.’ I never thought I’d get a chance to work with him in that capacity—it’s like a dream come true.”