Kirk Cousins can prove he’s winner by elevating loser Falcons

FLOWERY BRANCH— In his first public statement after officially signing with the Falcons, quarterback Kirk Cousins recalled what a coach told him early in his NFL career. To be a Super Bowl contender, a franchise must have alignment among the owner, general manager, coach and quarterback.

“As I looked at the Atlanta Falcons, I believed strongly that the owner, head coach, general manager and quarterback can all be on the same page,” Cousins said Wednesday at the team’s facility. “That’s exciting for me. That’s why I’m thrilled to be here.”

Cousins isn’t wrong about the importance of a shared vision from ownership down to the offensive huddle. It’s just that none of the four principles for the Falcons have proven they are championship-caliber. Cousins, a quarterback who’s had modest NFL success, is joining an organization that has done a lot of losing for the past 11 years.

Arthur Blank’s Falcons have become one of the NFL’s bottom-tier franchises. Only the Jets and Broncos have longer active playoff droughts. And it’s not as if the Falcons signed an MVP-level quarterback.

Cousins has led his team to the postseason just three times since becoming a full-time starter in 2015. He’s 1-3 in playoff games. The one victory was during the 2019 postseason with the Vikings. (Cousins might have went back to the postseason in 2023 if not for the season-ending Achilles injury he suffered in October.)

Cousins to the Falcons is a pretty good quarterback going to a losing team with the task of elevating it to Super Bowl contention.

“Quarterbacks will always be evaluated based on, not just September to December, but January and February,” Cousins said. “That’s where you want to get to . . . and then once you get there you want to have meaningful wins. . . . That’s where I want to go, and I believe we can go.”

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There were financial reasons for Cousins to sign with the Falcons. His contract guarantees him $90 million over two years and another $10 million if he’s on the roster for 2026. That’s big money for a QB who will be 36 at the start of next season and had major surgery on Nov. 1. Cousins said he hopes to be cleared to play before the start training camp in July.

The Falcons decided to make the long-term commitment that the Vikings wouldn’t.

“In Minnesota, it was trending over the last couple offseasons to be somewhat year-to year,” he said. “And as we talked with Atlanta, it felt like this was a place where, if I play at the level I expect to play at, I can retire a Falcon. That’s certainly the goal, and you’ve got to earn the right to do that, but that was exciting to feel like I could get that opportunity here.”

Cousins is an above-average starting quarterback. The Falcons haven’t had one since Matt Ryan was traded after the 2021 season. Maybe Cousins will be the guy who helps them them stop the losing.

Blank’s franchise has managed just two winning seasons in the past 11 seasons with six straight losing campaigns. Terry Fontenot was still a scout for the Saints when they won the 2010 Super Bowl; the Falcons are 21-30 during his GM tenure. New head coach Raheem Morris was 17-31 with the Bucs and 4-7 during an interim stint with the Falcons in 2020.

Cousins said he believes Blank has made the Falcons a first-class organization while proving that he’s committed to winning (I’d be convinced of the second part if Blank had pursued Lamar Jackson). Cousins said Drew Brees “raved” to him about Fontenot’s work during their time with the Saints. Cousins said he was impressed by Morris when the two were employed by Washington from 2012-14.

Cousins said joining the Falcons feels like coming home because of his ties to the area. His wife, Julie, is from Alpharetta, and they’ve spent plenty of offseasons there. Cousins said he was at the Georgia Dome to watch the Falcons beat the Seahawks and Packers during the 2016 playoffs.

That’s the last time the Falcons hosted a playoff game. They lost at Philadelphia in the divisional round the next year. The Falcons are 39-60 since then. They’ve finished 7-10 in each of the next three seasons.

The Falcons decided Cousins is the quarterback who can help them reverse that trend.

“Every year is a new year,” Cousins said. “I look forward to the group we have resetting here in a couple weeks, getting together and getting to work and just building it one day at a time. And certainly trying to get back to hosting home playoff games and winning home playoff games.”

Cousins believes that he, Blank, Fontenot and Morris will be on the same page. Now they just have to prove they can make the Falcons winners.