Kirk Cousins looks to build his postseason legacy with the Falcons


FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Kirk Cousins has a single playoff victory in his long career.

Even so, the Atlanta Falcons are betting at least $100 million that he's the quarterback who can lead this star-crossed franchise to its first Super Bowl championship.

Cousins was introduced Wednesday evening by the Falcons, who made a huge financial commitment to land one of the biggest prizes of NFL free agency.

“When the owner, general manager, head coach and quarterback are on the same page, that's when you really have a chance to go win a Super Bowl,” Cousins said at the team's suburban training facility.

"As I look at the Atlanta Falcons, I believe strongly that the owner, head coach, general manager and quarterback can all be on the same page. That's exciting for me and why I'm thrilled to be here.”

The 35-year-old Cousins knows there's one big knock hanging over him: an inability to win the big game. Of his four career playoff starts, his only victory came in the wild-card round during the 2019 season.

“Winning is what it's all about,” Cousins said. “I just want to win.”

The Falcons believe Cousins is a perfect fit for their offense, which seems to have plenty of weapons but was plagued by inconsistent play at the most prominent position on the field the last two years.

Marcus Mariota was a stopgap in 2022 after the team cut ties with longtime starter Matt Ryan, and Desmond Ridder failed to hold the job he was handed last season.

Atlanta hasn't had a winning season or made the playoffs since 2017, so going with Cousins — who is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon — appears to be the best hope of turning things around quickly.

The Falcons are no longer in rebuilding mode. They believe it's time to make a run at a championship, which has eluded this franchise since it entered the NFL in 1966.

As for his personal legacy, Cousins knows a big piece is missing.

“Quarterbacks will always be evaluated not just from September to December, but for January and February,” he said. “That's where you want to get to. And once you get there, you want to have meaningful wins.”

Cousins will have plenty of weapons at his disposal. The Falcons used their last three first-round picks on tight end Kyle Pitts, receiver Drake London and running back Bijan Robinson. All five starters return on an offensive line that is largely locked down with multi-year deals.

“You got to go prove it in the fall,” Cousins said. “But I certainly believe the pieces are here that we can do that.”

The Falcons showed how much confidence they have in Cousins by giving him an $180 million, four-year contract that includes a $50 million signing bonus and $100 million guaranteed.

Not bad for a guy whose final season with the Minnesota Vikings was cut short by the Achilles tendon tear.

Cousins said his recovery is right on schedule, and he hopes to be at full speed well before the start of training camp.

“I'm feeling great,” said Cousins, wearing a gray suit and showing no signs of his injury. “I'm optimistic that I can be full speed at practice before we break for the summer. That's kind of the goal I've set for myself. But we do have a long runway. What I've been told, going back to when I first injured it, is you don't rush it. You let time do its thing.”

Before the injury, Cousins was on pace for the best numbers of his career — 38 touchdowns and nearly 5,000 yards passing. In seven of the previous eight seasons, he threw for more than 4,000 yards.

Contrast that with Ridder and Taylor Heinicke, who treated the starting job like a hot potato a year ago, as former coach Arthur Smith went back and forth in a desperate bid to spark the offense.

Nothing worked, and Smith was fired hours after the final game. Ridder and Heinicke combined to throw for 3,726 yards, with barely more touchdowns (17) than interceptions (16).

Raheem Morris was hired as Smith's successor off Sean McVay's staff in Los Angeles, and he brought along Rams quarterback coach Zac Robinson as his offensive coordinator.

The Falcons will run a fast-paced offense with quick throws and plenty of motion, just the sort of scheme that Cousins has handled adeptly throughout his career.

Cousins already feels right at home.

His wife Julie, grew up in the Atlanta suburbs. This is where they went on their first date, where they got married, where their youngest son was born. Her family still lives in the area. Cousins has spent the last six years doing his offseason training in the city.

"I've battled traffic through downtown many, many times,” he added with a smile.