Many NFL teams have podcast networks. Only one is headlined by an $84 million starting quarterback.
When the team and the Vikings Entertainment Network, released their new podcast lineup for the 2019 season they touted a new addition as their No. 1 attraction: “Under Center With Kirk Cousins”
Co-hosting his own weekly podcast and radio show, Cousins doesn’t do the usual five-minute drive-by appearance with a local sports radio anchor. Instead, he tapes an hour-long show that features both video and audio, and is deeply involved in planning and execution.
The pod is available across all Vikings apps and platforms as well as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. It also airs exclusively on the local KFAN 100.3-FM radio every Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET.
With Cousins as the prime draw, the team’s overall podcast strategy is working. From Sep. 1 to Oct. 8, the Vikings Podcast Network registered 118,420 downloads, up 68.3% from 70,349 during the same period last year.
The 31-year old Cousins has always marched to the beat of his own drum. After signing his three-year, $84 million deal with the Vikings last year, he expressed the desire to have his own podcast, according to Chris Corso, the team’s digital media coordinator and audio producer.
The timing was right for both the player and the franchise. During his previous six seasons with Washington Redskins, Cousins didn’t get much respect from fans or media.
The debate in D.C. was always whether Cousins was a legit starter or glorified backup. So when heading to Minnesota, Cousins wanted to tell his own story, his way, without the media filtering his words or motivations.
The Vikings, meanwhile, wanted to give their fans more behind-the-scenes access via exclusive interviews, sound, and story-telling. After Cousins raised his hand to volunteer, the franchise teamed him with well-known Twin Cities sports anchor Mark Rosen.
“I think it’s a great way to communicate with those that follow our team differently,” Cousins told his audience on episode one. “I do press conferences after the games, but that is so hurried. You’re coming out of the game and you’ve barely been able to process the film and talk about the game to any degree and then we jump on Wednesday and speak to the media and we are already focused on the next opponent.”
Cousins typically records the show Monday. That gives him time to process the previous game, review coaches’ film, then speak more intelligently about the state of the offense.
He’s also shown a willingness to be quite frank on the podcast as well – it recently made national headlines when Cousins “apologized” to wide receiver Adam Thielen for not getting him the ball enough. He followed that up by passing two touchdowns to Thielen in the next game.
“He wants to tell his story. The first season was disappointing for him here. He wants to be able to connect with our fans,” said Corso in an interview earlier this season. “He’s been great. The way he’s bought into it has been amazing.”
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer had a different take on the Thielen apology. “He was probably just being nice…Maybe he should get off the podcast,” Zimmer said.
There’s always a push-pull between the business and the team sides of a sports franchise. While the team’s business side was probably delighted to have Cousins embrace podcasting, most football coaches would view it as a distraction, said Amy Trask, the former chief executive officer of the Oakland Raiders turned football analyst for CBS Sports and columnist for The Athletic.
“Players and coaches have several league- and team-mandated media obligations every week throughout the season. When deciding if or to what extent to participate in non-mandated media activities (including radio shows, television shows, podcasts, etc.), players and coaches must weigh the pros and cons of these opportunities and decide whether, on balance, it makes sense to participate,” she said.
Read More: Eagles Take Flight With Podcasting Strategy
“In my experience, most (if not all) teams would strongly prefer that players and coaches prioritize all responsibilities to the team, not simply those relating to the media, over non-team responsibilities. Some teams are more outspoken and direct in communicating this desire to players and coaches.”
In addition to Cousin’s show, here are some of the team’s key pods this season:
– The Minnesota Vikings Podcast: Corso and Vikings.com Mike Wobschall take fans inside the team’s TCO Performance Center every week. Includes highlights, locker room interviews and press conferences with players, coaches, and staff.
– Skol Stories: Co-hosted by Rosen and Wobschall, weekly pod focuses on team legends like Randy Moss and Ahmad Rashad. Skol is a Scandinavian term for a toast. “Skol, Vikings” has been the team’s fight song since the early 1960s.
– The Voyage: Am HBO Hard Knocks-style documentary that follows the team from training camp.
– Vikings Wired For Sound: Sound bites from wired players and coaches.