Jim Souhan
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It's a sad time in Vikingdom when the most exciting moment of a game against the Packers involves Kirk Cousins' nipples.

Cousins, the Vikings' injured starting quarterback, sounded the pregame Gjallarhorn before the Vikings and Packers played on Sunday night at U.S. Bank Stadium. Before doing so, he ripped off his shirt to expose his now-traditional gold chain and now-familiar naked torso.

He should have been blowing a bugle and sounding, "Retreat."

In the wake of the Vikings' 33-10 loss, it's not shocking that just about everyone in Minnesota misses seeing Cousins under center.

What's shocking is that just about everyone in Minnesota now misses Sean Mannion.

After Cousins injured his Achilles tendon, the Vikings tried out Joshua Dobbs, Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall — three backup quarterbacks who could have at least been considered intriguing.

Dobbs gave them two good games before imploding. Mullens gave them one good drive in Las Vegas before becoming a football dispensary. Hall might have been the most surprising of the three.

Chosen to start in Atlanta after Cousins' injury, in part because Dobbs had just gotten to town and Mullens was injured, Hall completed five of six passes, ran twice for 11 yards, and left the game because of a concussion suffered as he neared the goal line.

Somehow, eight weeks later, he not only looked nothing like Cousins, or the good version of Dobbs, or the productive if erratic Mullens — he looked nothing like the quarterback who at least seemed capable of reading a defense in Atlanta.

I wanted to see Hall start. As athletes like to say, "My bad." Thanks largely to Hall, there was something worse on television on New Year's Eve than Ryan Seacrest.

If you wanted to see a ball drop, you could just watch Hall throwing in the general direction of Johnny Mundt.

For years, the Vikings survived with Mannion as their backup quarterback because of Cousins' durability. When Mannion did play, he looked like a poor version of a game-managing quarterback.

My apologies to Mannion. He might have been better than any of the current three backups, because he knew how to run the offense and tried to avoid mistakes. He at least seemed to recognize his own limitations.

Hall looked overwhelmed on Sunday night. He threw one interception — off of Mundt's hands — and lost one fumble. But it wasn't so much his mistakes that got him benched after the half, but the fact that he looked unprepared.

Mullens got benched by throwing four interceptions against Detroit. He earned his benching. But there's a difference between knowing how to run an offense and making bad decisions and bad throws, and not looking like you're ready for the moment.

One of the presumptions of sports talk, or sports writing, is that there is a logical solution to every problem.

Team isn't scoring enough? Run the ball more. Or throw it more.

Team isn't winning? Fire the coach.

Current quarterback isn't producing? Try the backup.

What the 2023 Vikings have proved is that sometimes there isn't a solution — unless you want to go back to the turn of the decade and have former General Manager Rick Spielman stick with Jake Browning instead of drafting Kellen Mond.

Spielman's obsession with Mond cost the Vikings Browning, who has generally played well in relief of the injured Joe Burrow in Cincinnati.

Browning would probably have this team in the playoffs. He was better than Mond, and he's better than the Vikings' current backups. So is Cleveland's Joe Flacco, who almost retired last offseason.

This season has demonstrated not only Cousins' value, but the value of having a quality backup.

Someone like Washington's Michael Penix Jr. should be available when the Vikings make their first-round pick in April.

It's time for the Vikings to do what the Packers did with Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love — select their quarterback of the future while they still have their quarterback of the present.

Let's hope that the next time we see Cousins at U.S. Bank Stadium, he's wearing a shirt, and it's purple.