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Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell on Kirk Cousins' departure: 'Sometimes things just don't work out'

The Minnesota Vikings are picking up the pieces left in the wake of Kirk Cousins' departure for Atlanta this week.

Part of the process includes explaining what happened, and how they intend to proceed after losing their quarterback in free agency. With Cousins now gone, the Vikings are taking a bit of a defiant stance, assuring assembled media members they weren't caught off guard by Cousins' decision to leave.

"There was complete alignment with, not only going into the process, but how everything played out," Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell said Thursday when asked if he and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah were on the same page regarding negotiations with Cousins. "From a standpoint of our plan with Kirk, everybody knows how myself, Kwesi, this organization feels about Kirk. Sometimes things just don't work out.

"The most important thing is that alignment and the understanding that our plan's in place. Kwesi's used the word contingency plans, but those are all discussions and paths and avenues we can take at a very, very important position. In the end, as much as I would've maybe liked to have Kirk here, the right thing moving forward for our team is where we are today."

All the Vikings can do is move forward, and many will expect them to seek another quarterback via the draft as part of that process. Adofo-Mensah wouldn't commit to such a notion, but he also wouldn't guarantee the quarterback they have signed -- former 2018 third-overall pick Sam Darnold -- will be Cousins' replacement.

"I'm not going to call him a bridge quarterback, but he's a quarterback that's on our roster under contract for a year," Adofo-Mensah said of Darnold. "Ultimately at the end of the day, the position is about how do you run Kevin's offense? How do you overcome when the play is not there? There's different skill sets that go into the position. That's how we evaluate it. The contract itself is a series of options to stay or go."

Adofo-Mensah made sure to point out that he and the rest of the Vikings staff is working within a set of circumstances that doesn't make decisions on players like Cousins a simple yes-or-no decision. If anything, judging by their slightly defensive tone -- which is understandable, given they're left to answer for why their franchise quarterback departed so willingly -- the Vikings' key leaders took the podium Thursday with one goal in mind of portraying a unified club.

"There was complete alignment," Adofo-Mensah said, echoing O'Connell. "This sport isn't such that you can just say on a binary basis, I want that player. We've been very clear since we've gotten here that we like Kirk Cousins. We've been very clear that we think we could win a Super Bowl with Kirk Cousins. But we have a sport that only gives you a certain number of draft picks, a salary cap, competition from other teams. It's a resource-constrained thing. So we don't get the chance to just say, binary, yes or no. There has to be planning and strategy involved."

Essentially, no, the Vikings were not blindsided by Cousins' decision, nor were they unprepared for such a reality. It just won't produce an immediate solution.

In the meantime, Darnold is QB1. He probably won't end up being QB1, but he is for now, leading O'Connell to tout the positives that come with the USC product.

"To be able to have a guy with 56 career starts, such a journey that he's been on, and really where I think he still has the best football out in front of him," O'Connell said. "I'm excited to try to help Sam, along with Josh (McCown) and Grant (Udinski) and Wes (Phillips), the rest of our staff, and really our team, wrap our arms around him as the process plays on throughout the rest of the spring, what that competition, quarterback room looks like. I think it's gonna make all of us better."

O'Connell's optimistic tone could prove true. Only time will tell. But in that moment, we may also know whether Cousins' departure was for the best -- or if Minnesota's decision to let him head to Atlanta ended up being a fateful one.

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