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Vikings QB Kirk Cousins reunited with Mike Shanahan, his coach at Washington

'He’s always been one of my favorite guys, not only as a football player but also as a person,' Shanahan said

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins greets teammates during the team’s training camp at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on July 29, 2022.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press
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EAGAN, Minn. — In December 2013, Washington fired Mike Shanahan as head coach. When he departed, it was the last time he saw Kirk Cousins.

That is, until this week.

Shanahan, who was the coach when Washington picked up Cousins in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL draft, was reunited with the veteran quarterback on Wednesday and Thursday during a joint practice between the Vikings and San Francisco at the TCO Performance Center. Shanahan showed up because he wanted to see his son Kyle Shanahan, head coach of the 49ers, and Cousins, who has been with Minnesota since 2018.

“He’s always been one of my favorite guys, not only as a football player but also as a person,” Shanahan said. “He’s everything you look for in a person and, to me, everything in a quarterback.”

Though the two had not seen each other in person in nearly nine years, they have kept in regular communication.


“We’ve always been very close,” Shanahan said. “We’ve communicated throughout the years. I just always have been a big fan and I text him or call him on the phone, but anytime you’re in different cities, it’s pretty hard to get together sometimes.”

Shanahan, 69, lives in Denver, where he coached the Broncos from 1995 to 2008 and led them to Super Bowl wins after the 1997 and 1998 seasons.

Shanahan later coached Washington from 2010-13. His tenure included the selection of Cousins out of Michigan State just three rounds after the team made another quarterback, Robert Griffin III, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft.

“When we went into the draft, I knew that we were going to get a quarterback in the third or fourth round, and we had two or three guys we wanted and we were hoping one of the guys we wanted would be there, and we were able to get (Cousins), and he was exactly what we were hoping for,” Shanahan said. “I was at the Senior Bowl (and) I could see how talented he was and how he handled himself and, obviously, how he threw the football.”

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Griffin was Washington’s primary starter from 2012-14 before Cousins took over that role from 2015-17. During his final season in Washington, Cousins’ quarterbacks coach was current Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell.

“I’ve known (O’Connell) for awhile,” Shanahan said. “He’s a class act, and he’s very sharp, so I think (Cousins and O’Connell will) get along great.”

This week wasn’t the first time Shanahan visited a Vikings facility. He spent the 1979 season as offensive coordinator for the University of Minnesota, and said legendary Vikings coach Bud Grant would invite him and other Gophers coaches to watch practice.

“He probably had no idea who I was but it was pretty cool for (Grant) letting us come and watch his practices,” Shanahan said.


After one season with the Gophers, Shanahan was hired as Florida’s offensive coordinator, and spent four seasons with the Gators. He said he was involved in the interview process when Kyle was born in Minneapolis on Dec. 14, 1979.

“He wasn’t here for long,” Shanahan said of his son. “My wife (Peggy) had just gotten out of the hospital, so they were probably here for about a month and a half before they actually moved down (to Florida).”


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