Jim Souhan
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His team is 0-2 and on the brink of becoming one of the NFL's biggest disappointments.

In his career, he's won about half of the games he's started while completing about 67% of his passes.

He can be cautious to a fault, and last year's disappointing playoff loss justified the notion that his impressive statistics can be deceiving in terms of his overall value to a team, especially given his large salary.

If he wins Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, he may salvage his team's season — but he will still have much to prove, and his proving grounds may always be located in the postseason.

This is, of course, about Justin Herbert.

And, yes, Kirk Cousins.

Welcome to the battle of the Rorschach quarterbacks.

At first glance, Herbert, the Chargers' fourth-year starter, and Cousins, the Vikings' 35-year-old veteran, are nothing alike.

Herbert is large, rangy and more athletic. His hair belongs on the cover of a surf magazine. He was the sixth pick in the 2020 draft and became an immediate NFL starter. He possesses what scouts call "arm talent.'' As franchise quarterbacks go, he looks like he was built by artificial intelligence or Disney, or Disney AI.

Cousins was a fourth-round draft pick chosen to back up Robert Griffin III in Washington. He didn't become a full-time starter until his fourth season and couldn't get Washington to sign him to a long-term contract, which is why he's in Minnesota.

Cousins, too, possesses arm talent, but he isn't as mobile or natural as Herbert.

Herbert looks like he was born to be an NFL quarterback. Cousins looks like he was born to back up an NFL quarterback.

Herbert has already signed a five-year, $262.5 million contract extension. The Vikings chose not to sign Cousins to an extension this offseason.

All of which points to Herbert being a far-superior passer. Right?

That's not what the numbers say.

The gifted West Coast slinger and the robotic Midwest technician might as well be the same guy.

In terms of proficiency, Herbert might even be jealous of Cousins.

Herbert's record is 25-26 in the regular season and 0-1 in the playoffs.

Cousins' record is 72-65-2 in the regular season and 1-3 in the playoffs.

Herbert's touchdown percentage is 4.8; his interception percentage is 1.7. Cousins' numbers are 5.2 and 2.1. They both have completed 67% of their regular-season passes. Cousins averages 7.6 yards per pass attempt, Herbert 7.2. In other words, Cousins is less cautious than the West Coast slinger.

Herbert's career quarterback rating is 96.5; Cousins' is 98.1.

Herbert is considered a rising superstar, and he is promoted from the heart of the Los Angeles sports and entertainment complex. Cousins lives in the Twin Cities suburbs and doesn't know where he's going to be next season.

To understand why they are perceived differently, you have to look through the eyes of a scout or general manager. NFL talent evaluators are looking for the quarterback who will win them a Super Bowl, or at least keep them from getting fired. Herbert's talent and pedigree at least theoretically give him a better chance of being that player than Cousins' do.

In terms of actual production, Cousins is, at the moment, at least Herbert's equal.

During his interview session this week, Cousins was chipper. He was wearing a hat bearing the words "I AM Gifted,'' the name of running back Alexander Mattison's foundation aimed at suicide prevention and mental health initiatives.

Cousins smiled as he recounted working with quarterback guru Jon Gruden and having Gruden tell him that he wanted Cousins to be the kind of star who prompted Gruden's wife to say "Cousins is playing Aaron Rodgers tonight," meaning a great quarterback who became the identity of his team.

On Sunday, it's Herbert against Cousins, with their teams' seasons on the brink. The loser may have his fan base looking askance at all of his pretty, or pretty dubious, statistics.