Commentary

Kirk Cousins is an elite quarterback

The Big Ten was loaded this season -- Stanzi, Pryor, Tolzien -- but Cousins is near top

Originally Published: December 22, 2010
By KC Joyner | ESPN Insider
Getty ImagesKirk Cousins has been a revelation for the Spartans this season.

The old saying that timing is everything is just as true in the world of sports as it is everywhere else, but the competitive nature of this realm means that good timing isn't enough to ensure success.

A perfect illustration of this can be found in the case of Bum Phillips' former Houston Oilers teams. This group certainly had good timing, as a trade in 1978 put Hall of Fame power running back extraordinaire Earl Campbell on the roster. Phillips had an offensive system that was tailor-made for a back like Campbell.

The ideal combination of coach and bell cow runner was a key reason that that from 1977 to 1980, the Luv Ya Blue crew was one of only six NFL teams to win at least 40 games (Dallas, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Denver and Oakland being the others).

This run of success led to a Super Bowl berth or win for all the other teams on that list -- but Houston couldn't manage even a division title in those years in large part because it had to battle Pittsburgh for that honor. That didn't stop the Oilers from reaching the playoffs and having postseason success, but they also ran into their black-and-gold division brethren in two AFC title games and lost both. Had this club come around at any other time, it probably would have made its own Super Bowl run, but it had the bad fortune of running into one of the best teams of all time.

There is a parallel between that Oilers situation and the current circumstances surrounding Michigan State Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins. The junior is recognized as being a pretty good field general, but a closer look at the numbers shows he is much better than that.

Let's start with some of the basics. Cousins posted a 153.51 passer rating this season, a total that ranked 19th-best among FBS quarterbacks. He was tied for 20th in passing yards per attempt (8.5) and ranked ninth in completion percentage (67.5 percent). He also ranked 10th in the FBS in passer rating in the second half or overtime of games (172.95).