Every good reality show features a breakout star looking to go viral: the bachelor who shoves her rivals in the face, the chef who manages to sneak a cockroach into their rival’s sponge cake, the roommate who kills everyone five miles in the back sticks out. Grab the attention of the country and you might even get your own product line or reality show. Or at least a few more Instagram followers.
The latest wave of Netflix sports documentaries knows the formula and keeps the beat: Daniel Ricciardo, despite not really driving this year, remains the favorite Formula 1 driver of the American public thanks to his standout turn in ‘Drive To Survive’ . Golf’s Joel Dahmen has enjoyed the love of galleries all through the 2023 season after his lovable regular guest schtick won over viewers of ‘Full Swing’.
Now comes “Quarterback,” an eight-episode Netflix doc focusing on the NFL, due out Wednesday. The doc follows three quarterbacks – Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs; Marcus Mariota, then of the Falcons; and Kirk Cousins of the Vikings – through the 2022 season. As is now tradition, the Doctor will monitor the players both on and off the field, to an as-yet undisclosed degree of depth.
“We wanted to tell the story of what it’s like to be a quarterback,” series executive producer Peyton Manning told the New York Post, “and everything that comes with it.”
The off-field component is the most compelling, as we already know the arcs of all three seasons of the players. Mahomes’ will be the most triumphant, as it ends with a Super Bowl victory. Mariota’s will be the most dramatic, as he will lose his job in the process. But Cousins’ arc is something of a mystery… and therein lies potential for Cousins.
Here’s the thumbnail version of what most NFL fans know about Kirk Cousins:
His “You like that!” roared in the bowels of FedEx Field after a comeback victory during the 2015 season where he managed to become an unlikely underdog.
His flawless sense of timing. Cousins is a spectacular quarterback at 1 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday, and the worst form of soul-crushing, hope-destroying terrible on all other kickoff times. (For example, he lost his first nine Monday Night Football games and is now at a mighty 2-10.)
But for all the memes and gags — and if you look beyond the 1-4 postseason record — Cousins has had its moments. “You like that” went on the air after Cousins led Washington back from a 24-0 deficit to Tampa Bay. And in 2022, the year that Quarterback is all about, Cousins tied an NFL record with eight come-from-behind wins, including the biggest comeback in history, a win after trailing 33-0 over the Indianapolis Colts. So there’s rich potential for a documentary… provided Cousins is willing to open up.
“I was a little nervous at first,” says Cousins. “I mean, cameras and microphones are following you all season. ‘What does that look like?’ “You are always very aware that you are never an individual. You want to be about a team. Be one of the boys.”
Not exactly a recipe for breakthrough stardom there. Plus, unlike Ricciardo and Dahmen, Cousins doesn’t exude everyman energy. He’s more of an AI version of a quarterback, saying all the right things and yet somehow sounding odd while doing so. (On his terms of agreeing to join the doc: “Would this make me an individual at all, and if so, I can’t do that.” He emphasized that he wanted to put the team first, but it still sounds like an alien trying to imitate a team player mentality.)
Still, Cousins clearly wants to shape his own story, and according to Manning, that included a willingness to share private moments like his visits with his psychologist.
“That wasn’t part of the deal at all, but he said, ‘No, it’s okay, I want this documented,'” Manning said. “I loved it. It was real. It showed that it’s not all fun to throw game-winning touchdowns on Sunday.”
As with many current documentaries, the subjects were vetoed, making this more of a love letter than hard-hitting journalism. “I promised all these guys that anything they didn’t want in it wouldn’t be in it,” said Manning. “These guys had to feel comfortable with everything.”
Maybe we’ll learn something new about Kirk Cousins, or maybe we’ll leave disappointed again. “Quarterback” comes out on Netflix on Wednesday, after which you can decide for yourself if you really like it.