NGSC Sports

Minnesota Vikings, Where Good’s Never Good Enough

The Minnesota Vikings are a team that people kind of push to the side without even knowing it.  Maybe it’s because they play in the same division as two of the NFL’s most storied franchises in the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers.  Or could it be that the purple and gold color combo just doesn’t go over well with the male fan-base? Or maybe it’s because even when they’re at their best – it’s never been good enough.

The Vikings came to be in 1961 and it only took the expansion team 7 years to win their division and build a winning tradition.  In the 1970′s the Vikings won the division 8 times and on defense they earned the nick-name the “Purple People Eaters.”  The Purple People eaters were anchored by two future Hall of Famers: Defensive end, Carl Eller and Defensive tackle Alan Page.  The 1970′s Vikings also had their most popular player in franchise history (maybe. . .) in Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton.  The Vikings had great balance on both sides of the line of scrimmage and proved it time and time again.

Although they were a good team in that era, the Vikings were never Super Bowl champs.  They found themselves in Super Bowl’s getting knocked off by the John Madden coached Raiders, a Don Shula coached Dolphins team and  a dynasty that was the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Not to mention they had stiff competition coming from their own conference with a Roger Staubach led Dallas Cowboys team.  Fran Tarkenton and the boys just couldn’t get it done.

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History seemed to repeat itself with the Vikings after having a record breaking offense in 1998 (led by Randall Cunningham, Cris Carter and Randy Moss) the Vikings became the first team to go 15-1 and not reach the Super Bowl. In the mid-2000′s quaretrback Daunte Culpepper was among the NFL’s elite (although the now overused term of “elite quarterbacks” didn’t exist then) and they still fell short in playoff runs.  And who can forget most recently the 2009 season that pretty much summed up the career of Brett Favre? Favre led the team and was in the MVP discussion for the entire year as the Vikes finished with 12 wins in the season.  The Vikings looked strong going into the playoffs until Favre had one of his “Favre-like-meltdowns” as he tossed an interception late in the fourth that ended up being the final blow to the Vikes.

Why run through this depressing history?  Because it’s heartbreaking.  Heartbreaking to the Vikings fans that have seen their team be good , but never good enough.  Cool nicknames, breaking records, hall of fame players on your roster all are nice things – but  it means nothing if you can’t hoist the trophy at the end of the year.  Vikings fans are tired of coming up as third fiddle in a division that’s over-run with media adoration towards the Packers and Bears.

So where does that leave the Vikings now?  The Vikings oddly enough can be paired up with the other team in the NFC North, the Detroit Lions – as being a team that had the best running back of an entire era and not being able to build around him.  Obviously I’m talking about the Vikings future hall of fame running back, Adrian Peterson (just for footnote purposes, I was referring to how the Lions wasted the career of the great Barry Sanders).

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The position of running back is one that in today’s game is A) taken for granted and B) just not what it used to be.  Adrian Peterson though, is a true throwback-back.  Showing the rare combination of strength, athleticism and instinct you just don’t see in today’s running backs.  Peterson, 29, is coming into his eighth season and although he isn’t done or slowing down – one has to wonder just how much more abuse even a body chiseled like his can take.  For his career he’s averaged five yards a carry and has been the bell-cow his whole time as a Viking.  He’s great, there’s no question about that – but what about the pieces around him?

The Vikings just lost one of the faces to their franchise in defensive end Jared Allen and their quarterback issues are a hot topic in many Minneapolis barbershops.   The Vikings have hired a new head coach in the defensive minded Mike Zimmer.  It will be up to Zimmer and his coaching staff to build around Peterson, a team coming off a 10 loss season. 4 of those losses came at four points or less and two other losses came at 7 points.  Understanding a loss is a loss – the Vikings were in these games with not much coming from the most important position on the field, a quarterback.  The Vikings have made moves in free agency to help out this defense and late last season realized they’ve got to do more to get the ball into the hands of their talented young wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.  The quarterback position is what most people think the Vikings will go after with their first round pick, while some Vikings fans are still trembling over the last quarterback this team took in the first round (search: Christian Ponder).

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The question is, whether it’s Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater or whoever this team drafts at quarterback – is this going to be the guy who makes the Vikings, great?  The Vikings are the only team in the NFC North without a “franchise quarterback,” and it shows.  Now is the time for them to get their guy.  Find the quarterback who can finish the job that even their own legend Fran Tarkenton couldn’t accomplish and bring Minnesota a championship.

Division titles are nice, but recent history has shown that the regular season means little once you get into the playoffs.  You need those players who scratch their way into the spotlight, the ones who embrace moments that make legends. . . and sure you need some luck along the way as well. . .The Vikings are in search of an identity that will no longer exclude them from attention given almost exclusively to the Packers and the Bears.

Can this be the year the Vikings take those steps at becoming better than good?  Only time, the draft and a new season will tell.

 

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

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